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DEI Survey Measures and Identifies Areas of Growth Across Cooperative Sectors


The recently released Diversity, Equity & Inclusion (DEI) Trends in the Cooperative Community report provides a look at how cooperatives are working to make their businesses welcoming and fair to members and employees from diverse backgrounds. The report is authored by Dr. Laura Hanson Schlachter, researcher at the University of Wisconsin Center for Cooperatives and based on a survey of National Cooperative Business Association CLUSA International (NCBA CLUSA) members. The survey and report are part of a larger project looking at how to strengthen cooperatives’ power-building and equity impacts supported by a generous grant to the Cooperative Development Foundation from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF).


Thirty-nine percent of the 364 cooperatives invited to participate completed the online survey. Respondents represented a wide array of types, industries, and geographies.

Both the participation rate and responses suggest that many NCBA CLUSA cooperative members are interested in DEI and actively adopting best practices related to DEI, democratic governance and empowerment, and the financial security and advancement of workers.


Common practices include interventions targeting current and prospective employees. For example, the majority of survey respondents use recruitment strategies associated with increased representation of women and people of color in the workplace, offer benefits that can help address gender and racial income gaps, and conduct engaging DEI training with the potential to address individual biases. The adoption of DEI practices targeting members, directors, and external stakeholders is relatively more mixed.


For instance, while half of respondents actively encourage women and people of color to run for the board, relatively few have a purchasing policy that prioritizes contracts with vendors owned by historically marginalized groups.


In addition to quantifying cooperative DEI activities, the survey also identified a cohort of cooperators interested in engaging in deeper decisions about the motivation, goals and challenges of undertaking DEI efforts. The cohort has met quarterly since July with a small group meeting monthly. The project will culminate with a presentation at the Cooperative IMPACT Conference in October of 2022.

For a deeper look at the project, watch the Diversity, Equity & Inclusion (DEI) Trends in the Cooperative Community webinar broadcast on November 10, 2021.


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