This article was translated by John R. Bopp
Jill Bamburg is the co-founder of the Bainbridge Graduate Institute and in the faculty at the Presidio Graduate School in San Francisco, which is one of the foremost graduate institutions focused on sustainable management. As their website states, the New York Times once said that “If you want to change the world, go to Presidio Graduate School”.
She recently visited the headquarters of the Corporación Cooperativa Mondragon in Mondragón, Biscay, where the company gets its name and where it was founded by Basque priest José María Arizmendiarrieta.
On that visit, she reached a few conclusions, which she discusses in an article published on Medium titled “Mondragón through a Critical Lens”.
We found it to be an interesting analysis, discussing the strengths and weaknesses of a system that, like the people running it, is imperfect, even if they are Basque (please allow us that little joke).
We’re joking for a reason, though, as we often do. The author found it to be a weakness that the “worker-owner” system hadn’t been “exported” to the coop’s facilities around the world. Her reasons are not that convincing, and although she recognizes that the non-owner workers are treated well, she gives the impression that this is one of the system’s weaknesses.
As we said, the system created in Mondragón and in other points of our country, which has become a role model, is a Basque thing, as ours is a society with a unique mix of individuality and a sense of belonging, with a strong, well-rooted sense of community. The Basque society is one wherein auzolana can be found even in the 21st century.
The idea that these ways of being should be exported automatically doesn’t seem to be the most respectful view of different cultures. Cooperativism is not something that should be imposed, but rather internalized. It’s easy to have workers, but getting them trained for the duties they must carry out takes some effort and time. Getting them to internalize the cooperativist model and mentality takes a lot more than a few weeks of training.
Ms. Bamburg’s article gives us a very intriguing qualified outsider’s view of one of the flagships of the Basque economy, and also of how our country appears to the world, just as you can also see in the numerous articles we’ve collected over the years.
Medium – 3/10/2017 – USA
Mondragon through a Critical Lens
I recently completed a study tour to Mondragon, a small town in the Basque region of Spain, which is the home of the world’s largest and most advanced cooperative economy. In the United States, the cooperative sector, which represents over $500 billion in revenues and employs about two million people, is surprisingly invisible. Despite its size, it is seldom, if ever, discussed in business schools or economics programs. Nonetheless, when you mention specific cooperatives or types of cooperatives, most Americans will have had at least some exposure to: