David Cooperrider is past chair of the National Academy of Management’s organizational development and change division and is founder and chair of the Fowler Center for Business as an Agent of World Benefit. The center’s core proposition is that sustainability is the business opportunity of the 21st-century, indeed that every social and global issue of our day is an opportunity to ignite industry leading eco-innovation, social entrepreneurship, and new sources of value. Cooperrider has served as advisor to a wide variety of organizations including the Boeing Corporation, Green Mountain Coffee Roasters, McKinsey, Walmart, American Red Cross, American Hospital Association, and World Vision.
Most of the projects are inspired by the Appreciative Inquiry (AI) methodology for which Cooperrider is best known. His founding theoretical work is creating a positive revolution in the leadership of change; it is helping institutions all over the world discover the power of the strength-based approaches to multi-stakeholder innovation and sustainable design. The U.S. Navy’s chief of naval operations, Admiral Clark, for example, brought AI into the Navy for a multiyear project on “Bold and Enlightened Naval Leadership.”
In June 2004, Cooperrider was asked by the United Nations to design and facilitate a historic, unprecedented summit on global corporate citizenship, a meeting between Kofi Annan and 500 business leaders to “unite the strengths of markets with the authority of universal ideals to make globalization work for everyone.” Cooperrider’s work is especially unique because of its ability to enable positive change, innovation, and sustainable design in systems of large and complex scale.
In 2002, Cooperrider began the “world inquiry into business as an agent of world benefit.” The data bank was used to discover and showcase profitable business innovation in the arena of environmental sustainability and social entrepreneurship. After 2,000 interviews by faculty and students, Cooperrider realized that the data bank was documenting a revolution. From 2002 to 2009, the initiative—Business as an Agent of World Benefit—grew to become one of the most productive interdisciplinary projects in the history of the school and launched the Fowler Center for Business as an Agent of World Benefit. It has spawned published research in the form of book publications, dissertations, and articles.
In 2012, guided by Cooperrider's vision, Weatherhead’s Fowler Center launched a major research project, a global-scale search across cultures for the kinds of organizations and partnerships that might impact businesses becoming agents of world benefit. AIM2Flourish for Business as an Agent of World Benefit is a student-driven initiative at management schools globally using the UN's Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) as a lens to discover and report on radical innovations. The best-of-the-best stories will be celebrated in June 2017. AIM2Flourish was formally affirmed June 25, 2015, by the UN 2015 Global Forum for Responsible Management Education community, which includes 580 signatory schools globally. AIM2Flourish’s spring 2015 pilot project can be seen on the new AIM2Flourish.com platform.