Results of pilot workshop on increasing member commitment

14-07-2014 From 5-12 July Agriterra has tested a new workshop on member commitment. The pilot was conducted by the coffee cooperative Kibinge and the maize and beans cooperative Manyakaby.

Member commitment is an important ingredient for the formation and existence of any cooperative. A committed member accepts and supports the cooperative’s strategy, is prepared to deliver extra efforts for the cooperative, is prepared to participate in the decision-making of the cooperative, has a desire to remain a member of the cooperative and accepts certain decisions that will be unprofitable on the short term for the member but are in the advantage of the cooperative on the long term.

Agriterra has recently addressed the importance of member commitment in the process of assessing new potential clients. A special commitment measure tool (as part of the company assessment tool) has been developed to get insights in the level of member commitment within the organization under assessment. This measure tool does however not provide any information on how to strengthen the commitment level of the members. Therefore, in response to the demand of its clients, Agriterra has developed a workshop that can be used to strengthen the commitment level in cooperatives.

The main purpose of the workshop is to create awareness at the board and management of a cooperative on the importance of member commitment in realizing the coops business ambitions. It furthermore provides insight to the board and management that the commitment level of their members is something they can actively influence. Finally the workshop will zoom in on the major business ambition of the cooperative in order to identify a list of practical tools that can increase the commitment level of the members, thereby strengthening the potential success of the business.

In order to develop the workshop, Agriterra consulted Trienke Elshof. Trienke is a dairy farmer and has finished her study MBA food and finance at Nyenrode Business University by investigating the influence of member commitment on the strategy of FrieslandCampina. Based on existing literature she developed a model consisting of four types of commitment. Her conclusion was that members are mostly calculative committed but members that also show affective commitment want to make extra efforts in realizing the cooperatives’ business ambitions. 

The workshop was tested at two cooperatives in Uganda (Kibinge Coffee Cooperative Society and Manyankabi Area Cooperative Enterprise). The workshop was well received and appreciated by the two cooperatives, even though various changes to the workshop were made during the pilot. It was interesting to see that management and board often blamed the members for not being committed. They did not realize that they have the power and also responsibility to increase commitment. Once they did realize that they could influence commitment, the challenge was to identify practical tools that can strengthen commitment. By using the model of the four types of commitment, it became easier to formulate possible tools and make a strategic plan on implementing these tools and thereby increasing commitment of the members.

Kibinge is for instance facing difficulties in making members committed towards producing high quality coffee. The business performance of Kibinge is highly dependent on the quality of the coffee being sold and it are the members that, in their farming practices, determine the quality of the coffee for a large share. Board and management for instance suggested that calculative commitment (financially driven) towards increasing quality could be improved by providing price premiums to members supplying high quality. Another suggested tool to increase calculative commitment towards quality was the provision of quality improving inputs at a subsidized price.

Manyakabi has the ambition to grow in output marketing and number of members. The new associations that recently joined Manyakabi show high trust, because they provide their beans and maize at collateral, expecting a higher payment in 2-3 months. This is clearly a sign of calculative commitment. To improve normative and affective commitment towards quality, the board and management suggested to recognize those members that supplied high quality with an award during the annual general meeting or to provide trainings on understanding the reasons why high quality is important for the sales performance of the cooperative.

The developed workshop has proven to be useful for cooperatives with business ambitions who are struggling with issues of member commitment towards their ambitions.

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