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Collaborative Research for Cooperative Resilience: CR2

In the wake of the pandemic-impacted global economic decline, with serious impacts on livelihoods, particularly in low- and middle-income countries, the ICRG launched a call for proposals in June 2020 for collaborative research to investigate the business resilience of cooperatives during supply chain disruptions and other shocks, across geographies and value chains. The CR2 projects are diverse in their approach to resilience, with some projects looking at social networks, others investigating enabling legal environments, some honing in on specific cooperative sectors, and still others zeroing in on cooperatives’ adaptations to climate change. In this blog, we provide an overview of the research projects and look forward to sharing interim updates very soon!

Cooperative University of Kenya: Resilience of SACCOs in the Hospitality, Aviation, and Horticulture sectors to COVID-19 systemic shock (The Resilience Project). The Cooperative University of Kenya (CUK) asks, “How have Kenyan SACCOs responded to COVID-19 in the sectors of hospitality, aviation, and horticulture?” In addition to the SACCO’s overall response to COVID-19, CUK seeks to understand how SACCOs have supported their most vulnerable members – including women – in the wake of COVID-19. This research project asks, “What can SACCOs do to support their communities and women?” and “How can governments and national legislative frameworks better support SACCOs and their members during crises?” After investigating these questions, CUK will better understand the effects of COVID-19 on hospitality, aviation, and horticultural SACCOs and identify best-practices for SACCOs to prepare for future crises.

Cooperative University of Kenya’s Hypothesized Chart (Simplified Preview)

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ICA Africa: Adoption of Climate-Smart Agricultural Practices that Contribute to the Resilience of Small-Scale Farmers: Incentives, Barriers and Lessons Learnt from Coffee Cooperatives in East Africa. Innovation and resilience go hand and hand: While coffee cooperatives in East Africa have adopted climate-smart agricultural practices – the innovation – to increase their organizational resilience, ICA Africa wants to know how these programs are making a difference for small-scale farmers. ICA Africa seeks to identify the incentives and barriers influencing the adoption of these green technologies and the lessons to drive interest towards new innovations. ICA Africa’s research will support the widespread adoption of climate-smart practices. Why does this research matter? Safeguarding coffee production in East Africa in a rapidly changing climate is a top priority for national governments, small-scale farmers, and coffee drinkers alike! The region is a powerhouse for coffee production – just see the below data on coffee production and exportation by country.

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Source: International Coffee Organization

KUSCCO: Harnessing Youth Initiatives in the Growth of SACCOs: A case of Boda Boda SACCOS in Kenya. KUSCCO will collaborate with Kenyan boda boda SACCOs to investigate the factors that contribute to youth engagement with the SACCO movement. What kind of relationship can be seen between the success of SACCOs, boda boda associations, and youth empowerment? With this research, KUSCCO will determine new and better methods of engaging the youth of Kenya to spread the message that SACCOs are a viable and effective financial institution. Furthermore, the research will inform SACCOs and boda boda associations of the best practices in crafting mutually beneficial and effective policies for themselves and their future members.

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NCBA-CLUSA: CLARITY 2.0 Working Group Phase I – Foundational Research. With the successful launch of the Cooperative Law and Regulation Initiative (CLARITY) developed collaboratively by OCDC members over 15 years ago, this innovative toolkit is used by various cooperative stakeholders, including development and legal professionals, government officials, and cooperative leaders in reviewing, updating, and advocating for more conducive legal frameworks for cooperatives. Through this collaborative research project, OCDC and NCBA CLUSA are learning from global cooperative law and regulation experts and brainstorming how CLARITY can better meet the challenges of today. This includes adapting CLARITY to modernize and expand its framework. By conceptualizing the CLARITY Initiative around cooperative resiliency, OCDC and NCBA CLUSA seek to provide evidence and expert legal opinions that will feed into updates to the CLARITY 2.0 toolkit, working to establish more enabling environments for cooperative development around the world. In future blog posts, OCDC and NCBA CLUSA look forward to introducing the members of the CLARITY 2.0 Working Group.

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Global Communities: Ushirika Hub: Social Systems Network Analysis. In 2019, Global Communities, NCBA-CLUSA, and WOCCU, collaborated to design and implement a joint Social Systems Network Analysis (SSNA) of the cooperative network in central and western Kenya. This SSNA was named the Ushirika Hub – after the Swahili word for “cooperative” – and it connects cooperatives, members, and sector players to service providers and facilitates valuable information sharing. Following the release of the Ushirika Hub, Global Communities and technical partner, Root Change, monitored the usage of the hub to understand the utility of platform. Current research will focus on Global Communities examining how cooperators use the Social Systems Network Analysis (SSNA) tool and identify best practices for how to increase user uptake. Global Communities wants to know: How could the Ushirika Hub be more engaging? What kind of information would users like from a social network? What types of technological innovations would make the information more accessible and the user experience more desirable?  In addition to understanding how the Hub can better meet current user needs, Global Communities believes that the research can be used to replicate Ushirika Hub in other CDP countries and enhance cooperative sectors globally using proven online platforms to strengthen cooperative networks.

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Land O’Lakes Venture37 and GENEX: Cooperative Resilience: A Comparative Case Study of Business Models in Crisis. Land O’Lakes Venture37 (Venture37) and GENEX will partner with the University of Illinois Urbana Champaign (UIUC) to lead a study that compares the resilience of cooperatives to privately-owned service providers in the dairy value chains in Kenya and Rwanda. What are the comparative advantages and disadvantages of the cooperative model over those of privately-owned businesses in organizational resilience of firms in the dairy sector? By comparing cooperative and private providers in Kenya and Rwanda, Venture37 and GENEX will determine practical steps to further improve the cooperative model. With this research, Venture37 and GENEX will contribute to the growing body of literature that will support the resilience and effectiveness of the cooperative model and find better ways to support cooperative businesses in moments of crisis.


The U.S. OCDC’s International Cooperative Research Group (ICRG) conducts original, independent, and academically rigorous research on the impact of cooperatives around the world. Much of this research is made possible with the support of the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) and our Member Organizations. The ICRG’s work is geared toward international development practitioners, researchers, and policymakers, including CDOs, cooperatives, and the donor community.

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