Dr. Frayne Olson of NDSU speaks during cooperative training in Bismarck.


Education is a prime component of the Quentin Burdick Center for Cooperatives.

Led by Dr. Frayne Olson, the center hosted leadership training for the second consecutive year, holding sessions for co-op directors in Grand Forks (Feb. 25) and Bismarck (Feb. 27).

“It’s really the second phase of a new program the center is initiating,” Olson said. “We’re primarily targeting directors of co-ops and not just the farm supply co-ops, but also the rural electrics. We’ve invited their management teams to come along. It’s good to have everybody participating.”

The Quentin Burdick Center for Cooperatives was created in 1992 to provide cooperative education at the university level. North Dakota has over 500 cooperatives across numerous industries. North Dakota Farmers Union is on the center’s advisory board and is an annual sponsor.

Olson said the recent expansion to include training is to, among many things, focus on what makes cooperatives most efficient.

“We’re looking at the ones working well vs. the ones that are struggling, and digging in,” he said. “The fundamental difference is participation. When you look at a cooperative as a business model, how it’s structured and how it’s intended to be run, it’s considered a high-maintenance organization. They need to have participation and member input.”

More than 50 attended the Bismarck session with directors learning about fiduciary responsibilities and parliamentary procedure. In the afternoon, the training was split, so less experienced directors could continue to “build a strong foundation.”

“That means talking about the core things a co-op director needs to know and do,” Olson said. “You want to get these things right. They’ll go a long way into being a good director.”

The other breakout was for more experienced directors, allowing Olson to “dig into the issues.”

“We get into those thorny issues that require a little bit more of a deeper dive,” Olson said.

Next year, Olson said he intends to add a third level.

“We’re calling it a capstone level,” he said. “It will get into even greater detail into some very specific topics that are common problems that co-ops face from a strategic planning standpoint or for directors that are really struggling with how they do their job and how to represent their members the best they can.”

– Chris Aarhus, NDFU Editor