About the Measuring the Co-operative Difference Research Network

In February 2010, the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada (SSHRC) awarded $1 million towards a new suite of research projects about Canada’s co-operative sector. Led by the Canadian Co-operative Association in partnership with four Canadian universities (Saint Mary’s University, Mount Saint Vincent University, the University of Saskatchewan and the University of Victoria), the research network was funded to conduct research on the social, economic and environmental impacts of co-operatives on Canadians and their communities. The project was live from 2010 until 2015.

Dozens of other co-operative associations, co-ops, credit unions and academic researchers also participated in this Community-University Research Alliance (CURA) research collaboration. In 2014, a new national apex organization was created – Co-operatives and Mutuals Canada – and thereafter the CURA was administered through CMC.

What is a CURA?

The Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council’s Community University Research Alliance (CURA) program (now discontinued) supports the creation of alliances between community organizations and post-secondary institutions to foster innovative research, training and the creation of new knowledge in areas of importance for Canada’s social, cultural or economic development.

Our Objectives

  1. Produce and disseminate knowledge about the co-operative form of organization within the wider economy, with particular focus on the social, environmental and economic impacts of co-operatives;
  2. Create tools to measure the value added by co-operatives, and use tools that include co-operative principles and values to capture the ‘co-operative difference’;
  3. Deepen existing linkages and networks within the co-operative movement (at academic, community, national and provincial levels), and initiate networks of co-operatives within the social economy around common issues;
  4. Inform public policy on the role and value of co-operatives in meeting social, economic and environmental goals within a public and social policy context; and
  5. Build capacity within academia and co-operatives (especially the various second and third tier co-operatives) to frame an operationalized understanding of the ICA principles, and to measure social and environmental as well as financial performance.

Our structure

The Network was made up of four research Clusters and an overall Hub. The Hub was Co-operatives and Mutuals Canada, the organization of Denyse Guy, the Principal Investigator for this Network. In the spirit of partnership between communities and universities, the research network was directed by one representative of the co-op sector and one university representative.


Denyse Guy, Principal Investigator and Community Co-Director – Denyse is the Executive Director at Co-operatives and Mutuals Canada. Denyse has been in her role as ED since January of 2014 (previously, she was ED of the Canadian Co-operative Association) and has a strong passion and background in co-operative research and education, including being instrumental in the development of the Co-operative Management Certificate at the Schulich School of Business at York University as well as participating in the Social Economy CURA.


Dr. Sonja Novkovic, Academic Co-Director – Sonja is a Professor of Economics at Saint Mary’s University and also teaches within the Master’s of Management in Co-operatives and Credit Unions program. She has been involved in research on participation in co-operatives and has recently received the Canadian Association for Studies in Co-operation’s Award of Merit.

Our research structure consisted of four research clusters; three based at Canadian universities at one at the CCA. Each of the Cluster Leads below worked closely with many community and academic partners throughout the duration of the research process.

Atlantic Cluster Leads

Dr. Leslie Brown, Mount Saint Vincent University – Leslie is a Professor in the Sociology and Anthropology Department at Mount Saint Vincent University. Her teaching and research interests include organizational democracy, co-operatives, community development and social accounting among others. For the past five years, she has served as Director of the Atlantic Social Economy and Sustainability Research Network.
Peter Hough, Canadian Worker Co-operative Federation – Peter has been involved in co-operative development for the past 20 years. He has assisted many startup co-operatives as a developer and has worked as a manager in both worker and consumer co-ops. He is the Financial Office for the Canadian Worker Co-op Federation. He holds an MBA.



Prairie Cluster Leads

Dr. Lou Hammond Ketilson, Centre for the Study of Co-operatives, University of Saskatchewan – Lou is the Director of the Centre for the Study of Co-operatives as well as an Associate Professor in the Department of Management and Marketing. Lou has been involved in co-operative research for over 25 years. Lou has served as the Director of the Prairie Node of the Social Economy CURA projects.
Dr. Catherine Leviten-Reid, Cape Breton University – Dr. Catherine Leviten-Reid was a postdoctoral fellow with the Centre for the Study of Co-operatives at the University of Saskatchewan from January of 2008 to June of 2009. She is currently an Assistant Professor in the Shannon School of Business at Cape Breton University, where she teaches in the MBA in Community Economic Development program. Catherine’s current research focus is on how co-operatives and other community-based enterprises may increase family and consumer well-being.
Jessica Gordon Nembhard, John Jay College, City University of New York (CUNY) – Jessica is the co-lead for P1-Measuring the impact of credit unions on wealth building in communities. Her work focuses on measuring the impact of the social economy on communities, wealth accumulation and asset building through co-operative and shared ownership, and a comparison between Aboriginal/First Nations co-operatives in Canada and African-American-owned co-operatives in the US. Dr. Gordon Nembhard is a political economist and an Associate Professor of Community Justice and Social Economic Development in the Department of Africana Studies at John Jay College of the City University of New York (CUNY), as well as an affiliate of the Centre for the Study of Co-operatives at the University of Saskatchewan.
Myrna Hewitt, Affinity Credit Union – Myrna joined the Affinity Credit Union executive team in January, 2012 to research and plan new marketing strategies for the credit union. Myrna was formerly with Credit Union Central of Saskatchewan (SaskCentral) with responsibility for marketing, communications and corporate social responsibility strategy.




Western Cluster Leads

Dr. Ana Maria Peredo, Centre for Co-operative and Community-based Economy, University of Victoria – Ana Maria is the Director of the Centre for Co-operative and Community-based Economy at the University of Victoria. She is also a Professor in Sustainable Entrepreneurship & International Business. The cluster works in partnership with the British Columbia Co-operative Association.



National Cluster Leads

Fiona Duguid, Canadian Association for Studies in Co-operation – Fiona has a PhD from University of Toronto where her thesis looked at member involvement and learning through sustainable energy development using co-operatives. Her Master’s thesis investigated the double bind new co-operatives encounter in promoting their goods or service and/or the co-op principles and values. She worked for five years for the Co-operatives Secretariat for the Government of Canada as a Senior Policy and Research Analyst. Following this she worked at CCA as a Research Officer.
Dr. Luc Theriault, University of New Brunswick – Luc Thériault has been trained as a sociologist both in the French and Anglo-American traditions.  His field of expertise is social policy and third sector studies, with a focus on the interactions between governments and social economy organizations involved in the delivery of human services. He has considerable experience doing survey research on non-profit organizations and co-operatives in Canada. At UNB he teaches courses in various areas including research methods, program evaluation, Canadian society, as well as family and social policy.

Thanks to the many partners who supported the initial application and/or were involved in the research projects:


  • Advantage Credit Union (SK)
  • Affinity Credit Union (SK)
  • Alberta Co-operative & Community Association (AB)
  • BC Co-operative Association (BC)
  • Canadian Worker Co-operative Federation
  • Conseil québécois de la coopération et de la mutualité (QC)
  • Conseil canadien de la coopération et de la mutualité
  • Co-op Atlantic
  • Co-operative Enterprise Council (NB)
  • Co-operative Housing Federation of Canada
  • Credit Union Central of Nova Scotia (NS)
  • Co-operative Management Education Co-operative
  • Co-operatives Secretariat
  • Federated Co-operatives Ltd.
  • Harrop-Procter Community Co-operative (BC)
  • Manitoba Co-operative Association (MB)
  • Newfoundland-Labrador Federation of C0-operatives (NL)
  • Nova Scotia Co-operative Council (NS)
  • Ontario Co-operative Association (ON)
  • PEI Co-operative Council (PEI)
  • Quint Development Corporation (SK)
  • Saskatchewan Co-operative Association (SK)
  • South Islands Regional Co-op Council (BC)
  • Sustainability Solutions Group
  • The Co-operators Group Limited
  • United Community Services Co-op (BC)
  • Upper Columbia Co-operative Council (BC)
  • Victoria Community Health Co-op (BC)

We have archived the website that was live during the work of the project. Click here to visit that site.