Decades of research finds that strong governance is essential for cooperatives to thrive. It is correlated with performance, essential for addressing members’ needs, and fundamental to the cooperative DNA. Yet cooperatives need robust data in order to benchmark, reflect on, and improve their governance practices.
The University of Wisconsin Center for Cooperatives launched the Cooperative Governance Research Initiative (CGRI) in 2021 with generous seed funding from CoBank and the Cooperative Development Foundation. CGRI is the first systematic research to examine cooperative governance across sectors and over time. Its mixed-methods research design includes a biennial firm-level online survey and follow-up interviews with a purposive sample of respondents that address topics such as board selection, director training, and member participation.
CGRI will benefit cooperatives, scholars, and policymakers by addressing a critical knowledge gap. It will also benefit cooperatives by informing the development of practical, evidence-based tools cooperatives can use to advance their governance practices such as a director compensation index, a guide for improving board-manager communication, and case studies of highly effective member engagement strategies.