By Kyle White | © Co-operatives First | Part 4The Classic AGM > A familiar, time-tested indicator of engagement in the co-op sector is the Annual General Meeting (AGM). Second tier co-ops (co-operative of co-operatives), like Federated Co-op Limited and Arctic Co-op Limited, typically have very high attendance ratios and can fill large meeting halls. By ratio, the member associations of these federations generally have a lower turnout at their AGMs. The Saskatoon Co-op Association, for example, had a very large group with over 400 attending this year’s AGM, but this is a small fraction of their over 100,000 members.

Smaller co-ops are much more likely to have more members engaged in the business and governance of the organization. For example, members of worker co-ops are highly motivated to stay active in the co-op as their livelihood is attached to the success of the organization. Similarly, individuals living in housing co-ops are much more likely stay involved and aware of the co-op’s operations as it directly affects their day-to-day lives. Co-ops operating in the retail space may not draw the same level of interest as people likely have other options and may not be as directly concerned if things are running smoothly. To further complicate things, membership engagement usually increases when there is a contentious issue being discussed or if there is perceived conflict affecting the organization. Resolutions of amalgamation and dissolution brought to the AGM are sure to attract large crowds. When things are going well, member apathy is much more likely as people tend to be content.

So, is AGM attendance a good measure of membership engagement? Yes, but the importance you give this measure should depend on its value for the organization. For a small worker-owned co-operative that brews beer, hopefully there’s a near 100% turnout to the AGM. For a consumer co-operative with tens of thousands of members, perhaps there’s a better measure of engagement, like sales, foot traffic, memberships sold, visits to a member-only forum on your website, or downloads of the Annual Report. –

© Co-operatives First |


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