Celebrating 60 Years of Service to Cooperatives

The University of Wisconsin Center for Cooperatives (UWCC) is the oldest university-based cooperative center in the nation. Launched in 1962 as the International Cooperative Training Center, UWCC has evolved into a center with an ambitious, high impact portfolio of cooperative development programming, community outreach and education, applied research, and on-campus teaching. Like the cooperative model, UWCC has stood the test of time!

Over the last three months, we have celebrated the Center’s 60th anniversary by reflecting on our rich history, highlighting our current programs, inviting you to share how UWCC has impacted your life or cooperative, and launching Friends of CGRI, a fundraising campaign for our national research on cooperative governance.

We also shared some exciting news about how we’re preparing for the next 60 years of service to cooperatives. In January 2023, UWCC will move to the UW-Madison Division of Extension. UWCC’s move to Extension is mutually beneficial. UWCC will gain additional staffing resources as well as a secure home in a division that shares our values, approach, and public service orientation; and Extension will gain a center with strong stakeholder support and a track record of delivering highly valued research, outreach, and education to cooperatives across the country.  

Our future looks bright—and we look forward to continuing to deliver superb research, education, and business development support to cooperatives in Wisconsin and beyond in the decades to come!

CGRI Research Brief: Gender Diversity on U.S. Cooperative Boards 

In 2021, UWCC launched the Cooperative Governance Research Initiative (CGRI) to meet a need in the cooperative community for robust data on governance practices. The first CGRI survey yielded enthusiastic responses from 500 cooperatives. Earlier this year, we released a report on the findings of our first wave of data collection. Since then, we have been developing sector specific reports, short research briefs, and practical, evidence-based tools. The first of these offerings is a research brief on Gender Diversity on U.S. Cooperative Boards, which was made possible with a 4W Innovation Grant from UW-Madison’s 4W Initiative.  
The business case for gender diversity in the boardroom is clear—boards with a broad range of skills and backgrounds that represent diverse stakeholders make better decisions. While corporate boards have become more gender diverse over the last twenty years, women remain drastically underrepresented in U.S. boardrooms. We knew anecdotally that some sectors of the cooperative community struggle to diversify, yet there was little data on the gender composition of cooperative boards.  
In this research brief, we present novel data about the gender composition of cooperative boards from the 2021 CGRI survey of cooperative enterprises. The 483 survey participants that reported the gender identity of their directors provided the first baseline data of its kind, laying the groundwork for cooperatives to benchmark gender diversity on the board in relation to their sector, others in the cooperative community, and investor-owned firms. 

To receive updates on new resources and future waves of data collection, subscribe for CGRI updates here. If you’re interested in supporting future research briefs, sector specific reports, and tools for cooperatives please consider becoming a Friend of CGRI.  

We're Hiring! Come Work with Us!

The UW Center for Cooperatives is seeking a full-time researcher to support the Cooperative Governance Research Initiative (CGRI), the first longitudinal, cross-sectoral, mixed-methods study on the governance practices of U.S. cooperatives. The first CGRI survey, conducted in late 2021, 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.
In this position, the researcher will manage the CGRI dataset; conduct further analysis of the 2021 data; work with the Executive Director to develop research briefs, reports, and other evidence-based tools, and manage the second wave of data collection in early 2024. The researcher will be integral to developing and advancing UWCC's research agenda and integrating UWCC's research, outreach, education, and development programs. The deadline to submit an application is Tuesday, December 27, 2022.

In Brief: Resources and Updates

UWCC Advisory Committee Updates

UWCC is pleased to welcome Lizzy Haywood, Chief Executive Officer of People's Food Co-op, to the UWCC Advisory Committee. People's Food Co-op serves over 11,000 consumer members at two stores in La Crosse, WI, and Rochester, MN.

We also want to thank Pam Mehnert of Outpost Natural Foods Co-op, Liz Drame of Derute Consulting Co-op, and Ron McFall of Stoel Rives for their many years of service on the UWCC Advisory Committee.
Lizzy Haywood, People's Food Co-op

Bringing Cooperators Back Together In Person

This fall, UWCC hosted two in-person events that had been held virtually since 2019.

The 25th Annual Farmer Cooperatives Conference returned to downtown Minneapolis, MN, at the end of November. Many attendees braved a Minnesota snowstorm to hear from their cooperative peers on topics such as labor challenges, strategic use of technology, sharing your cooperative story, and examining non-member business.
Farmer Cooperatives Conference attendees are welcomed by UWCC's Courtney Berner.
Co-op Directors 101 attendees work together on how their boards carry  out their director responsibilities.
In December, UWCC hosted the Co-op Directors 101 training at Compeer Financial in Sun Prairie, WI. This training is designed for new directors or directors who have not received formal board training. We had a full house with directors from many types of co-ops and sectors including grocery, housing, meat processing, agriculture, veterinary medicine, transportation, solar, manufacturing, and dairy!

Start a Worker Co-op Class at Madison College

With support from the Cooperative Development Foundation, MadWorC (Madison Worker Cooperatives) has organized a class through the Professional and Continuing Education program at Madison College. This practicum-based class is appropriate for anyone interested in starting a worker cooperative or converting their business to a worker cooperative. They will feature guest speakers from local cooperatives and cooperative lenders; and students will visit local worker cooperatives, engage in interactive activities, and draft bylaws and business plans.

The class will be offered on Wednesdays, February 15th to April 19th, from 6-8 p.m. at the Madison College Truax Campus. You can register here.

Forestry Cooperative Grants Available

UWCC is pleased to invite proposals to receive $5,000 to $25,000 to fund the development of Wisconsin-based cooperatives or cooperative groups (e.g., associations, networks, and informal collaborations) in the following areas: forest management, forest-related products, biomass energy, forest-owner policy initiatives, and support for existing forestry cooperatives or associations. Proposals must be submitted by February 17, 2023. See the announcement and application for more details.

UWCC Awarded Rural Cooperative Development Grant

UWCC has been awarded $200,000 to provide technical assistance to rural cooperatives through the U.S. Department of Agriculture's (USDA) Rural Cooperative Development Grant (RCDG). The RCDG program exists to help rural cooperatives and small businesses expand, create jobs, and strengthen their capacity to serve rural citizens and communities. This grant enables UWCC to provide cooperative development services to rural clients in Wisconsin and throughout the upper Midwest. Types of assistance available include organizational development, cooperative education, board training, strategic planning, and support during feasibility and business planning activities. Key project areas include food and agriculture; forestry; green energy; and the promotion of employee ownership.

Upcoming Events

Agricultural Cooperative Director Training 2023

January 5-6, 2023 | Mankato, Minnesota
January 18-19, 2023 | Rosholt, Wisconsin

UWCC is partnering with Land O'Lakes and  Dr. Michael Boland of the University of Minnesota on an in person training designed for agriculture and farm supply cooperative directors. Session topics will include strategic thinking, managing through impending CEO or senior staff retirements, workforce recruitment and alternative staffing, managing with fewer employees, and cooperative capital. These trainings will include a mix of panel discussions and small group activities to maximize engagement.

CCMA 2023

June 8-10, 2023 | Sacramento, California

Sacramento is not only the capital of California; it is America’s Farm to Fork City, a culinary destination that is sure to delight! Also known as "Tree City", Sacramento is a lush oasis of bougainvillea and palms, prolific fruit trees, and mighty oaks. We are thrilled to bring CCMA back to Sacramento for the first time since 1995! Our host cooperatives, Sacramento Natural Food Co-op, Davis Food Co-op, and BriarPatch Food Co-op, are excited to share their co-ops and communities with CCMA attendees!