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Cases Publications

Ten Thousand Villages in Crisis: Can the Fair Trade Pioneer Survive and Flourish in an Economic Downturn?


This two-part case examines a major reorganization process which took place at Ten Thousand Villages Canada in 2013, as a response to severe challenges from the aftermath of the 2007-08 global financial crisis. Ten Thousand Villages is one of the oldest fair trade organizations in North America, whose history can be traced back to craft sales in 1946. The case was developed in close collaboration with managers and volunteers of Ten Thousand Villages Canada, as well as their producer partners in Kenya.

The Part A case provides an overview of Ten Thousand Villages (e.g., history, producer partnerships, operation in Canada) and the financial challenges faced by the organization in 2013. Part A facilitates the discussion of how the organization could be revived at the verge of bankruptcy, specifically from the perspective of a senior manager who must develop a plan to reach a break-even point within 12 months. The Part B case presents the actual decisions of the leadership team and what happened afterwards. By studying this case, students are expected to gain an in-depth understanding of real-life challenges faced by social enterprises and develop strategic decision-making capabilities for achieving financial sustainability at the same time as pursuing social mission.


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