The Centre for the Study of Co-operatives is an interdisciplinary teaching and research institute at the University of Saskatchewan. Established in 1984, the Centre is supported financially by the University of Saskatchewan, by major provincial co-operatives, and by the government of Saskatchewan. The objectives of the Centre are to develop and offer university courses that provide an understanding of co-operative theory, principles, development, structures, and legislation; to undertake original research into co-operatives; to publish co-operative research, both that of Centre staff and that of other researchers; and to maintain a resource centre of co-operative materials that supports the Centre’s teaching and research functions. The Centre has five faculty members who teach undergraduate and graduate courses in their respective disciplines: History, Agricultural Economics, Management and Marketing, Sociology, and Political Studies. Co-operative theory and models are incorporated into courses to increase students’ understanding of co-operatives and to foster an appreciation for the significant role co-operatives have played, and continue to play, in economic and social development. The Centre also works with community groups to provide educational programs about co-operatives.
Although co-operatives are an integral part of Canadian economy and society, their special contributions and potential are often not fully understood. The Centre undertakes scholarly, often interdisciplinary, research about co-operatives and political, social, and economic issues relating to them. Its research flows from, draws on, and leads into the practical work of partner organizations in the co-operative sector, particularly in Saskatchewan and in Canada, although it is also networked to researchers around the world. Connections to co-operatives and communities stimulate the research questions it pursues; and it not only welcomes, but also requires collaboration and interaction with co-operatives to succeed in the work it does. Projects are supported by the Centre’s own resources, by external funds from research funding agencies, or by organizations commissioning particular studies. The Centre sponsors a Visiting Research Fellows program, which is designed to encourage and promote research that focusses on co-operatives. Financial support is provided to both academic scholars and co-operative practitioners who undertake a specific short-term project that would benefit from concentrated study in a research milieu and from access to extensive academic resources. While at the Centre, researchers typically develop a research paper, present one or two seminars geared for the public, give a more in-depth presentation to Centre staff, and provide guest lectures in classes taught by Centre faculty.
The Centre also encompasses a category of associates known as CSC Scholars, who are actively involved in teaching, theoretical or applied research, and/or extension education concerning co-operatives. The scholar model gives the Centre an opportunity to involve more faculty members at the University of Saskatchewan in its activities, to broaden the base of its interdisciplinary teaching and research, and to create linkages with external organizations and other universities. The Resource Centre, housed with the Centre’s offices, is a specialized library offering an extensive collection of journals, books, reports, and videos that focus on co-operatives and related social, political, and historical topics. It offers information and research support to anyone interested in studying co-operatives. The Centre publishes research results in various forms—books, professional journals, its own series of occasional papers, booklets, research reports—and this increasingly through electronic means.