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Chapter-by-Chapter: Enquiring, Critical, and Creative Spirit

A sneak peek at our upcoming publication, Enquiring, Critical, and Creative Spirit, by Merle Massie.

The Centre for the Study of Co-operatives opened in the Diefenbaker Building at the University of Saskatchewan in June 1984. During the subsequent thirty-five years, it has consolidated its interdisciplinary focus to create a world-renowned body of co-operative and credit union knowledge.

Enquiring, Critical, and Creative Spirit: A History of the Centre for the Study of Co-operatives, by historian and former Centre employee Merle Massie, is a critical examination of the Centre’s formation and evolution over the past 35 years. 

The Centre is proud to publish this book as a serial!

Chapter 1 describes the development of the Centre for the Study of Co-operatives, which emerged from the Centre for Community Studies and Co-operative College of Canada on the urging of U of S President, Leo Kristjanson:

  • Facing hostility from some other areas of the university, the organizing team began an arduous search for a new director.
  • While the late Ian MacPherson was keen to take on the job, his family was unwilling to make the move to Saskatchewan.
  • Finally, under the directorship of Chris Axworthy, the Centre opened in June 1984, with its roster of young and energetic academics, including Murray Fulton, Brett Fairbairn, and Lou Hammond Kettilson. 

In Chapter 2, readers will learn more about the tensions between the Centre and the University, including:

  • Showdowns between the Centre and its funders over academic autonomy, research priorities, and direction. 
  • Director Chris Axworthy rebuked by board members for becoming involved in local co-op politics. 
  • Murray Fulton and Brett Fairbairn go head-to-head with the Saskatchewan Wheat Pool. 
  • Centre faculty fight uphill battles to get co-op content into university courses. 
  • Co-op sector faces down the university Board of Governors in struggle for core funding for the Centre.

In Chapter 3, the Centre’s funding model becomes more complex and attracts its first international funder:

  • Can co-op studies survive as a discipline without active research centres to promote its growth?
  • How are the Centre’s relationships to other sector organizations both supportive and competitive?
  • The struggle to balance research with teaching.
  • What influence do the co-operative principles have on the Centre’s funding and direction?
  • The Centre’s challenges with co-op principle number five — education, training, and information.
  • How important is ideology? Do co-ops have direct moral imperatives?

In Chapter 4learn about the Centre's evolving governance issues and strategic direction: 

  • What is “adaptive” governance?
  • What are the Centre’s three critical governance components?
  • How has the Centre’s core mandate evolved over time, and why?
  • The controversial loss of the Centre’s library. 
  • Why did the Government of Saskatchewan withdraw its funding from the Centre?
  • The importance of institutional memory and how it led to changes in both governance and funding.
  • Who sets the Centre’s direction? Its faculty or the board? An ongoing issue.
  • A change in governance structure — a new relationship with the Johnson Shoyama Graduate School of Public Policy, concerns around a loss of autonomy. 
  • How has the change from a management to an advisory board affected the Centre?
  • How have successive Centre Directors put their individual stamps on the Centre and influenced its growth and development?

And in the Conclusion

  • How has the Centre’s strong sense of place influenced its longevity?
  • How do the Centre’s structure, operations, and governance contribute to its resilience?
  • Given its ever-increasing linkages with the School of Public Policy, how long can the Centre maintain its autonomy and define itself as a separate entity?
  • The need for a cohesive vision among the Centre’s funders and board members.
  • Does the co-op sector still support academic research and publications, or is it looking for something different?
  • If co-ops now prefer a transactional relationship, as the provincial government once did, a couple of innovative solutions are presented.

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