Entrepreneurship lecturer John Whitman has designed curriculum for teaching about cooperatives through a grant from Fair Trade's Equal Exchange.

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Babson College, a global leader in entrepreneurship education, has designed a Curriculum on Cooperatives with a grant from Equal Exchange, a Fair Trade cooperative. 

The Curriculum, available worldwide for free, provides extensive resource material, including a sample syllabus and case studies that can be used to teach about cooperatives.
The Curriculum was designed and is being maintained and expanded by John R. Whitman, Ph.D., entrepreneurship lecturer at Babson. 

“This Curriculum,” Whitman says, “provides a way for business schools in particular to inform students of a viable way of organizing resources to create both social and economic value. The typical form of economic organization taught in business schools is the shareholder-owned corporation; but cooperatives, which are owned and democratically run by their members for their own benefit, thrive in capitalist economies and deserve to be both better known and more widely used. The Curriculum on Cooperatives should be extremely useful in helping professional schools of all types to teach about cooperatives, particularly in time for 2012, which is the United Nations designated International Year of Cooperatives.

Well-known examples of cooperatives in the United States are Ocean Spray, Organic Valley, Land O’Lakes, ACE Hardware, Sunkist, the Associated Press, and all credit unions. The National Cooperative Business Association represents cooperative interests in Washington, DC; the US Overseas Cooperative Development Council promotes cooperatives for economic development in developing countries; and the International Cooperative Alliance, founded in 1895, represents cooperatives worldwide.

Unlike other general educational resources for cooperatives, the Curriculum on Cooperatives is designed for professional graduate schools of business, law, education, engineering, architecture, health (including public health and nursing), and other fields so that their graduates might not only consider joining and patronizing cooperatives, but also starting their own cooperatives after graduation. However, the Curriculum could as well be used in any introductory course on cooperatives at the undergraduate level, in adult education, or in any other setting where people may benefit from learning about cooperatives.

The Curriculum on Cooperatives is posted online as a wiki, which means that it can be modified by its authors, and virtually anyone worldwide can contribute new material to the Curriculum at any time. Several modules are awaiting completion and will be posted by their authors in the near future. While the initial scope of the curriculum was to address an educational audience in the United States, it is hoped that new contributors will provide material in multiple languages and relevant to cooperatives in any country worldwide.

Babson College, a signatory to the United Nations Principles of Responsible Management Education, is dedicated to educating leaders who create great economic and social value everywhere. Exemplifying this mission, Babson recently taught its first graduate level course on cooperatives, nonprofit organizations, and philanthropic foundations. The Curriculum on Cooperatives represents another way the school is leading in entrepreneurship education to create both economic and social value.

Equal Exchange has dedicated 7% of its pre-tax profits each year to grant making. Among its many contributions has been the creation of a curriculum for teaching about fair trade and cooperative solutions in grades four to nine. The Curriculum on Cooperatives, however, has been the cooperative’s largest single grant to date.

The project has been guided by an expert advisory board of educators and practitioners including Margaret Bau, Christina Clamp, Erbin Crowell, David Ellerman, Mary Griffin, Melissa Hoover, Jim Johnson, Michael Leung, Margaret Lund, Rodney North, Sarah Pike, Jack Quarter, Martin Van den Borre, Brian Van Slyke, and Tom Webb. Many others have provided outstanding contributions, as well.

Dr. Whitman’s experience in curriculum development began in the 1970s when he created an international network of secondary school educators exchanging environmental news and scientific data for teaching purposes. He also designed and managed an international institute to introduce principles of environmental regulation and management to government ministers and other senior policy makers in developing countries, and consulted to Education Development Center, Inc.

More recently, Dr. Whitman has designed and taught courses in curriculum development, assessment and evaluation, social entrepreneurship, and nonprofit and cooperative management. He has written book chapters on social entrepreneurship and education for the business economy.

Please address inquiries to John Whitman at  Whitman also invites comments and suggestions.

Babson College in Wellesley, Mass., is recognized internationally as a leader in entrepreneurial management education. Babson grants BS degrees through its innovative undergraduate program, and grants MBA and custom MS and MBA degrees through the F.W. Olin Graduate School of Business at Babson College. Babson Executive Education offers executive development programs to experienced managers worldwide. For information, visit

By Michael Chmura,, 781-239-4549 | 06/17/2011 06:00