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Catalyzing worker co-ops & the solidarity economy

U of Winnipeg creates “Chair in Co-Operative Enterprises”

WINNIPEG, MB - It was a simple idea born in dire times, during the upheaval of the Industrial Revolution in 1844 England: could ordinary people pool their resources to their mutual benefit? That idea led to a global co-operative movement, with the first member-owned credit union appearing in Manitoba in St. Malo in the 1930s. Today, there are more than 350 Manitoba co-ops serving 800,000 members in all facets of life from grocery stores to financial services to gas bars.

The University of Winnipeg's Faculty of Business and Economics is now creating a position unique in Canada and a first in Manitoba: a Chair in Co-operative Enterprises aimed at strengthening the co-op movement and developing socially responsible entrepreneurs. The Chair position is launched with a total of $625,000 by a collaborative partnership with the Manitoba government, the co-op sector and UWinnipeg:

  • Province of Manitoba $250,000

  • Federated Co-operatives Limited $100,000

  • The Co-operators Group $100,000

  • Credit Union Central of Manitoba Limited $100,000

  • Assiniboine Credit Union Limited $25,000

  • Arctic Cooperatives Limited $25,000

  • Red River Cooperative $25,000

“Co-ops provide a wide range of important products and services that help build communities by creating jobs,” said Kerri Irvin-Ross, Manitoba Minister of Housing and Community Development and Minister responsible for Co-operative Development, Neighborhoods Alive! and Community Places. “We know that by investing in this new Chair in Co-operative Enterprises we will help the co-op movement grow and further strengthen our economy.”


Today's funding announcement is the first for UWinnipeg's newly created Future Fund, with a goal of raising $15 million to support and enhance academic innovation on campus.

“The University of Winnipeg is consistently ranked as one of the best in Canada in terms of academic excellence,” said Dr. Lloyd Axworthy, President and Vice-Chancellor. “In order to remain a relevant and contributing research force in the knowledge-based economy, our Future Fund, officially launched here today, enables us to build collaborative partnerships such as this and create new revenue sources to offset diminished traditional sources of funding.” over

Running a co-operative venture requires a unique knowledge base and skill set. Unlike traditional for-profit businesses, co-ops are mandated to serve members' needs, distribute profits to members, and adhere to a democratic decision-making process. Business students educated in traditional programs are often underexposed to alternative models of business, unfamiliar with core principles of co-operatives, and uncertain about evidence-based best practices needed for productivity and sustainability of co-operatives enterprises whether for-profit or non-profit."

“The co-op movement is growing and is a niche market with its own requirements” said Dr. Albert, the Dean of the Faculty of Business and Economics. “We are very proud to pioneer this program in Canada with our partners and look forward to future growth in academic programming and research around this topic. The Faculty prides itself as a boutique approach to education that is grounded in service to students, and an experiential and multi-disciplinary learning environment that is well connected to industry and therefore highly relevant to the realities of today's workforce.”

UWinnipeg's four year Bachelor of Business Administration (BBA) degree, equivalent to a Bachelor of Commerce at other Canadian universities, takes an interdisciplinary approach to business education built on social and ethical responsibility. Innovative courses in management of co-operatives, social responsibility and not-for-profit management already exist. The Chair in Co-operative Enterprises will develop new courses toward a concentration in the area, adding a unique and explicit focus to complement existing concentrations in accounting, marketing, international business, and human resource management/organizational behaviour. Possible courses include theory and practice of accounting and economics for co-operatives.

"The cooperative community has long-recognized the need for cooperative business education, particularly in business schools in Canada and around the world," said Vera Goussaert, Executive Director, Manitoba Cooperative Association. "The cooperative business model often gets forgotten in institutes of higher learning, so we are delighted that we have been able to forge what will be a lasting partnership with the Faculty of Business and Economics at The University of Winnipeg. The United Nations has declared 2012 as the International Year of Cooperatives. We are confident that this partnership between the University, our Provincial Government and the cooperative community will result in the education of future co-op leaders for generations to come that will help us build a better world."

“This new position and The University of Winnipeg's commitment to educating business students about cooperatives is critical to the broader community's hopes for ensuring future generations of social entrepreneurs,” said Cindy Coker, Executive Director of SEED Winnipeg who partnered with MCA and UWinnipeg to create and negotiate funding for the Chair in Cooperative Enterprises.

An international search for a candidate to fill the Chair in Co-operative Enterprises, expected to start July 1, 2013, is now underway.

Find out more about UWinnipeg's Faculty of Business and Economics  
Find out more about Manitoba Co-operatives

The University of Winnipeg's Future Fund supports activities such as faculty research, academic enhancements and development, innovative programming, creation of Chairs and Fellowships, and specialized technology investments. The Future Fund also allows for enriched student and faculty experiences, gained through participation in national and international competitions, case studies, exchanges and conferences.



Diane Poulin, Communications Officer, The University of Winnipeg

P: 204.988.7135, E:


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