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CCA is a not-for-profit co-operative that establishes and strengthen  
co-operatives, credit unions, and community-based organizations to reduce poverty, build sustainable livelihoods, and improve civil society in less developed countries.  To achieve this mission, CCA works closely with Canadian co-operatives and credit unions to channel their knowledge and experience to partner organizations and co-operatives in Africa, Asia and the Americas. 

Volume 8 Number 08, June 26, 2014
Walking the talk of international development
Jo-Anne Ferguson, ED CCA
A letter from Jo-Anne Ferguson,
CCA Executive Director.

Last year, The Canadian Co-operative Association (CCA) embarked on an ambitious self-initiated evaluation of its flagship international development program, Sustainable Livelihoods through Co-operatives.


This is a five-year, $20 million program funded by the Partnership Branch of Foreign Affairs, Trade and Development Canada (DFATD).  Through this program, CCA is working with local partners in 12 countries to build and strengthen co-operatives and credit unions, establish networks and influence policy and legislation in support of co-operative growth and development.


The evaluation was a great opportunity for us to take an in-depth look at ourselves and the work we are doing with our overseas partners and apply any recommendations and lessons learned to future development practices and programs.


CCA's commitment to listen to partners, staff, communities, co-operatives and individuals found new meaning with the innovative techniques employed in the evaluation.  In particular, micro narrative analysis allowed CCA to hear directly from co-operative members.  They were able to tell us stories about their experiences - in their own words and give their own significance to the story, rather than have meaning determined by someone else.  These stories were then analysed for trends by country, age, gender and length of co-op membership.   


As CCA has many long-term partners such as RIMANSI (Philippines) and MUSCCO (Malawi), we were able to look further back than the present partnership program during the 10-month long evaluation, and see longer term impacts of our work.  

We are proud to say the evaluation confirmed the program:

  • Is showing positive progress and moving towards desired results with strong evidence of achievement. 
  • Is well aligned to CCA, DFATD and partners' priorities and plans and is relevant to communities and individuals.
  • demonstrates a strong understanding of local contexts and the importance of networks in developing strong co-operative movements.  

We further found with the evaluation that:

  • Individuals' stories show that they believe co-operatives are a decisively positive and very personal experience. This conclusion is drawn across region, type of co-operative and gender. 
  • We were able to reconfirm that CCA's partners value CCA's approach to partnership, and that CCA is walking the talk when it comes to international development and practicing the principle of co-operation amongst co-operatives. 
  • There is strong affirmation of the benefits of co-operatives in the communities served by CCA and its partners. Benefits to both the individual and the community were highlighted in stories from community members across three regions and placed significant value on co-operatives being: stronger by virtue of member ownership, a vehicle for individual and community change, influential in the roles of women in communities and are consistent with sustainable development.

CCA is strongly committed to learning and to improving its programming in order to maintain the highest standards of relevance, effectiveness and meaningful impact. This evaluation and the recommendations from it provide us the opportunity to change and improve our practices, such as working to:

  • Develop more rigorous tools and standards for measuring the effectiveness of trainings and better define the activities we undertake to build capacity among our overseas partners, their member co-operatives and their members. 
  • Re-examine our systems of data collection so that we can be more confident in our reporting. 

The evaluation also opens many areas for discussion, such as the roles and responsibilities of CCA and partners in project implementation, and what constitutes an absence of need.  For example, when working with partners over many years, the partners' capacity improves - they need less assistance from us and how we work together evolves.  As a commitment to institutional learning, we will hold a number of staff 'roundtables' to discuss these issues in the coming months. 


The lessons learned from conducting this evaluation are useful to us as we continue to design new projects and expand our programming.  CCA is committed to implementing the recommendations from the evaluation, has developed an action plan and will report regularly on its progress to our Board of Directors.


The evaluation process was a learning experience in and of itself for CCA. Heather Buchanan, from Jua Management Consulting Services, mentored us through the entire process. This was a team effort and the collaborative approach taken throughout the evaluation means that CCA now has both a richer appreciation of the value of evaluation and an increased capacity for evaluation. This project has inspired within CCA a new rigor for program evaluations. 


We at CCA would like to thank everyone who took part in this evaluation, notably, Heather Buchanan, members of the Evaluation Advisory Committee, DTAFD and all the staff, partners, local consultants and co-op members who contributed to its success.  It is our goal to improve the work we do through continued program evaluation.


  Jo-Anne signature

Jo-Anne Ferguson, Executive Director,  

Canadian Co-operative Association (CCA)


Check out the full evaluation, executive summary, literature review and micro narrative report  

on our website 

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