Online Teaching Resources about Co-ops

Videos
Case Studies
Booklets
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Videos — Seminars, Lectures, and Special Presentations

Credit Unions in Canada: Six Design Principles for Greater Co-operation

The Third Annual MacPherson Talk

The Canadian credit union system is facing unprecedented challenges, and credit union leaders are struggling with how to structure their governance arrangements, not only within their own organizations but also at the system level. Credit unions need to find a way to co-operate if they are to remain strong and effective organizations. Dionne Pohler outlines six design principles that could help guide the process.

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Changing Governance in European Co-operatives: Simply Shifting or Losing Control?

The Second Annual MacPherson Talk

Markus Hanisch outlines a series of innovations occurring in European co-operative governance. The study concludes that co-ops that have implemented certain governance innovations — allowing outsiders to join their boards of directors, having larger boards, and creating a governance model in which the co-operative acts as a holding structure — have improved their performance.

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The World's Simplest Co-operative

Murray Fulton discusses the differences between co-operatives and investor-owned firms, stripping away the complexities and focusing on key features of each. Both are businesses; both operate to provide goods and services to consumers; both need to make money from the transactions. A key difference lies in the decision-making power — either with investors or member/owners —  and the consequent behaviour of each organization in pursuing its goals.

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The Co-op Principles and the Co-op Identity

In the first video of this series, Dr. Brett Fairbairn explains the International Co-operative Alliance’s Statement on the Co-operative Identity and the evolution of co-operative ideas over the past two hundred years. The Statement, which includes the definition, values, and principles of co-operatives, is vital to understanding what co-ops are about.

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Who Were the Rochdale Pioneers?

In 19th century England, a group of labourers in the community of Rochdale formed a co-operative that sparked a grassroots, worldwide social movement. In this video, Brett Fairbairn tells the story of the Rochdale Pioneers, laying out the context of their movement, dispelling common myths, and explaining how the founding of one small retail co-operative resulted in the improvement of millions of lives.

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Co-operatives and Politics

Co-operatives are often thought to be politically neutral, or to align with a particular political viewpoint. Brett Fairbairn contradicts this assumption, explaining that co-operatives have been associated with every political philosophy around the world. Though they can be neutral organizations, their community-based structures and goals for societal change can result in their alignment with ideologies across the political spectrum.

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The Founders of Credit Unions

This video traces the history of credit unions from 19th century Germany to Quebec, the US, and the rest of Canada. Developed in the 1850s as an alternative source of funding for struggling artisans who would otherwise rely on the state, these co-operative banks have grown into multistakeholder entities that include community supporters, local workers, and others who establish and support them for the good of their communities.

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Saskatchewan Farmers and the Co-op Refinery

Brett Fairbairn describes this story of twelve Saskatchewan farmers collaborating to form a local oil refinery as “one of the most amazing stories in the history of co-operatives.” In the midst of the Great Depression, these farmers cobbled together a successful refinery with the resources they had at hand to protect themselves and their fellow farmers from an increasingly monopolistic oil industry.

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The Antigonish Movement

The Antigonish Movement in Atlantic Canada in the 1930s illustrates the power of grassroots education and mobilization. In the 1930s, rural communities came together in an effort to improve the lives of poor local fishers and farmers. Collectively, they learned about the economy and the co-op model and set goals for their communities based on this knowledge. This concept of adult education is tightly bound to the idea of co-operatives.

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The Canadian Agrarian Movement and Co-operatives

The Canadian agrarian movement of the early 20th century was large, ambitious, and political. Through this movement, starting with the establishment of the Territorial Grain Growers Association in 1901, farmers organized economically and politically to shape policy, influence the entire system of transporting and marketing grain, and establish a voice for themselves on the world stage.

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MPP student Hayley Carlson’s unique study about policy narratives concerning the Saskatchewan River Basin involved analysing stakeholder documents from the sector. Carlson compiled 134 documents from various stakeholder groups and used Nvivo coding software to determine the themes and stories present in them.

Read more here.

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MPP student Kristin Bruce used social network analysis as well as stakeholder interviews and document analysis to help her understand the governance model used to make decisions about water in Saskatchewan. This method allows researchers to visually map the connections among people in a given network, and helps explain how information or social goods might travel through that network. Bruce used UCINet and Netdraw software for this component of her study.

Read more here.

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Colten Goertz, MPP, used a type of comparative analysis to study Canada’s Federal Health Transfer and contrast it with its counterpart in Australia. This method involves reducing policies to their bare-bones components in order to compare their effectiveness in different contexts; it is a useful tool for both academics and policy makers.

Read more here.

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Giovanny Bastidas’s PhD dissertation uses econometrics to analyze the political factors that influence executive compensation in the public sector. Focusing on information gathered from hospitals, universities, and government ministries, he uses this statistical analysis of economic data to determine the relationships among his chosen variables.

Read more here.

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MPP student Andrew Swift is studying First Nation financial accountability policies in Canada. His research is centred around interviews with government officials, in addition to document analysis.

Read more here.

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Jen Budney, a PhD candidate in Public Policy, used an online survey to supplement her research that examines how publicly funded institutions build public value. Her work involves case studies of art museums and in-depth interviews with art museum educators; her online survey provided the data she needed to back up the arguments initially shaped by her interviews.

Read more here.

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Kyle White describes how he used interviews as a research tool for his MPP thesis on Aboriginal economic development corporations. Here, he talks about his experience interviewing business and political leaders from First Nations communities, outlining the importance of learning and following proper protocols when engaging Aboriginal peoples in the research process. Kyle recommends that anyone using interviews as a research method create a solid interview guide with clear objectives and follow-up questions.

Read more here.

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Murray Fulton — Co-operative Innovation Project Round Table, Part 1

The CIP project has spent the past two years exploring whether the co-operative business model is a feasible way to meet needs in rural and Aboriginal communities in western Canada, and if so, what is needed to inspire these communities to create co-operatives that thrive.

The presentations here and in the next video walk through findings from the four streams of data collection: statistical information, community meetings, surveys, and key informant interviews.

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Dionne Pohler — Co-operative Innovation Project Round Table, Part 2

Brent Hueth — "On the Curious Case of Co-operative Capital," Centre Seminar, 3 November 2015

Cost-of-capital is central to economists’ thinking about how firms should (and do) invest their financial capital, and to measuring the value of a firm. Brent argues that the cost of “equity” capital for many co-operative businesses is, if not zero, then close to it. He interprets the relevance of this finding in the context of private capital structure and investment decision making, as well as public tax and regulatory treatment of co-operatives.

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Carlo Borzaga — "Rethinking the Economics of Co-operatives," Centre Seminar, 15 September 2015

Co-operatives continue to grow and thrive in many countries, despite the dire predictions of traditional economics, which heralds their disappearance or at least marginalization. This short-sighted view depends on limitations that must be overcome if we are to develop a new approach that will help us achieve a more useful understanding of these organizations. This presentation explores a number of alternatives that challenge traditional economic thinking and suggests that co-operatives can be more efficient than other entrepreneurial forms and can contribute to the generation of higher social welfare than that achieved by conventional public and private enterprises.

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Peter Couchman, "What Should the State Do and What Should We Do Ourselves?" March 2015

This presentation looks at the current policy environment and the UK's Plunkett Foundation approach to co-operative development.

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Ken Kosolofski, "Concentra and the Resurgence of the Financial Co-operative Model," Centre Seminar, 26 March 2013

Ken talked about the state of today’s co-operative financial system and how operating under this model affords Concentra the opportunity to highlight the value it offers to Canada’s credit union community and in turn, grow its own business.

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Scott Banda, "The Co-operative Advantage," Centre Seminar, 3 December 2012

Scott discussed the transformational changes occurring at Federated Co-operatives Limited (FCL) and some of the strategies that organizations in the Co-operative Retailing System are using to compete in the competitive marketplace of western Canada. He also addressed some of the challenges and opportunities of the co-operative business model.

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Kathy Bardswick, "Balancing Growth and Sustainability," Centre Seminar, 4 October 2012

The Co-operators represents a variety of sectors, including agriculture, finance, service, retail/consumer, health, and labour. Its business decisions are guided by the co-operative principles, balancing the need for profitability with the needs of member-owners and their communities. The company is a leader in sustainability and has earned numerous awards in this area. Kathy spoke about the strategies the organization pursues to achieve financial growth while fulfilling its goals for sustainability.

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Hayley Hesseln, "Forestry Co-operatives: A Community-Based Approach to an Emerging Bio-Economy," Centre Seminar, 26 April 2012

The future success of the forest sector is based on the emergence of a new bio-economy as opposed to the business-as-usual approach. As the forest industry recovers from the current downturn, opportunities will increase for smaller operators to colla­borate with non-forest businesses, communities, governments, and other stakeholders to meet the rising demand for energy and other products in the bio-economy. This will place forest operators in a strong position to explore the use of co-operative structures as a means to meet community and business needs.

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Michael Zelmer, "Co-operative Solutions: How the Fair Trade and Organic Coffee Markets Support Forested Ecosystems on Nicaraguan Coffee Farms," Centre Seminar, 22 March 2012

Michael examined how the production of coffee for the organic and Fair Trade markets affects forested ecosystems on small-scale farms in Nicaragua. He emphasized how the co-operative model assists farmers to meet standards, exchange information, make decisions, access global markets, and cultivate a product with more resilient social and environmental benefits.

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Jannie Wing-sea Leung, "Making the Invisible Count: Gender Equity in a Fair Trade Coffee Co-operative in Nicaragua," Hartley and Margaret Fredeen Scholarship in Co-operative Studies Seminar, 16 February, 2012

Fair Trade co-operatives aim to support and strengthen farmer communities, valuing their labour and products more fairly while promoting democratic and equitable societies. Al­though evidence shows that these co-ops are improving the livelihoods of small-scale farmers, women have been largely absent from the discussions. This seminar examines gender equity in a Fair Trade coffee co-operative in Nicaragua. Interviews with women producers, co-op leaders, and gender specialists suggest that the co-op has a role in promoting gender equity not only at the organizational level, but in the member families as well.

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John Restakis, "Humanizing the Economy: Co-operatives in the Age of Capital," Centre Seminar, 7 April 2011

The global co-operative movement appears to have arrived at a crossroads. With the collapse of Communism and with the capitalist system in crisis, the case for the expansion of economic democracy has never been more relevant or more urgent, but there is a need for a middle path. Can the co-operative movement provide the leadership so desperately needed to seize the moment and point a way forward?

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Case Studies

Governance as a Determinant of Success and Failure: What Other Co-ops Can Learn from Co-op Atlantic. Brett Fairbairn, Murray Fulton, and Dionne Pohler. PDF

Change Management at Federated Co-operatives Limited: A Saskatchewan Case Study. Dionne Pohler. This has been published by the Ivey Business School and is available for purchase here.


Click here for an annotated list of co-op and credit union case studies published by the Ivey Business School. Links will take you directly to the cases on the Ivey Publishing site.

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Booklets

Three Strategic Concepts for the Guidance of Co-operatives: Linkage, Transparency, and Cognition. Brett Fairbairn. PDF

Cognitive Processes and Co-operative Business Strategy. Murray Fulton and Julie Gibbings. PDF

Cohesion, Adhesion, and Identities in Co-operatives. Brett Fairbairn. PDF

Co-operative Membership as a Complex and Dynamic Social Process. Michael Gertler. PDF

Co-operative Membership: Issues and Challenges. Bill Turner. PDF

Globalization and Co-operatives. William Coleman. PDF

Synergy and Strategic Advantage: Co-operatives and Sustainable Development. Michael Gertler. PDF

Leadership and Representational Diversity. Cristine de Clercy. PDF

Revisiting the Role of Co-operative Values and Principles: Do They Act to Include or Exclude? Lou Hammond Ketilson. PDF

Innovations in Co-operative Marketing and Communications. Leslie Brown. PDF

Up a Creek with a Paddle: Excellence in the Boardroom. Ann Hoyt. PDF

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