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Cooperative impact on individual social and economic well-being

A multi-year, multi-country cross-sector regional research study

What Difference Do Cooperatives Make?

  • Contact Judith Hermanson, Research Group director
  • Contact Details jhermanson@www.ocdc.coop
  • Geographic Area Multi-Country
  • Sector Multi-Sector
  • Intention The “What Difference Do Cooperatives Make?” research project is a multi-year, multi-country cross-sector regional research study on the effects cooperatives have on the social and economic well-being of individuals and the broader effects that they have in the communities where they are located. The focus will be on the primary society, but will also take into account second and third level bodies in all countries.

Pilot research is currently underway to test the research questions and methodology in Poland. Poland was selected due to its long history with cooperatives, but more specifically its recent cooperative history within the market economy. The pilot in Poland will seek to answer the four research questions below and investigate the legacy of the Cooperative Development Program, funded by USAID, in the post socialist market economy.

The research study will include mixed methods to answer the following research questions:

  1. How do cooperative members benefit economically from their cooperative membership and participation?
  2. How do cooperative members benefit socially from their cooperative membership and participation?
  3. How do communities benefit economically from the presence of cooperatives?
  4. How do communities benefit socially from the presence of cooperatives?

Approach and methodology

This multi-year, multi-country, and cross-sector research project will use a mixed methods approach, gathering data through survey methodology, focus groups and key informants.  Quantitative and qualitative data will be used together to answer the four primary research questions. The data will also be compared with previously identified baseline data for key indicators. A sampling plan will be developed for each country and a representative sample will be drawn, allowing generalization of conclusions. Research participants will include: cooperative members, cooperative leaders, and community leaders.

In addition, a Country Context analyses will enable comparisons within countries and across countries to the extent that baseline data are available and as seems relevant.  The Country Context will be conducted through an in-depth desk review of the history of cooperatives in the country and the political climate in relation to cooperative development. The Country Context will help to identify local partners, shape any necessary adaptations to the survey instruments, and inform the analysis.

The multi-country research project is currently being piloted in Poland. The pilot particularly looks at the development and impact of cooperatives in the market economy, which represent the international cooperative principles. In Poland, attention will additionally be paid to ascertaining relationships between USAID assistance in the cooperative sector to the current situation.  OCDC has prepared a request for proposals circulated in Poland in which the services of survey and marketing researches and analysts have been sought to aid with the gathering and analysis of data. Through a request for proposal process, local researchers were identified to conduct the surveys and interviews within country.

Major outcomes and recommendations

Though in the early stages of piloting this multi-country research project, the research group expects that the study will develop new knowledge that will be shared with stakeholders in Poland and in the international cooperative development space.  Its findings can be used to contribute to the narrative of cooperatives and when and how they contribute to economic and social inclusiveness and the development of social capital.  The findings will also provide new insights about cooperative performance and sustainability in Poland. Through the multi-country study, we will gain specific insights into cooperatives that will illuminate our collective understanding and that will also likely point in exciting new directions that will deepen our understanding of cooperatives in the 21st century.

At an aspirational level, OCDC hopes that the research results – both those from the Poland pilot study and from the subsequent research efforts — will also provide insights into key emerging areas such as the future of work, the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development which aims to eradicate poverty and other “Grand Challenges” that we collectively face as a planet.

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