Leading scholar joins USask’s internationally recognized co-operative centre as CRS Chair in Co-operative Governance

For Dr. Dionne Pohler (PhD), the opportunity to take on the role of Co-operative Retailing System (CRS) Chair in Co-operative Governance at the University of Saskatchewan (USask) is more than a title or a position, it’s a return to the province she calls home and to an academic and co-operative community that she holds in very high regard.

By Stan Yu, Research and Communications Coordinator, Canadian Centre for the Study of Co-operatives

Currently serving as the acting director and PhD chair at the University of Toronto’s Centre for Industrial Relations and Human Resources, with a status cross-appointment in the Rotman School of Management, Pohler is looking forward to re-connecting with colleagues both within USask and the co-operative sector.

“I’m very excited to be coming back home to Saskatchewan, and to re-joining the university where I started my academic career,” said Pohler. “I’m also looking forward to the opportunities the CRS Chair will provide me to work with the co-operative sector in the province, in Western Canada and beyond. Co-operatives are powerful tools for building and sustaining community self-reliance and economic resiliency, and for creating bridges among people from different backgrounds to come together to meet their shared needs and goals. More and more people are beginning to realize the potential of the co-operative model for facilitating inclusive, grassroots economic development and social progress.”

Funded by Federated Co-operatives Limited (FCL) on behalf of the CRS, the network of FCL and more than 160 independent local co-operatives across Western Canada, the CRS Chair is based in the Canadian Centre for the Study of Co-operatives at the Johnson Shoyama Graduate School of Public Policy. As part of its mandate, the chair position will support ambitious research and educational programming aimed at creating new ways of thinking about the unique governance model shared by co-operatives. Pohler will hold a primary faculty appointment in the Edwards School of Business. 

Prior to her move to Toronto in 2016, Pohler served as an assistant professor in the Johnson Shoyama Graduate School of Public Policy (2013-2016) and the Edwards School of Business (2009-2013). During this time, she helped to develop a co-operative model of economic and social development, alongside rural settler and Indigenous communities in Western Canada, as one of the co-investigators on the Co-operative Innovation Project. This project ultimately led to the creation of a not-for-profit organization, Co-operatives First, dedicated to working with rural communities to address the needs identified by their own residents. Pohler was also a founding board member of Co-operatives First.

Pohler has published extensively on work and employment, human resource management and labour relations, public policy, and co-operative governance and development. She is currently working on research pertaining to building inclusive rural communities, gender earnings gaps, and the impacts of COVID-19 on the labour market and small and medium-sized businesses. 

“As the CRS chair, I will explore the governance challenges facing both well-established co-operatives and co-operative federations as well as start-up co-operatives, and how co-operative leaders respond to these challenges,” said Pohler. “I’m also really interested in understanding the innovations co-operatives develop to navigate changing regulatory and technological environments, including emerging models of co-operative governance in the digital economy.”

Marc-André Pigeon, the director and strategic research fellow for the Canadian Centre for the Study of Co-operatives, said he is “thrilled” to have Pohler as the next CRS Chair.

"She brings together a unique depth of understanding about co-operatives based on academic studies but also, importantly, a long history of pragmatic real-world engagement, beginning with her early (before academia) career at the Saskatoon Co-op. Further, Dionne brings to the role a deep interest and appreciation for co-operative governance practices plus an understanding of the fields of industrial organization and human resources. For those reasons and more, she is the perfect person to be the new CRS Chair." 

Pohler will begin her five-year term as the CRS Chair in Co-operative Governance on July 1, 2021.  The CRS chair was previously held by Dr. Murray Fulton (PhD) from 2015-2020.