USDA-Rural Cooperative Development Grant [2013 - 2014]

Principal Investigator: H. Christopher Peterson

Project end date: December 31, 2014

A variety of methods will be used to identify potential cooperative groups and existing cooperatives.  These will include:

  • Annual meetings and other conferences of key partnering groups such as the Mid America Cooperative Council, CoBank, Michigan Food and Farming Systems, Michigan Department of Agriculture and Rural Development, Food Systems Economic Partnership, Northern Michigan Small Farms Conference, Family Farms Conference, and others.
  • Directly from existing cooperatives through key partners such as Mid-America Cooperative Council, Michigan Department of Agriculture and Rural Development, CoBank and others. A Small/Emerging Cooperative Conference targeting members, directors and managers of small cooperatives and representatives of groups who are considering group business action to meet their goals will be major effort.
  • Existing Product Center clients through our Innovation Counselor network.
  • Identification of potential cooperative groups through our statewide network of Innovation Counselors. Counselors are trained to recognized potential cooperative development opportunities for groups that approach the Product Center for business development assistance. We have also trained the Counselors about employee cooperatives and ESOP’s so they can help identify opportunities that might arise among existing clients, especially in relation to succession planning.

The overall evaluation of the Michigan Cooperative Development Program will be conducted by the Program team and the MCDP Advisory Council that is described under Evaluation Criteria 1, Administrative Capabilities, using the following techniques:

  • An Information Database maintained by the Product (Center IC), which is used by several other economic development agencies in the country, allows us to track in detail groups which might be potential cooperatives, existing cooperatives which seek assistance under the RCDG Program, and groups which incorporate as new cooperatives or other mutually owned business ventures. The database allows us to record detailed counseling sessions with each client and track the impact of our interaction with these ventures, including jobs created and retained, capital invested, and sales increases. This database is essential for evaluating results from Tasks 2, Recruitment of Potential Cooperative Clients, and 4, Basic and Advanced Cooperative Business Formation. Since Task 4 is the major effort of the RCDG (73% of the total project), we concentrate the most effort to assure this Task is properly evaluated.
  • Training programs in Tasks 1, Innovation Counselor Cooperative Training, and 3, Cooperative Educational Program, will be evaluated using surveys of participants. We have found both pre and post training surveys to be effective for the Innovation Counselor training programs while post training surveys are most effective for the education programs.
  • The MCDP Advisory Council is an integral element of the evaluation. They will be provided access to budget and expenditure information, impact information, reports from the Information Database, as well as other information they deem necessary to evaluate the effectiveness of the MCDP.

Implementation  Jan 1. 2014 – Jan 11,  2016.