The Cooperative Advantage: Kenya

On April 2nd,  2019 the Research Group of the Overseas Cooperative Development Council hosted a dialogue with senior Kenyan policy makers and other actors engaged in the cooperative sector in Nairobi, Kenya.  The dialogue was framed as “The Cooperative Advantage: Kenya” and intended to return the results of the research to the country that was a source for the data. The purpose of the event was to present the preliminary findings of the “What Difference Do Cooperatives Make?” research recently completed in Kenya and to explore their potential policy implications for Kenya and its growth trajectory. The event provided a forum for key stakeholders and policy makers to review the research and provide their perspectives.  The event was co-hosted by the Cooperative University of Kenya.

“What difference do cooperatives make” is a multi-country, cross-sector, research initiative on the social and economic benefits of cooperatives for their members and the communities in which they exist. The research was piloted in Poland {LINK}, recently conducted in Kenya and the Philippines, and in-progress in Peru.

Dr. Judith Hermanson, OCDC Research Director, introduced the purpose of the research which focuses on the difference that cooperative membership is making as experienced by those members.  The RG distilled 10 key outcomes based on the data and related these to the Kenyan President’s “Big Four” initiative as a basis for the dialogue.   Key findings of the research include: The economic advantage that is being experienced by cooperative members – both men and women and social benefits Cooperatives provide include opportunities for education through affordable loans and other educational opportunities. The economic and social benefits were further illuminated through discussion and later panels.

Jasper Gosselt, Research Director Dalberg Research Kenya, the company engaged to do the data collection, followed giving a detailed presentation on the research methodology. Gosselt focused on the rigorous methods used to create a representative and randomized sample of cooperative and non-cooperative members.

Two panels of Kenyan cooperative experts discussed the findings in regard to: “What the ‘cooperative difference’ means for lower income people” and “Harnessing the Positive Energy for Kenya’s Development Goals.” The panelists included representatives from the state department of cooperatives, county governments, international organizations, academic institutions and more. Topics among the panels included: focus on governance and leadership training for cooperatives, the importance of general education reform and addressing illiteracy, registration process for cooperatives, reliable register of and data on Kenyan cooperatives, and Kenyan cooperative county and national regulations. Panelists and participants agreed that the research presented was a helpful starting point and would help to answer additional research and policy questions.

In conclusion of the event, Dr. Joshua Chepchieng, Administrative Secretary for the State Department of Cooperatives, spoke on behalf of the Principal Secretary Ali Noor Ismail. Dr. Chepchieng thanked the hosts, researchers, panelists, and participants for giving their time for a fruitful conversation. He spoke specifically of the research findings recommending additional effort be put into place to increase women’s participation in cooperatives. Dr. Chepchieng announced that he would be applying the findings of the research to the work of the department as they continue to discuss devolution and cooperative regulations. The government agreed to take action to work to increase women’s membership and leadership in cooperatives.

The participants asked several rounds of questions clarifying the representativeness of the research and the soundness of the findings. One major theme of the discussion was that the findings were illuminating and should now be shaped to answer the question, “how can the cooperative sector expand upon the positive benefits to further increase their contributions?” Participants also participated in robust discussions about ways that cooperatives contribute to development and, more specifically “the Big Four,” Many suggestions were made about the roles of cooperatives, NGOs, and the government and future research and collaboration among the institutions represented were discussed.

The complete agenda from the event and a summary of the findings can be found here.