Enhancing Development Through Cooperatives

  • Contact Judith Hermanson, Research Group director
  • Contact Details
  • Partner CTA (Technical Center for Agricultural and Rural Cooperation) & Oxfam UK
  • Geographic Area Sub-Saharan Africa
  • Sector Agricultural
  • Intention To determine how cooperative agribusinesses become viable and sustainable enterprises and how to improve the effectiveness of development programs and financial services in promoting inclusive, sustainable, and viable agri-cooperatives.

These questions will be answered using a participatory research methodology centered around Cooperative Leadership Events (CLEs). The 5-day CLEs allow for participative action research where participants receive top quality education, coaching, and networking with government officials, peers, and experts. The CLE model also promotes active participation in the quantitative and qualitative research.

Approach and methodology

Each CLE includes about 100 participants each representing a cooperative. The participants are given an assessment prior to the workshop asking them descriptive characteristics about themselves and their cooperatives and an assessment on their application of various cooperative principles.

During the CLE, participants learn about the cooperative principles and ways to apply them to their cooperatives, network with other cooperative leaders, and have organized discussions with stakeholders and government officials. Primary Investigator, Dr. Nicola Francesconi and graduate assistants from the host country lead the CLEs. Each CLE is cohosted and cofounded by one or more international cooperative development organizations with open projects in the country. The CDO helps to promote and lead the CLE.

At the conclusion of the CLE the participants are given a second assessment to determine what skills and tools were learned during the workshop. The learning efficiency of the participants is measured as the improvement from assessment one to assessment two. Dr. Francesconi interprets learning efficiency as the ability and motivation to internalize the cooperative principles taught during the CLE.

Major outcomes and recommendations

Six CLEs have been completed during year the project. CLEs have been held in Uganda, Madagascar, Malawi, and Rwanda from 2016 – 2018.The preliminary results show that three main variables are correlated with higher collective marketing: 1) increased output per member and per competitor; 2) cohesive membership (specifically homogenous land size); and 3) offering price incentives and payments on the spot to members.  Based on these findings, Dr. Francesconi makes several recommendations including regulating entry in to cooperative agribusinesses, integrating strong and sovereign leadership to the traditional democratic model, and anticipating changes in member interests and needs proactively.

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