Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)




Faculty of Science

First Advisor

Richard Walsh-Bowers

Advisor Role

Thesis Supervisor


Retail food co-operatives provide a unique opportunity for community psychologists to work with democratically-controlled organisations that purport to offer each member control over the food she or he consumes on a daily basis. In this case study of the Ebytown Food Co-operative in Waterloo, Ontario, I document the activities of the co-op as it functions on a practical level, based both on my experiences as a researcher and an active member of the co-op. My thesis process was guided by the belief that research should be useful to the people with whom one works, and therefore, I followed a participatory approach. I gathered data through participant observation, document scans, and the membership questionnaire that I developed based on direction from both the co-op’s Board of Directors and a committee of dedicated co-op members. Once I analysed the findings from the questionnaire, I presented them at a co-op potluck and its 2002 annual general meeting. My findings revealed that numerous internal forces such as power and knowledge, issues of voice, the rights and responsibilities of members, and communication are at work in the co-op. The interaction of these forces affects the level of participation and the sense of community within the co-op. I discuss the findings in terms of power relationships and knowledge within the co-op, as well as in relation to Ebytown’s organisational development. I compare Ebytown to the current context of retail food co-operatives in North America and then offer some recommendations for the future of Ebytown. Lastly, I put forward suggestions for future research with food co-operatives and personally reflect on my research experience.

Convocation Year


Convocation Season