Member voice and influence: A study of cooperative governance in the Australasian dairy industry
Malherbe, A. S. (2020). Member voice and influence: A study of cooperative governance in the Australasian dairy industry (Thesis, Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)). The University of Waikato, Hamilton, New Zealand. Retrieved from https://hdl.handle.net/10289/14001
Permanent Research Commons link: https://hdl.handle.net/10289/14001
Member governance can be characterised as the voice and influence that members have in their cooperative. The voice is related to the tangible control mechanisms available to cooperative members, and the influence ingredient is more often the intangible relational aspect of a member’s connection. There are layers of governance that build on each other to form the foundation of cooperative members rights or voice and influence; these include Cooperative Principles, Cooperative Law, and the Cooperative Constitutional Document. The collective aim is to mitigate many of the known cooperative governance challenges. Notwithstanding all the theoretical layers of governance, the actual members’ perceptions and the reality of their participation in their cooperative can affect the quality of member governance in a cooperative. The cooperative principles are the foundational ingredient for member-organisation governance. In many regions, the principles are applied in the creation of cooperative law. In some regions countries base their legislation fully or partially on the International Cooperative Alliance (ICA) set of seven principles; other regions engage with a different set of principles such as the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) set of three principles, while in other countries the link between cooperative law and cooperative principles is less visible. An examination of which principles are employed in constructing the legislation that governs cooperatives in a particular region is crucial as it provides us with a base for analysis. Cooperative law differs from country to country, with some cooperative law being comprehensive while other countries cooperative laws are not well defined. The answer as to which approach is more effective is examined in this thesis. Similarly, cooperative law usually forms the foundation that mandates provisions in the originating document, the cooperative constitution. The purpose of the constitution is to protect the rights of cooperative members at a higher level. It is usually tailored for each cooperative; however, the base provisions that are mandated within the cooperative law are often common. A sample of Australasian cooperatives is used to analyse and discover how the law influences member rights. Notwithstanding the layers of protection afforded to members, it is widely acknowledged that cooperatives face governance challenges. Besides common governance challenges that affect most organisational forms, cooperatives confront other unique problems. The combination of cooperative principles, law, and the constitutional document is, in essence, the cooperative policy framework for an individual cooperative within a specific country. In theory, the application of the framework should significantly mitigate most cooperative governance challenges. An analysis of the level of mitigation is necessary to understand the effectiveness of the Australasian cooperative policy frameworks. Apart from the rights of cooperative members, the actual engagement that a member has with their cooperative can mitigate shortcomings in both voice and influence. The relationship that a member has with their cooperative is an essential aspect of governance in that good engagement can overcome poor governance processes while the converse is not always true. An in-depth understanding of member views, perceptions, and requirements is essential for those seeking to develop an effective engagement structure that can overcome governance shortcomings within dairy cooperatives in Australasia. This thesis explores the experience of the governance environment through the member-lens, specifically to understand the strengths and weaknesses of each cooperative's governance and engagement model when compared to the other dairy cooperatives in this study. This thesis analyses each of the supporting governance layers that contribute to maximising member voice and influence to answer the overarching research questions: What are the governance challenges and opportunities facing Australasian dairy cooperatives, and what governance elements contribute to an effective cooperative governance framework? Furthermore, the thesis seeks to answer fundamental cooperative member governance questions; Do the principles support the law when used in crafting policy for cooperatives? Does the law protect the members’ rights to the extent that was the original intention of the policymakers? Does the constitutional document have the correct provisions, and are these mandated, to protect the members' voice? Do these layers of governance collectively mitigate the challenges that might contribute to a decline in the cooperative? Finally, what are the governance and engagement perceptions of members on their voice and influence, and how well is this functioning in Australasia? There is little research that seeks to understand the role of cooperative principles and policy in the governance of a cooperative and what the reality of cooperative member participation is in Australasian dairy cooperative governance. This thesis contributes to the theoretical understanding of how cooperative principles influence the law and the associated governance documents to minimise the governance challenges of cooperatives. Additionally, this thesis contributes to a practical understanding of the effectiveness of the implementation of cooperative governance in the Australasian dairy context through the member-lens.
The University of Waikato
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