It is widely known that a competent board of directors is an important factor in cooperative success. However, directors of local cooperatives in developing countries may be unfamiliar with democratic governance processes and the skills needed for effective directing. While there are significant impediments to good cooperative governance (e.g., inadequate training, weak leadership, and corruption), research has shown that cooperative boards benefit from high quality training designed to meet their specific needs.
The Overseas Cooperative Development Council (OCDC) through its Research Group effort led by members of the Collaborative Group of OCDC member representatives, has developed a board capacity building initiative designed to meet the unique governance challenges faced by individual cooperatives. To achieve that end, we have developed a three-stage model (Creation/Startup; Direction/ Establishment; and Delegation/Institution) for identifying specific board development needs at various stages of cooperative growth. The model describes 13 characteristics of cooperative boards at each stage. Among the characteristics are board culture and composition, director attributes, board focus and decision making style.
Based on the model, we developed a checklist field researchers can use to identify the current development stage of each cooperative board. Unique board survey questionnaires have been developed for each of the three development stages. In addition, we developed a questionnaire to solicit member impressions of their board’s performance. Survey training and implementation tools for use in the field were pretested with 19 cooperatives in 5 countries in late 2016. After revising and updating the research tools, an expanded governance training assessment was launched in 2017 with data collection currently underway with 35 cooperatives in 5 countries. This paper reports on our development stages model, research design, pre-test methods and results, implementation of the survey and next steps for the project.