Lessons from Electric Cooperatives: Evolving Participatory Governance Practices

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Contribution to Books

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Cooperative institutions provide a model for pluralistic governance and are often identified as an organizational form with the potential to enhance accountability to public interests and transform the existing concentration of political and economic power. Cooperative governance principles are grounded in the ideals of individual and community ownership of infrastructure and collective participation in decision-making. Many electric cooperatives have been operating for over a hundred years, and there has also been a rapid proliferation of new electric cooperatives in the past two decades. The current responses of cooperatives to changing values, demographics, and technologies provide a view into how cooperative institutions, old and new, are adapting participatory governance practices. The robust and resilient institutional design depends on an ability to respond to dynamics of cultural change. Today, electric cooperatives are seeking to develop new participatory mechanisms and maintain legitimacy while adhering to the ideals of cooperative governance.