Measuring and mapping the impact of social economy enterprises : a case of co-operatives in Canada
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The role of social economic enterprises (SEEs) in the health and prosperity of the communities they serve is gaining growing recognition. In Canada, SEEs such as co-operatives, community economic development organizations and other voluntary sector initiatives have been widely applauded for their role in addressing the impacts of globalization and economic restructuring experienced in remote rural and aboriginal communities as well as in marginalized urban populations. This research reports on Canada-wide study consisting of a comprehensive mapping and measuring of the geographic spillovers of co-ops in and beyond their local communities. Communities are approximated by Consolidated Census Subdivisions (CCS) of which they are approximately over 2,600 in Canada (Statistics Canada, 1996). Data on the spatial attributes, type and size (per capita membership) of co-operatives are combined with a very extensive geographically coded data set containing socio-economic and amenity variables. The percent change in population between 1991 and 2001 was regressed on these co-op and socio-economic variables. The regressions were estimated for rural and urban CCS separately. In general, most of the results from the rural and urban samples complied with theoretical predictions, that is, communities with favorable socio-economic factors were found to have higher population growth. For instance, factors such as high local employment rates, and entrepreneurship (measured by the share of population engaging in non farm self employment) were important factors influencing population growth. Proximity to larger urban centers and population size appeared to be beneficial for communities, especially rural, indicating the importance of strong rural-urban linkages. However, the presence of agriculture and resource extraction sectors tended to result in lower population growth. The share of population of aboriginal origin, an important demographic variable, was also a positive contributor to population change. Finally, in the presence of the prevailing socio-economic and spatial attributes of the communities, at the national level, we found no empirical evidence that co-operative membership influenced population growth. There is, however, some variation in the results when we reduced our geography level to regions, and our analyses to different co-op types/industries. There is some evidence that co-op activity in some regions such as rural CCSs in British Columbia and urban CCSs in Quebec have a positive impact on population growth. Similar results were also obtained for housing and consumer co-ops in rural communities, as well as retail, and ‘other’ service co-ops in urban communities. The results suggest that there may be scope for co-ops to examine ways of enhancing their social capital role in their communities, specifically developing mechanisms that respond to evolving community needs. Future research may also focus on additional ways of measuring the impact of co-ops in their communities. Most importantly, a very important part of the co-operative sector, the financial co-ops, should be part of a broader consideration of the influence of co-operatives on community population change.
DegreeMaster of Science (M.Sc.)
SupervisorOlfert, M. Rose; Partridge, Mark
CommitteeFulton, Murray E.; Fairbairn, Brett; Echevarria, Cristina