Are there alternatives to shareholder capitalism as is currently dominant in the United States? Yes, according to these online courses.
This post was last updated with a new course in December 2019.
“Could a cooperative market economy, in which firms are owned and controlled by their workers, be a viable and efficient alternative to capitalism?” is the central question of this course on Economic Democracy: The Cooperative Alternative. Further questions addressed are:
- “What would happen if workers ran their own businesses?”
- “Would worker-managed firms make the same decisions as their capitalist counterparts?”
- “Could such an economy be efficient?”
- “What policies could be deployed to promote a cooperative sector?”
According to the lecturers “Cooperatives have many attractive features, including high productivity. But they account for a relatively small proportion of GDP in most economies.” Why this is so, is one of the topics discussed in the course.
The course, for which you can earn a verified certificate if you pay a small fee, is taught by the University of Edinburgh, in collaboration with the University of St Andrews and the James Hutton Institute (UK).
2. Cooperatives and Producer Companies
If the previous course was of interest to you, you might also want to take a look at the course ‘Cooperatives and Producer Companies‘. This course is not focused on cooperatives as an alternative in western capitalist countries, but on cooperatives of small agricultural producers in developing countries. The case used throughout the course is rural India. Here is a selection from he course description:
“This course is about cooperative business, cooperative movement, cooperative organization, cooperative model, types of cooperatives, and cooperative development. In the beginning, the concept of a cooperative is explained and how it is different from an investor owned company. We also explain why this form of organization is required for producers in the dairy, agriculture, weaver artisan and other sectors of the economy. We then discuss the basic principles of a cooperative and why they evolved. […] We provide a brief overview of the success of cooperatives in different countries. We discuss some issues in regulation, and the legal and constitutional issues in India. […] There are some basic issues related to finances. […] Distribution of profits is different from the shareholder companies. […] There are organizational issues regarding the structure and Governance of cooperatives. […] The most important aspect of this course is how to set up such cooperatives. […] We touch upon the full life cycle from inception to a sustainable mature successful cooperative. The two basic principles: member owned and governed cooperatives, and no financial subsidy are used to discuss how to set up independent sustainable cooperatives. We use evidence from successful cooperatives to show how this was done. The business aspect, especially marketing is also discussed.”
The course was set up by the Indian Institute of Management in Bangelore, and is run on the Edx plaform.
Although the final session of this course on New Models of Business in Society “explores the idea of how to become a stakeholder entrepreneur and create a business that makes money and makes the world a better place”, the focus of this course seems to be mainly on theory. Here is the course description:
“In this course we will be discussing the emergence of a new story about business. This new story locates business within a societal framework. Almost every business creates or destroys value for customers, suppliers, employees, communities and society, in addition to shareholders and other financiers. A number of new models of business can be built on this idea such as corporate responsibility, philanthropy, shared value and sustainability. Profits and stakeholder value go together, and this course explains how.“
The course can be found on the Coursera platform, and is taught by the University of Virginia (USA). It gets quite positive reviews from previous students, although a very small number of them complain that the content is rather elementary.
If you want a more global scope and are not just interested in theory, but also in becoming a social entrepreneur yourself, this course on Business Doing Good seems to be a better choice. It is part of a three course program on Social Enterprise, the other two courses are on turning your ideas into actions and making your business grow in a sustainable way. This is the foundational course, in which “you explore different models of social enterprise and the local and global problems that they aim to address.” Topics covered are the following:
- “Understand what social enterprise is and its relation to sustainable development.
- Learn how to evaluate social enterprise in the context of global and local problems.
- Assess different definitions of social enterprise.
- Identify different social enterprise models.
- Learn about the social impact of social enterprises.
- Come up with a social enterprise business idea.”
The course was created on platform FutureLearn by the Middlesex University Business School (UK), the Jindal Centre for Social Innovation & Entrepreneurship (India) and Living in Minca, an international platform for social enterprises.
If you want to become a social entrepreneur, but are not sure yet what your company’s product or service will be, this even more practical three course program from the Copenhagen Business School (Denmark) may be for you:
- The first course is on detecting opportunities and developing ideas, advocating “the need to learn about the source and root of a social problem.”
- In the second course you will develop a business model and learn to “compare different social impact investment methods and choose the right funding strategy for your social venture“
- The third course is about making an impact, discussing social impact assessment, communication and marketing strategies, growth strategies and exit strategies.
Series "Online courses per topic":
Do you feel like you have enough knowledge to contribute to debates in the area of the ethics of markets, economics and business? If not, this series of blog posts introduces ‘Massive Open Online Courses’ (MOOCs) that you can take from anywhere in the world.
Articles in this series:
- PHILOSOPHY, POLITICS and ECONOMICS – Six Foundational Online Courses
- (American) CAPITALISM, Chinese MARXISM and GLOBALIZATION – Five Online Courses
- ECONOMICS, INEQUALITY and WELL-BEING – Five Online Courses
- BUSINESS ETHICS – Five Online Courses
- ALTERNATIVE BUSINESS MODELS – Five Online Courses
- HOW MARKETS WORK – Five Online Economics Courses
- FINANCE, MONEY and BANKING – Six Online Courses
- THE HISTORY AND FUTURE OF CAPITALISM – Five Online Courses