No two co-ops are the same, and co-ops themselves come in a wide variety of forms and operate in every sector of the economy. But there are a few things shareholders, members, directors — and you — can do to help make your co-op more successful – no matter what sector or structure they have.

Here are 6 we picked out.

Encourage board members to take a governance course

Good governance matters, and having directors that understand governance is important to the long-term success of any organization.

Our governance course, created in partnership with the Centre for the Study of Co-operatives at the University of Saskatchewan, provides a great introduction to three key concepts necessary to good governance:

  • Creating a successful view of the future (cognition),
  • Ensuring people work well together (strategic interdependencies), and
  • How to build legitimacy within the organization and out.

Plus, you get to apply these learnings to real world cases.

Having a board that understands what their job is, why being committed is important and how they can best manage for the future will make your co-op more successful. No question.

Align values and goals

Over time, the everyday work of an organization or business can drift from the original vision and goals of the organization or business’s founders.

Whether there’s a need to return to the original vision or adjust the values and goals written into the policies, procedures and bylaws, a strategic revisiting could help ensure everyone is moving in the same direction.

A great way to do this is a review of key organizational documents, and the development of refreshed or new policies, procedures or decisions. The goal of this exercise is to make these documents relevant and meaningful again.

Yes, it will take some time, and can be a touch painful, but the effectiveness and efficiency of your organization or business will increase because of it.


Talk amongst yourselves

An organization or business run by a group of people is a type of community and it serves a specific community. For co-ops, this is their shareholder and membership base. Consistent and valuable shareholder or member engagement is essential to ensuring the co-op is meeting expectations and has a healthy showing at the AGM for votes and feedback. Plus, your current members are the best way to gain new members.

Besides regular, value-focused communications and discussions with shareholders and members, a business check-in is also a great way to gain feedback, learn from other regional co-ops and prepare for the future.

At Co-operatives First, we do an Engagement 101 workshop that supports co-operative boards and leaders with hosting a business check-in or engaging members.

Talk about yourselves

It probably seems strange, but a bit of narcissism is a good thing. Taking the time to remind and educate shareholders, members and staff about the co-op difference, as well as the importance of sharing the message with their friends and family is key to communicating the value your co-op brings to the community or region.

A strong understanding of co-ops – and yours in particular – in your region will ensure recruiting future members, directors, and customers or clients is possible. Plus, it increases your co-op’s relevance and legitimacy with the broader public.

Our Lunch & Learn is a kind of basic training for shareholders, members, employees or volunteers of a co-op. Making sure your core believes in the co-op and is talking about it to non-members in a positive way is a great way to help with long term health and growth.

Do a board effectiveness workshop

The board of directors is central to a co-operative business. Ensuring your board is equipped to make good decisions and comply with co-op regulations is important for long-term success.

Beyond the governance training mentioned above, evaluating board effectiveness can bring out strategic opportunities and operational adjustments that will make your co-op more successful.

Our workshop is half to a whole day long and focuses on general and organizational policy and procedure, rules of order, strategic planning, board recruitment and/or any topical interests existing directors might have.


Treat your AGM like We Day

Okay, this is a hyperbole, but we would like to see co-ops take their AGM more seriously. AGM’s need to be relevant and valuable to attract shareholders and members to the meeting.

Having shareholders and members at your AGM helps increase feedback, legitimacy and the number of opportunities for innovation through ideas that hadn’t been thought of.

If you could use some guidance with your first AGM, we offer free supports in this area.

Be engaged

Bonus one for you. This is probably the most important way to ensure your co-op is successful, so we’ll give it to you as a freebie for having made it this far.

Join the board of directors, keep informed, attend meetings and vote at AGMs. Why? Without you there is no business or organization. You matter. If the organization or business matters to you, stay engaged.

To learn more about our services mentioned above, visit us.