The initial research – Non-financial Co-operatives in Canada: 1955 to 2005 – found that in Canada there were two broad groupings of co-operatives: public service co-operatives in such services as housing, childcare, healthcare and homecare that rely heavily upon government programs and are found primarily in urban centres; and co-operatives that are financially self-sufficient and that market services either to a membership or to the broader public. The latter group includes co-operatives in services such as the marketing and management of agricultural produce, consumer goods such as food, drugs, and farm supplies, and other services such as rural electrification and water supplies and the harvesting of forestry products. These forms of co-operatives take on the character of a business, even though they consist of associations of members incorporated as co-operatives, and are predominantly in rural and small communities across Canada. In other words, there is a duality among non-financial co-operatives in Canada: one group based upon the provision of public services and formed predominantly from the 1970s forward and located in urban centres throughout the country and another group that fits the co-operative tradition of relatively self-sufficient organizations that have the character of a business, or what has been labelled as a social economy business (Quarter, Mook, & Armstrong, 2009; Quarter & Mook, 2010). This first study is a chapter in the forthcoming book, Businesses with a Difference: Balancing the Social and Economic (University of Toronto Press, 2012).

The second study – Understanding the Rural Tilt among Financial Co-operatives in Canada –examines the relationship between location and community size among credit unions in English Canada and caisses populaires in Québec, and explores explanations for the relationship. The analysis is based on data files made available through the credit union centrals, publically accessible Websites, and from interviews with seven leaders of credit unions/caisses populaires. The data suggest that credit unions in English Canada and caisses populaires in Québec are found disproportionately in rural communities and small towns, and under-represented in major urban centres. Two main themes of explanations for the results from the interviews are presented: (1) why credit unions are a better match for rural and small communities, or put differently, the difference between credit unions and caisses populaires and banks; 2) the reasons why credit unions and caisses populaires are under-represented in large urban centres. A paper based upon this research has been submitted for publication.


The research is now being extended to the US to see whether the patterns established in Canada appear in that country. The principals involved in this research are Jack Quarter, Jennifer Hann, and Keita Demming of the Social Economy Centre of the University of Toronto and Laurie Mook of Arizona State University. For more information, contact jack.quarter@utoronto.ca