March 16, 2017

As a fitting conclusion to the inaugural Coopératives-HEC Montréal Challenge, on Thursday March 16, the Alphonse and Dorimène Desjardins International Institute for Cooperatives presented the Award of Excellence to Anne Gauthier for her dissertation on the cooperative movement.

The student enrolled in the Master in Management in Social Innovations Context at HEC Montréal and was selected by a jury composed of professors and researchers from HEC Montréal.

The next staging of the Challenge will begin on May 22, 2017. More information is available at http://institutcoop.hec.ca/en/cooperatives-hec-montreal-Challenge/

Summary of the paper “Today’s Nunavik: Cooperation or «Entreprisation»?” by Anne Gauthier

At the end of the 1950s, the Inuits chose the path of cooperatives to achieve socio-economic development. Because cooperatives are a type of business that promotes social cohesion and solidarity, they offer Inuit communities a measure of control over their development. Since then, debates over the future of the Inuits of Quebec and their culture have focused on two conflicting visions. On one side are those who argue that the solution to the ills burdening the region is the westernization of the Inuit people. They feel that the abandonment of traditions in favor of modern practices would lead to the improvement of socio-economic conditions for Inuit society. The more recent and idealistic opposing vision is that a different type of development is viable, development which will secure the culture, values and ancient traditions of Inuits. So where are we at today? And what can we observe in practice?

The goal of this research is to assess the current contribution of the cooperative model in the development of the Inuit communities. More specifically, the objective is to evaluate the respective roles of cooperatives and of mainstream private enterprises in today’s Inuit society. While distinct, a cooperative is still an enterprise. Therefore, it is relevant to ask whether the cooperative model constitutes a brake on the «entreprisation» of the Inuit world, by providing communities with control over their development, or rather a “Trojan horse”, because it strengthens the position of private business. This project sets out to answer the following research question: Is development in Nunavik shaped by the cooperative or by mainstream private enterprise?

The methodology used covers two distinct areas.  First, recent publications were reviewed relating to the development of regional organizations in Nunavik.  This part of the methodology included interviews with leaders of the Fédération des coopératives du Nouveau-Québec. The second part of the methodology comprised a narrative account of a visit to the North of Québec that included observations of life in the village of Kuujjuaq and interviews carried out with leaders of the different organizations involved in the region.

The analysis suggests that development in Nunavik is increasingly organized by mainstream private enterprise and its associated products. Yet, the region’s own development model has particularities that make it unique. The thesis is of the opinion that Nunavik is experiencing an “alternative «entreprisation»”.

Download the paper (in French)

About the author, Anne Gauthier

Anne Gauthier holds a Bachelor’s degree in International Studies from the Université de Montréal, where she had a particular interest in international development. She then joined the Masters in Management in Social Innovations Context at HEC Montréal to deepen her knowledge of the cooperative organization and its promises of providing a more egalitarian and democratic economy. During her thesis, she discovered that in the early 1960s, the fourteen Inuit communities of Nunavik chose the cooperative as a means of socio-economic development.  She questioned whether this type of business with its emphasis on social cohesion and solidarity could give the Inuits some control over their development. After staying in Kuujjuaq, in October 2016, she published her current thesis:  Today’s Nunavik: Cooperation or “«entreprisation»?”.  At the same time, from 2013 to 2015, as part of the Master program, Anne was in charge of specialization. During her tenure, she worked closely with the professor leading the program and students to improve course offerings, to create a network of partners and to launch a major promotional campaign. Their actions have greatly contributed to the growing enthusiasm for this area of speciality.