Cooperative Governance Research Initiative

Decades of research suggests that strong governance is decisive in cooperatives’ success in realizing social, environmental, and economic impacts. Yet UWCC’s Cooperative Governance Research Initiative (CGRI) is the first cross-sector study to collect systematic data about American cooperatives in order to unpack this relationship and operationalize strong governance in terms of specific practices that can be implemented on the ground. 

CGRI is launching the first wave of data collection in 2021 with generous seed funding from CoBank and the Cooperative Development Foundation. 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.

The Initiative will generate information and tools to help cooperatives benchmark, reflect on, and improve their governance practices. Much of what is known about corporate governance comes from studies of conventional businesses, which differ significantly from cooperatives in terms of management incentives and governance practices. This initiative will address a critical knowledge gap for cooperative researchers, practitioners, and policymakers in part by enhancing our ability to compare the governance practices of member- vs. investor-owned firms.

Get Involved!

If you are interested in being part of CGRI as a research participant, funder, or thought partner, please contact project director Laura Hanson Schlachter at lhanson4@wisc.edu or UWCC Executive Director Courtney Berner at cberner@wisc.edu.

Advisory Committee and Research Standards

A volunteer Advisory Committee made up of representatives from across the co-op community is providing technical support to ensure the research is timely, relevant to the cooperative community, and achieves maximum impact. Members include:

As a university-based research center, UWCC conducts studies under the supervision of an Institutional Review Board that ensures we adhere to federal research ethics guidelines. This means we follow high standards of transparency with research subjects and data security.  Survey responses will be confidential, and no individual cooperative will be identifiable in the final results.

The events of recent months make conversations around governance especially timely for the cooperative sector. Cooperatives have historically demonstrated incredible resilience during economic downturns and startups often emerge during crises to meet critical community needs. This is an opportune time to begin collecting longitudinal data about how governance plays a role in these phenomena.