This work attempts to contribute to our understanding of the role of the external agent and, in particular, the adult educator, in co-operative development. By focusing on the role of adult education in co-operative movements, we can better understand how education contributes to a change in attitude, to building trust and cohesion in groups, and to encouraging people to work together to make improvements in their economic situations and in their communities. The objective of this work is to describe the role of adult educators and extension agents in the co-operative development process. To accomplish this objective, information is compiled from literature dealing with adult education, co-operative development, economies, and other disciplines, and from primary research presented as a case study. Information for the case study was gathered through study tours, personal and telephone interviews, and from literature describing co-operative development in North Dakota and Minnesota. The results of this research emphasize the importance of the active participation and encouragement of a variety of external agencies. The role of the change agent as co-ordinator and facilitator appears to be a crucial element in fostering collective action. In summary, the role of the adult educator is to: facilitate a change of attitude, co-ordinate the expectation of reciprocal co-operation, assist in identifying common goals and a common vision, expand the frame of reference by providing information in an appropriate manner, and foster and nurture leadership within the constituent group. Adult education programmes involved in co-operative development tend to employ similar methods, such as group learning, community capacity building, individual capacity building, discussion forums, and a broad education in economic, social, and political issues, as well as the more practical elements - literacy, life skills, and general information. The adult education programme does not stand alone. A network of external agencies provides support and services to the programme and to the fledging co-operative. This network focuses on a common goal: to develop policy and resources to support and encourage education and collective action to address social and economic problems.