COVID-19 Response: Building Higher Learning Resilience in the Face of Epidemics

The COVID-19 pandemic has brought into light a fundamental vulnerability that is currently inherent to higher learning institutions: food and housing insecurity that was already negatively impacting students and faculty’s ability to optimally learn, teach, and do research even prior to COVID-19, are now faced with effective closures to their on-campus food sources and housing security.

Cooperatives have the potential to help higher learning become more resilient in the face of epidemics by creating conditions for belonging, accessible knowledge, caregiving and food and shelter security.
Housing and food options on or close to campuses are beyond the incomes of many people living and working at post-secondary institutions.  In addition, students, staff and faculty have caregiving responsibilities that leave them and those they care for in precarious situations that are worsened when a crisis such as COVID hits.

Cooperatives can provide a safety net and a sense of belonging in the face of epidemics.

COVID-19 will likely result in a decline in revenue for the post-secondary sector. Recent analysis points to the likelihood of a dramatic decline in the number of international students, on which many universities rely. Government and philanthropic funding are also likely to decline.

During this time of uncertainty, we have an opportunity to decrease inequity rather than amplify it. Cooperatives have a track record of success.

Group Lead: Michelle Stack (Educational Studies)

Project Outcomes and Target Dates:

  • An evidence-based plan focused on developing cooperatives on university and college campuses grounded in the principles developed by the International Cooperative Alliance (Jan 2021)
  • A communications strategy with a focus on knowledge translation (Feb 2021)
  • A film festival focusing on cooperatives to expand conversations and knowledge about how diverse coops function (spring 2021)
  • 4-5 podcasts exploring examples of successful cooperatives in Canada and beyond (May-Dec 2020)
  • A series of commentary pieces on different types of cooperatives to pitch to outlets including Conversation Canada, the Tyee and other outlets (June-Dec 2020)
  • An application for a large grant to fund implementation of the plan developed by the group (2021)


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