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Custom training for co-operative governance

By Daniel Jungwirth

October 3, 2017

Co-operative governance is different from other governance models. Co-operatives are owned by a member community and have a democratic system of “one member, one vote.”

Elected retail co-operative directors representing the member community come from all walks of life and have various levels of board experience. When such diversity is paired with a unique governance model, an off-the-shelf director development program just isn’t going to cut it.

“We thought we’d build something in-house that would be specific to our audience and to the Co-operative Retailing System’s specific leadership and governance challenges,” said Sheldon Stener, FCL’s Corporate Secretary.

As retail co-ops grow in size and complexity, their boards must evolve in step. Stener explained that this means a shift in focus—transitioning from being an operational board to one that is focused on strategic issues and opportunities using best-in-class governance practices. The development of informed, strategic leadership at the local co-op level will, in turn, strengthen the leadership of FCL’s Board of Directors.

The Director Development Program was shaped by feedback solicited from members and research into leading governance practices. Eight online modules and four in-person seminars were developed for the 1,400 elected retail co-operative directors across Western Canada.

Course offerings include subjects such as foundations of co-operative governance, boards and sustainability, strategic planning, and financial literacy. The certification program commenced in 2015, and the fourth in-person seminar will launch this November at the 2017 Fall Conferences.

“A big part of this program for us was to ensure that we have a well-trained and experienced pool of directors to pull from for FCL’s board,” said Stener. “These 1,400 directors represent the entire pool from which FCL’s directors are chosen, so it’s important that they follow the same practices and have access to the best training and governance education to ensure that FCL’s governance is best-in-class for the long term.”

Participant surveys from the in-person seminars have been very positive so far, said Stener, adding that there have already been encouraging results from the program.

“There are a number of retails that are driving towards full certification for their entire board and are becoming higher functioning boards – which will help ensure the success and sustainability of their organization and ultimately FCL.”