Hexagon_BWA Strategy for Community-Driven Service-Learning and Community Engagement:
Fair Trade Learning

Eric Hartman

I have come to suspect that service-learning as a process-oriented pedagogy that focuses on students as subjects – prioritizing their learning and growth – may not always align with outcomes-oriented efforts in community development, public health, or human rights, where the central focus is instead on community members as subjects – on changes in communities and among community members.


The field of service-learning and civic engagement (SLCE) needs enhanced intentionality with respect to what we claim, what we attempt, and how we speak about our various, related approaches to producing civic, student, community, institutional, and broadly public outcomes…. The need for intentionality is particularly acute with respect to our claims to being community-serving, social-justice-promoting, public purposes oriented, and reciprocity-infused….

Talk of public purposes, reciprocity, and mutual learning is destined to remain only rhetoric when measures of success are centered on student learning, student development, and/or “exposure” of students to “high-quality service-learning” (however defined)….

A systematic set of standards developed to enhance reciprocity, protect vulnerable populations, and continuously re-ensure community voice has recently emerged from a collaboration among community organizations, nongovernmental organizations, and universities. Called fair trade learning (FTL), it is fundamentally a strategy to enhance the intentionality of SLCE in relation to community-driven ends….

FTL intends to make educational partnership exchange embody its idealized ends: human and community flourishing on both sides of an exchange should be enhanced through it. FTL prioritizes reciprocity (i.e., mutual benefit) in relationships through cooperative, cross-cultural participation in learning, service, and civil society. It explicitly advances the goals of economic equity, equal partnership, mutual learning, cooperative and positive social change, transparency, and sustainability. FTL engages the global civil society role of educational exchange in fostering a more just, equitable, and sustainable world (Hartman, Paris, & Blache-Cohen, 2014).


Hartman, E., Paris, C., & Blache-Cohen, B. (2014). Fair trade learning: Ethical standards for international volunteer tourism. Tourism and Hospitality Research, 14(1-2), 108-116.  

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One thought on “Fair Trade Learning

  1. Lee Miller; Barb Altman; Shoshanna Sumka says:

    We support the ideas around community-driven service learning and community engagement and the standards for community partnerships. The list of questions for stakeholder partnerships is a great platform for promoting equitable relationships. The term fair trade learning, however, does not resonate with us because it evokes a transactional relationship often characterized by inequality. For example, fair price for a given product is admirable, but may not dismantle the inherent power imbalances between the supplier and the buyer. Community-driven SLCE may not be as catchy, but we feel it better reflects your objectives. We would also suggest a move away from short-term “charitable-works” approach toward a long-term social change model.

    Liked by 1 person

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