5 Questions for Dr. J. Colin Dodds

Here is an interview with Dr. J. Colin Dodds (in photo), President of the Saint Mary's University, founded in Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada, in 1802. What role does...

Here is an interview with Dr. J. Colin Dodds (in photo), President of the Saint Mary’s University, founded in Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada, in 1802. What role does St. Mary’s University play in the development and advancement of the cooperative and mutualist model? For over a decade, the Sobey School of Business at Saint Mary’s has provided a unique Master of Management – Co-operatives and Credit Unions program, offering a graduate degree for managers of cooperative and mutual businesses designed to help them run successful enterprises. Every area of business knowledge and skills is approached from the unique perspective of the purpose, values and principles of cooperatives. We have become leaders in the development of cooperative business solutions. What does the International Year of Cooperatives mean for you? Many people around the world do not appreciate the success of cooperatives in meeting human need. Cooperatives serve more than a billion people around the world. The output of the 300 largest cooperatives is close to that of the tenth largest economy on our planet. Cooperatives were stable—and many even grew—during the recession of 2008. Cooperative financial institutions played no role in creating the securities that triggered the recession; they kept lending during the recession and foreclosed on fewer families’ mortgages. The International Year of Cooperatives is an amazing opportunity for them to celebrate that record and let people and governments know that they offer a stable alternative. What will be the cooperative and mutualist model’s main challenges in the future? Cooperatives and mutuals must adapt to survive in the faltering global economy and be innovative in offering people an alternative. They are well suited to create economic solutions that are consistent with their cooperative identity. We believe they can do this, but it will take a concerted effort if they are to contribute to a better world. In this context, what role should the cooperative and mutualist movement play? Cooperatives must focus on meeting real human need and abiding by their values. There is virtually no need not met by some cooperative business somewhere, but country by country there are gaps. Cooperatives need to look at creating a form of capital that has characteristics and behaviours consistent with their identity and experiment with new models like the solidarity cooperatives we find in Quebec, Italy, and other places. What are your expectations of the 2012 International Summit of Cooperatives and the Imagine 2012 conference? How do these two events complement each other? Imagine 2012 and the Summit are important to each other; they are wonderful companion events. Imagine 2012 will explore alternatives to the economic analysis that has been faltering in explaining our world and how it works—alternatives consistent with the cooperative business identity. The Summit will look at the actions that cooperatives need to take to make a better world in which human needs are better met. Thinking needs to inform action. As one of the founders of our Masters program, Sid Pobihushchy, to whom we awarded an honorary degree, was fond of saying, “If you do not know where you are going, any road will do.”

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