Picture of  Brett Fairbairn

Brett Fairbairn PhD, BA Professor Emeritus and Adjunct Professor, U of S

Professor Emeritus, Johnson Shoyama Graduate School of Public Policy, University of Saskatchewan campus; President and Vice-Chancellor, Thompson Rivers University

Areas of Interest

  • Governance and innovation in non-profit enterprises
  • Membership, participation, and organizational identity
  • History of democracy and democratic movements
  • Co-operatives in the new economy


A historian by training, Brett characterizes his recent research as interdisciplinary social science and history with a focus on democratic governance, community-based enterprise, and co-operative social movements.  He is an accomplished practitioner of community-engaged scholarship and qualitative research methods.  Brett is a Rhodes Scholar and Oxford University graduate, and has held an Alexander von Humboldt Fellowship at the Freie Universität Berlin.  Brett has more than one hundred publications of all types (peer-reviewed and community-oriented) including his two most recent books, Co-operative Membership and Globalization and Living the Dream: Membership and Marketing in the Co-operative Retailing System.  He is co-editor of a forthcoming volume on co-operative enterprises and globalization in Canadian communities, the result of one of the largest collaborations ever undertaken to research co-operatives in Canada.  In public policy Brett has worked with the Policy Research Initiative of the Privy Council of the Government of Canada on social policy and social enterprise, and with the Institute of Public Administration of Canada on co-operative alternatives for public services. In addition to these projects, he was also appointed twice by the province to chair the Saskatchewan Archives Board. In 2002 he received the Queen’s Golden Jubilee Medal for his university and public contributions.  Brett has held a number of leadership roles including provost and vice-president academic at the University of Saskatchewan (2008-14). 

Dr. Brett Fairbairn became Thompson River University's president and vice-chancellor on Dec. 1, 2018.

Download Brett Fairbairn's CV.


  • Ph.D., University of Oxford, Modern History
  • B.A. Hon. 1st class, University of Oxford, Modern History
  • B.A. General, University of Saskatchewan

Recent Grants/Awards


  • CASC Award of Merit, 2015.  Recognizes an individual’s outstanding leadership and contributions to the field of co-operative studies.  Awarded by the Canadian Association for Studies in Co-operation annual conference, June 2015, in Ottawa.
  • The Reginald J. Cressman ACE Award Recognizing Commitment to Staff Development, 2004.   Awarded at the Association of Co-operative Educators annual conference, August 2004, in Montréal.
  • The Queen’s Golden Jubilee Medal - awarded 13 November 2002 by Lieutenant. Governor Lynda Haverstock.  In recognition of contributions at Centre for the Study of Co-operatives and Saskatchewan Archives Board.

Select Publications

Books, Chapters in Books, Expository and Review Articles

  • B. Fairbairn and N. Russell, eds., 2014.  Co-operative Canada:  Empowering Communities and Sustainable Businesses. Vancouver:  University of British Columbia Press.  292pp. Peer reviewed. Including four chapters, as follows:
    • B. Fairbairn, 2014.  “Introduction:  Where We Stand – Place, Enterprise, and Community.”  Pp. 3-17.
    • B. Fairbairn, 2014.  “‘I Felt That I Had Lost Myself‘:  Credit Unions, Economies, and the Construction of Locality.”  Pp. 67-91.  With Rob Dobrohoczki.
    • J. Heit, M. Fulton, and B. Fairbairn, 2014.  “Autonomy and Identity:  Constraints and Possibilities in Western Canada’s Co-operative Retailing System.”  Pp. 92-109.
    • B. Fairbairn, 2014.  “Imagination and the Future:  Learning from Social Enterprises.”  Pp. 233-253.
  • B. Fairbairn, 2012.  “The ‘New’ Credit Union:  Sunova Credit Union,” with the assistance of Rob Dobrohoczki.  In A Co-operative Dilemma:  Converting Organizational Form, ed. J. Sousa and R. Herman.  Saskatoon: Centre for the Study of Co-operatives, pp. 201-222.
  • Fairbairn, 2009. “Imagination and Identity: The Social Economy and the State in Canada.” In The Worldwide Making of the Social Economy: Innovations and Changes, ed. J. Defourny, P. Develtere, B. Fonteneau, and M. Nyssens. Leuven/Den Haag: Acco, pp. 129-148.
  • Fairbairn, 2008. “Economic and Social Developments.” In Imperial Germany 1871-1918: The Short Oxford History of Germany, ed. J. Retallack. Oxford: Oxford University Press. Peer-reviewed.
  • Fairbairn, 2008. “Communications, Culture, and Co-operatives: Liminal Organizations in a Liminal Age.” InIntegrating Diversities within a Complex Heritage: Essays in the Field of Co-operative Studies, ed. I. MacPherson and E.McLaughlin-Jenkins. Victoria, BC: New Rochdale Press (Series on Co-operative Studies – Vol. 2), pp. 179-222.
  • Fairbairn, 2007. “From Farm to Community: Cooperatives in Alberta and Saskatchewan, 1905-2005.” In The Prairie West as Promised Land, ed. R.D. Francis and C. Kitzan. Calgary: University of Calgary Press, pp. 405-432. Peerreviewed.
  • Fairbairn, 2007. “A Century of Prairie and Saskatchewan Farm Co-operatives: Philosophy, Organization, and History.” In The Prairie Agrarian Movement Revisited, ed. M. Knuttila and B. Stirling. Regina: Canadian Plains Research Centre, pp. 93-106.

Papers in Referred Journals

  • C. Leviten-Reid and B. Fairbairn, 2011. “Multistakeholder Governance in the Social Economy: Toward a New Framework for Research?” Canadian Journal of Nonprofit and Social Economy Research 2, 2. (This article was awarded an honourable mention in the journal’s best article award competition, 2013.)