Key Takeaways from the 2021 CGRI Report

map of the united states representing number of cooperatives that participated from each stateThe first CGRI survey yielded enthusiastic responses from 500 cooperatives, capturing substantial diversity in terms of industry, type, size, age, and location, and creating a baseline for the range and frequency of cooperative governance practices. Targeted follow-up interviews generated additional insights.

  • On the whole, participating cooperatives believe it is important for members to see their faces reflected in the board and that diversity, in multiple dimensions, is a key component of building an effective board. For many, increasing board diversity in terms of age, gender, ethnic, and racial composition is an ongoing journey and priority in the next three years.
  • Cooperative boards face real dilemmas as they strive to balance representation and expertise. Thinking more carefully about practices related to contested elections, term limits, and board recruitment could help many cooperatives both preserve institutional knowledge and welcome new perspectives.
  • Developing a culture of lifelong learning is critical for long-term organizational success. Expanding board education and evaluations provide many opportunities for cooperatives to foster a culture of learning and growth through more deliberate reflection and ongoing multidimensional training.
  • The commonly held belief that the board develops strategy and management carries it out is increasingly being challenged. Our findings offer insights that could help reframe how we think and talk about the role of the board versus management.
  • The CEO plays an important role in a cooperative’s governance system—they provide vision and institutional knowledge, engage with members, and support the board’s functioning in myriad ways. Overall, cooperatives with CEOs who value the cooperative model and engage with the board as a worthy partner are more likely to have healthy governance systems.
  • COVID-19 and changing social norms have created unique challenges for building a thriving culture on cooperative boards. Despite these challenges, cooperative boards are finding ways to connect and strengthen their social ties by focusing on essential interpersonal dynamics and activities that cultivate and sustain them.
  • The form and content of member participation varies across sectors, but most member concerns are connected to the fundamental question of whether the cooperative’s goods and services, financial decisions, and overarching strategy align with member needs, desires, and values.