Journal of Global Citizenship & Equity Education, Vol 6, No 1 (2018)

Fair Trade Learning in an Unfair World

Allyson Larkin


Recent critical research on international experiential or service learning, (IESL), raises questions and reveals challenges for host communities working in partnership with universities to provide community-based learning opportunities for students, primarily from the Global North.  The exercise of power, privileges of transnational mobility, and the potential reinforcement of a neocolonial relationship between partners, within the context of globalized higher education, are among the barriers to equitable practices facing practitioners.  As researchers and practitioners work with host partners to articulate ethical and equitable responses to IESL practices, the model of fair trade standards has recently gained traction in this field. as an opportunity to provide an ethical framework, developed by practitioners and host partners, to provide transparency and accountability for the enactment of IESL programs.   Fair trade standards, in the context of commodities pricing and labour, have produced some measure of improvement in trade practices, yet in this field too, researchers have identified gaps and inconsistencies that often leave unchanged the benefit to and experience of local partners outside of the Global North.  This essay first considers some of the key issues challenging IESL practice and moves to consider the possibilities and/or contradictions of applying a Fair Trade framework for IESL.  Finally, the concept of encounter, developed by Ananya Roy and colleagues, emerges as a dynamic pedagogical framework that rather than foreclosing questions of history, power, privilege and ongoing global poverty, seeks to confront these issues at the root sources.


international experiential learning; power; privilege; fair trade learning; neoliberalism; capitalism; encounter; global poverty; evaluation

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