What if there were a global corporation with over €15 billion (~$16 billion) in annual sales, that was cooperatively owned and democratically managed by its 90,000+ employee-member-owners? There is. And it is a beacon of light, showing us what’s possible when commerce is guided by something other than maximum profit extraction for a small minority of shareholders.
Meet the Mondragon Cooperatives in the Basque region of Spain, and meet Georgia Kelly, the Executive Director of Praxis Peace Institute, who curates an annual week-long immersion experience at Mondragon. In this important podcast episode, Georgia discusses the many innovative and durable attributes of the Mondragon system (after all, it has flourished since its inception in the 1950s), and gives us a glimpse into a society that has transformed from the poorest region of Spain into the wealthiest – albeit an observer would be hard pressed to find walled-off mansions here… or slums and destitution for that matter.
Instead, Mondragon demonstrates for the world what shared prosperity for all looks like – people enjoying life, purpose, belonging, and community in a socio-economic reality in which neither the unhinged opulence of extreme wealth nor the desperate travesty of extreme poverty is to be found.
ABOUT THE MONDRAGON COOPERATIVES
The Mondragon Cooperatives were founded in the 1950s with five initial owner-members under the thoughtful guidance of Father Don Jose Arizmendiarrieta (aka “Arizmendi”), whose socially progressive and community-oriented leanings launched a corporate and governance structure that would help to propel thousands of families into prosperity. Rooted in the Basque region of Spain, where the Basque people have endured ethnic discrimination and violence (including under the fascist regime of dictator Franco), the Mondragon Cooperatives are founded on ten fundamental principles:
- Open Admission
- Democratic Organization
- Sovereignty of Labor
- Instrumental and Subordinated Nature of Capital (& Mandatory Member Investments)
- Wage Solidarity (6:1 executive pay cap ratio)
- Group Cooperation
- Social Transformation
- Education (which sits at the center of the Mondragon system diagram)
An interconnected consortium of more than one hundred self-governing manufacturing, research and development, retail, service, educational, culinary (with multiple Michelin five-star restaurants), and agricultural coops, among others, the Mondragon Cooperative model embodies demonstrable structures and strategies for a saner, more socially-balanced, ecologically-appropriate, and democratically-aligned way of doing business, cultivating culture, and stewarding society.
As Mondragon co-founder and inspirational leader Arizmendi once said: “Cooperation is the authentic integration of people in the economic and social process that shapes a new social order; the cooperators must make this objective extend to all those that hunger and thirst for justice in the working world.”
ABOUT GEORGIA KELLY
Georgia Kelly is the Founder and Executive Director of Praxis Peace Institute. She has produced and directed several multi-day conferences in Europe and the U.S., and continues to create educational programs for Praxis. In addition to leading seminar-tours abroad (in Italy, Cuba, and Croatia), she developed a week-long seminar and tour at the Mondragón Cooperatives in Spain, which has become a signature program at Praxis. As a dedicated advocate for cooperatives, she compiled The Mondragón Report, an account of how the Praxis/Mondragón seminar has impacted the cooperative movement in the United States. Georgia is also an active citizen, has chaired several issue-based political organizations and educational forums, and served as a delegate to the Democratic National Convention (in 1992 for Jerry Brown). Georgia also holds a certificate in Conflict Resolution from Sonoma State University and teaches conflict resolution workshops and mediation. In 2013, she edited and co-authored, Uncivil Liberties: Deconstructing Libertarianism, a critique of libertarian ideas and laissez-faire capitalism, written from the perspective of three academics and three activists. Her previous career was as a musician: harpist, composer, and recording artist.