Remembering Professor Johnston Birchall

02 Jun 2021

Leading cooperative scholar Prof Johnston Birchall passed away following an extended period of illness. A leading author, scholar and thought-leader for cooperation internationally, he was a Professor Emeritus at the Social Sciences Department at the University of Stirling.

After studying at Oxford, he did a PhD at the University of York and spent five years as a housing association manager before becoming an academic. He dedicated over 25 years researching issues related to stakeholder participation in cooperatives, mutual and public service agencies.

His publications included 'Building Communities the Co-operative Way' (1988; Re-issued 2014), 'Co-op: the People's Business' (1994), 'The International Co-operative Movement' (1997), 'People-Centred Businesses: co-operatives, mutuals and the idea of membership' (2010), and 'Finance in an Age of Austerity: the power of customer-owned banks' (2013).

He was the author of more than 60 academic articles and chapters, as well as influential reports for the ICA, ILO and UN, including ‘Co-operatives and the Millennium Development Goals’ (2004), ‘Resilience of the Co-operative Business Model in Times of Crisis’ (2009), and ‘Resilience in a Downturn: the power of financial co-operatives’ (2013). 

Sonja Novkovic, the Chair of the International Cooperative Alliance’s Committee of Cooperative Research, who worked closely with Prof Birchall, said: “Many colleagues will remember Johnston's huge passion for his subject, his ability to communicate this to any audience - and his great humanity, humility and generosity in doing so. He will be sadly missed and our thoughts are with his family, friends and colleagues at this difficult time.”

ICA Director General Bruno Roelants said: “It was with great sadness that I learnt about the passing of Prof Birchall, one of our leading cooperative scholars. The ICA and the global cooperative movement will forever be grateful to him for his pioneering research which helped to challenge misconceptions and promote a better understanding of the cooperative business model. My thoughts go to his family and friends.”

The family have requested that communications and condolences from cooperative colleagues should be channelled through his close friend and colleague, Dr Richard Simmons at the University of Stirling. 

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