Interview with Professor Sonja Novkovic, member of COPAC Technical Working Group on Statistics of Cooperatives

The ILO has joined forces with other members of the Committee for the Promotion and Advancement of Cooperatives (COPAC) to improve statistics on cooperatives. They are working towards developing guidelines on the measurement of cooperatives to be presented at the 20th International Conference of Labour Statisticians (ICLS) in October 2018. ILO COOP interviewed Professor Sonja Novkovic, member of COPAC Technical Working Group on Statistics of Cooperatives, on the progress, the challenges and the outlook of its work.

News | 13 April 2018

1. Could you tell us briefly about yourself?

Professor Sonja Novkovic, member of COPAC Technical Working Group on Statistics of Cooperatives
I am a professor in Economics at Saint Mary's University in Halifax, Canada, and Academic Director of the International Centre for Cooperative Management in the business school. I have been serving as Chair of the International Cooperative Alliance Research Committee since 2013.

2. How have you gotten involved in statistics on cooperatives?

I led a research project titled Measuring the Cooperative Difference Research Network in collaboration with Cooperatives and Mutuals Canada from 2010 to 2016, in which researchers across the country explored issues of assessment of cooperative impact and reach, as well as adherence to cooperative principles. We organized an international conference about these issues, and published a book titled Cooperatives for sustainable communities: Tools to measure cooperative impact and performance.

3. Why do you think statistics on cooperatives are needed?

Statistics on cooperatives is needed for research, advocacy, policymaking, and promotion of the cooperative model. Cooperatives are present in every economy, yet majority of the population does not know much about them. Without consistent data about cooperative enterprises it is often impossible to know their real impact, relevance and role in economic development, or conditions under which they thrive. Yet the evidence we have suggests that this business form is a successful agent of socio-economic change and generator of community wealth.

4. What is the work that you have been doing in this Technical Working Group?

My role has been to support the work of the group, provide feedback on various reports and materials, and provide advice on issues in my area of expertise.

5. What are the challenges to statistics on cooperatives?

There are many challenges, including diversity of approaches to classify cooperatives, various legal frameworks, many informal cooperatives, as well as hybrid organizational forms. There is a gap in knowledge and education about cooperatives making it more difficult to collect consistent and reliable data.

6. What do you hope the work of the Technical Working Group to achieve?

I hope this work to promote the recognition of cooperatives as a unique enterprise form and an understanding of their scope and diversity among national statistical offices, policy makers, research and education communities, cooperatives and their members, advocacy groups and other supporting institutions on cooperatives. In addition, I hope it will also help these stakeholders to advance their ability to report on various socio-economic characteristics and impact of cooperatives.