Dr. Marc-Andre Pigeon (PhD), Canadian Centre for the Study of Co-operatives director. (Photo: David Stobbe)

USask receives $300K from FCL to renew research chair focused on co-operative governance

The Co-operative Retailing System (CRS) Chair in Co-operative Governance at the University of Saskatchewan (USask) will receive $300,000 over five years from Federated Co-operatives Limited (FCL), on behalf of the CRS in Western Canada.

The CRS Chair—based in the Canadian Centre for the Study of Co-operatives (CCSC) at the Johnson Shoyama Graduate School of Public Policy (JSGS)—supports ambitious research and educational programming aimed at creating new ways of thinking about the unique governance model shared by co-operatives.

“The research completed in the first term was valuable in that it created an innovative framework to support improving co-operative governance,” said Sharon Alford, FCL’s president/chair of the board. “There have always been governance challenges across different sectors, but modern pressures on the co-operative sector underscore the continued need to be accountable to members and maintain our relevance for future generations. This is crucial not only for the CRS, but all co-operatives in Canada and around the world.”

According to Dr. Murray Fulton (PhD), inaugural CRS Chair and director of the JSGS USask campus, governance is critical because it is a key determinant of organizational success.

“Understanding who is making what decisions, which is at the heart of governance, helps the CRS effectively respond to social and economic changes in the environment,” he said.

In his role as CRS Chair, Fulton, along with CCSC research fellows, developed an innovative framework for analyzing governance challenges in co-operatives. It includes three basic governance issues that all co-operatives and credit unions must continually address—ensuring interconnected parts of the organization work well together, working to get a better view of the future, and creating and maintaining legitimacy.

“Since its development, the governance framework has re-shaped our approach to researching, teaching, and providing advice on governance to co-operatives and credit unions in Canada,” said Dr. Marc-Andre Pigeon (PhD), CCSC director. “We’ve been able to develop a new Graduate Certificate in Co-operatives and the Social Economy and a Co-operative Governance School for Emerging Researchers—the latter of which brought together young researchers from around the world.” 

This new framework has also filtered into a free Massive Open Online Course (MOOC) on co-operative governance, co-developed with Co-operatives First and co-delivered to more than 1,500 individuals worldwide.

“The new chair, once appointed this summer, will help FCL and CCSC build on the existing research program in co-operative governance by looking at some of the sector’s major concerns, including adapting to rapid technological, regulatory and environmental changes,” said Pigeon. “The work will also shed light on governance mechanisms in the larger economy and society, including—but not limited to—the business sector and within Indigenous communities.”