Aaron Perry


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  • Episode 137 – Georgia Kelly, Founder, Praxis Peace Institute; on the Mondragon Cooperatives
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Stewardship & Sustainability Series
Episode 137 - Georgia Kelly, Founder, Praxis Peace Institute; on the Mondragon Cooperatives

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.


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)

    • Self-Management

    • 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.”


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. 



Episode 117 – Mike Bronner, President, Drx Bronner’s (the “Chocolate Episode”)

Episode 72 – John Perkins, Life Economy vs. Death Economy – “Touching the Jaguar”

Episode 69 – Ryan Zinn, Regenerative Projects Manager, Dr. Bronner’s

Episode 65 – Eric Lombardi, Social Enterprise & Protecting the Commons

Episode 63 – David Bronner, CEO, Dr. Bronner’s

Episode 36 – Nicole Vitello, President, Produce Section, Equal Exchange Coops



(Automatically generated transcript for search engine optimization and reference purposes – grammatical and spelling errors may exist.)

Welcome to the YonEarth Community Podcast. I’m your host, Aaron William Perry. And today

we’re visiting with Georgia Kelly, the executive director of the Praxis Peace Institute.

Hi, Georgia. How you doing? Great. How are you today, Aaron? Well, I’m doing really well.

And I am so excited for this conversation in particular. It feels as if I’ve been anticipating

this for 20, 25 years, which might become clear in the course of our conversation. Why? But

essentially the reason is you’re an expert on the Mondragon cooperative system and amazing

community and corporate structure over in the Basque region of Spain, which is going to

form much of the topic of our conversation today. I’m so excited. I hate hesitate to use

the word expert. I feel like I know a fair amount because I’ve been there many times and spent

a lot of time there, but I hesitate to use that word. No problem whatsoever. I’ll use it for you.

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 United States and continues

to create educational programs for Praxis. In addition to leading seminars and tours abroad in

places like Italy, Cuba, Croatia, and Spain, she developed a week long seminar and tour at the

Mondragon Cooperatives in Spain, which has become a signature program at Praxis. As a dedicated advocate

for cooperatives, she compiled the Mondragon report and account of how the Praxis and Mondragon

seminar has impacted the cooperative movement in the United States. Georgia is also an active

citizen and has chaired several issue-based political organizations and educational forums.

She served as a delegate to the Democratic National Convention in 1992, that’s Governor

Jerry Brown in California, and 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. And Georgia,

it’s such a pleasure to have you on the show and I believe that what we’re going to be talking

about today, particularly the Mondragon cooperatives, provides such a tremendously important framework

for many of us engaged in this regenerative stewardship sustainability movement. I find in many

of my conversations, especially here in the United States, that a handful of folks here and there

are aware of the Mondragon cooperatives, but a whole lot of folks are already engaged in really

important work, aren’t yet aware of the Mondragon cooperatives. And I think we’ve got a real

opportunity here to help educate folks generally and especially with our bio-earth community audience.

And so to kick things off, let me just jump right in and ask you, what are the Mondragon cooperatives?

Tell us a paint-a-picture for us what we’re talking about.

Well, this is an extraordinary complex of worker-owned businesses in the Basque region of Spain.

They were founded in 1956 with one small worker-owned business,

with five people, five worker owners, who have graduated from this polytechnic school

that have been founded by a Catholic priest in Mondragon. His name was Father José Maria

Rizmendi Arieta. He had the vision and really an extraordinary vision, but he was also a very

practical man. And he realized coming to the Basque region with a very high unemployment rate in the

late 40s, early 50s, that what they needed was to educate the people there so they could qualify

for the industrial jobs that were available. And that’s why he started the school. And out of that

school, five of these students created Fogor, which is it was called Old Gore then, but it’s

changed his name to Fogor. And the industrial appliance Fogor still exists today. And that was

the beginning with five people. Today it’s almost 100 work or maybe it’s a little over 100 worker

owned businesses and probably between 85 and 90,000 worker owners. It fluctuates, but that’s

approximately what it is. So it became huge in this amount of time. And also what it fostered in

the region is in the 40s and 50s, 1940s and 50s. The Basque region was the poorest area of Spain.

Today it’s the wealthiest area of Spain. So that has really come about through the plethora of

worker owned cooperatives. Mondragon is the biggest consortium of cooperatives, but they’re

also probably an additional 1,000 cooperatives in the Basque region. So it’s a huge movement in

the entire culture. That’s kind of extraordinary. That is extraordinary. You know, I guess I’ll

give it away. I did a bit of a deep dive studying Mondragon when I was in graduate school looking at

sustainable economic models of some couple decades ago. And when I’ve shared with folks what I

learned about Mondragon, one of the ways I like to orient folks to understand where this is

geographically and culturally is by mentioning, it’s my understanding at least that this pretty

well-known painting by Picasso called Guernica, which is sort of monochromatic kind of black

white and gray with all these disfigured folks in the painting, is his depiction of a bombing that

occurred just prior to World War II as I understand it when the dictator Franco gave Hitler permission

basically to test the Air Force, the Luftwaffe of the German Nazi war machine. And of course these

people in this region of the Pyrenees tucked right there against the Bay of Biscay have

undergone some different injustices and brutality through history as a specific ethnic group in

that region as I understand it. Is that right? Can you tell us a bit about that?

You know, the Franco regime was very oppressive for the Basque people generally. And they, I think this

is the reason why the Mondragon cooperatives have always stepped somewhat of a low profile.

And part of it is they had to during the Franco regime. And Arizona, the area to the priest,

was actually arrested at one point, but because it’s a Catholic country and even the right wing

people were Catholics, so they couldn’t really hold a priest indefinitely, which they didn’t.

But it was a lesson, you know, to keep a low profile. And it also meant during Franco’s years

that they could not teach their own Basque language nor use it in the school. So there was quite an

oppressive, but I would say on the neck of the Basque people during that time. And fortunately,

when he passed on things changed. And now a whole generation has learned the Basque language.

Most people there speak it, but there is one generation that didn’t learn it. And it was the one

coming of age during Franco’s regime. So they all speak Spanish, a lot of them speak English,

and most of them speak Basque at this point. Tell us a bit about the region in terms of,

you know, how it looks. What’s the food like? What’s the topography? What’s the landscape and culture like?

It’s well, it’s fascinating. You know, I’ve been there 11 times now and sat through 11 of our

seminars that we have at Inmondagen. And what I’ve learned, you know, from the first time I went

to even now, the same thing happens. Get off the airplane and you’re taking a ride into Inmondagen

from Bilbao. The roads are just perfectly maintained. There are no potholes. They’re not noisy.

Some of our roads here are noisy. And they’re not. Whatever they paved them with, they seem to be

well-maintained. They’re quiet. And the whole region looks, it is, very well-maintained, cared for,

appreciated. You don’t see messes anywhere. And one of the things that everybody notes when they

go on our seminars is, you don’t see poverty. You don’t see slums. You don’t see people

living in the streets. There is none of that. And they have pretty much eliminated the low

end of the economics spectrum. Poverty is pretty much erased in the vast region. And it’s incredible

to experience a society that has learned the concept of enough so that you also don’t have this

small group of people who own and run everything and make the most money. I would say,

primarily, the vast region, to me, looks like gradations of middle class. And there’s, you know,

upper middle class, obviously. And there’s probably that there are people who are quite wealthy who

live there, especially around San Sebastian. But you don’t see displays of great wealth. You don’t

see gated communities and people live well. Everybody lives well. That’s part of the joy of going

there is that you feel like you’re in a very caring society in that region.

How delightful and what an example for so many of the rest of us in the world. And with the

mongergone cooperatives in particular, this is not just an accident of culture. This is a

a very intentional approach to community and business and how we conduct ourselves economically

in our ecosystems of human relations and otherwise. And I was struck to learn about the 10

principles of the mongergone cooperatives. And I was hoping we could run through those for our

audience and chat a bit about them. And I’m happy to rattle them off real quick since I have a

list here, Georgia, unless you’d like to. If you’ve got it off the top of your head.

I do. I have the logo right in front of me with all the different ones. And as you see from

you’re looking at it, too, is the center of this logo here is education. So from education

springs all the rest. And there has to be an understanding of what cooperatives are about,

of why they’re important. So that’s kind of the beginning. And it’s certainly where Father

Erasmidiariata began. It was with the polytechnic school, with an education, with discussions.

And that helps form the base of what would eventually be the cooperatives.

And I don’t know that we need to go through all of them, but I’m going to mention once that I

think are really particularly important for people to know about. You see wage solidarity on that

wheel. And that means that the lowest income of a worker owner is only the CEO of that company

is probably only making six times what he is making or she. So there’s this ratio one to six

for salaries, which is extraordinary. It means you don’t have CEOs making 300 times what the

lowest-paid worker is making. This is wage solidarity. So this is also why you don’t have this great

big, not big, but big in terms of earning. You don’t have people with lots of money. And then

another group that’s just barely making it, working for the same company. This never happens

in a modern company. And that’s wage solidarity. Intercooperation is another really important one.

But I’m going to talk about open admission, too, because I think this is interesting. And it’s a

quality that Americans sometimes misread. And I think the reason to think will anyone to become

a member of monitor? Well, the way it works is if you apply for a job or have an idea for

a job, you can apply. But there’s also 18 months, I guess, reassessment period. Do you fit?

From your point of view, do you fit from their point of view? So before you actually can become

a worker owner, there is this time of reflection and seeing if it’s a good fit. So open admission

mean yes, they’re open for other people, decide best people to apply for jobs. But it also means

there are boundaries, there are standards that have to be met. So it’s not a free for all.

And I think the other way I would look at that is because it’s one worker, one share, one vote.

No one can amass shares in a company. It’s one worker owner, one share. And if they leave,

they can cash out their share, but they can’t sell it. So that means that they are not available to

be taken over by another corporation or a large business in Spain or even internationally.

So that has protected the cooperatives. It’s one of the smartest things I think at the beginning

that the vision was to see that in order to maintain that integrity of the cooperatives,

they need to not be available for takeover. So it’s important, I think, to understand what

open admission means to them. It’s a little bit different than sometimes Americans take it to me,

which is one of the reasons why I felt it was important to talk about it.

The one that fascinates me, and from the first time I saw this wheel, I was so motivated by it,

is the one on the outer part of the wheel, social transformation.

And they are focused on transforming the culture. Cooperatives do transform a culture.

And last year, and this year when we have our seven-hour in September, we will go again

to a center in Bilbao where their focus is, it’s an NGO, non-governmental organization,

and their focus is how to manifest social transformation in a community. So they work in

different areas of Spain, in third world countries. They work at a lot of different countries

in this idea of how you transform a culture. I won’t go into it all now, but we do go into it

with the NGO that does this work when we’re in Spain. And it’s fascinating to me, because my question

as always, society is going to change. It has to change culturally. There has to be an understanding

at a very deep level of how things really change permanently, not just a revolution where it

kind of goes around and comes around, but something that evolves outside of the norm that

you know people have gotten used to. So social transformation to me has been one of the key

things of understanding how these cooperatives function and what the role of the society has become.

So exciting. I wanted to connect a couple of dots for our audience.

George, first of all, with respect to the wage solidarity, which I sometimes will refer to as

executive paid differential caps, right? And just to reiterate, here in the United States,

it’s very typical for a large corporation to have a CEO paid several hundred times as much money

each month or each year as a full-time employee within that corporation. And Mondragon has established

such a beautiful example here. And I know of some other companies and organizations that have kind

of followed this lead and been inspired by this, including Dr. Bronner’s, The Soap, and Now Talklet

Company. And we’ve interviewed a handful of their leaders in several episodes, including one with

a CEO, David Bronner, Chief Engagement Officer. And in that, we talked about their wage

differential cap, which is, I think, one to five. It might be one to six, but I recall one to five

off the top of my head. And of course, I want to mention we did episode 36 with Nicole Vittello

from the Equal Exchange Cooperative doing wonderful coffees and teas and chocolates,

things coming from many different regions of the world in a cooperative model. And I mean,

this is it’s Georgia such an inspiring story. And I’m thrilled that coming up is another

opportunity for some of us to join you for this week-long experience, immersive experience. And

hopefully, I’ll personally be there and hopefully some of the other friends and colleagues from

our Y on Earth community network will be able to join. And that’s coming in September. Could you

tell us a bit? Yeah, that will be September 10th to 16th. So we meet on a Sunday at the airport

in Bilbao. And we have our transfer bus that takes us to Mondragon for the week. And we have

lectures every day. They have a beautiful educational center in the hills just above Mondragon. It’s

many acres of land. It’s a beautiful place. It’s a renovated 14th century villa. It’s been

renovated for classes, basically. And it’s just gorgeous. And they also have a dining hall where we

have our lunches every day. And then we go on experience. We visit some of the cooperatives,

the work around businesses. We usually go to the Culinary Arts Center, which is part of the

Mondragon University system. And they have Burnown chefs from all over the world who teach there.

And hopefully this you’ll be able to have lunch there. That’s possibility prepared by the students.

But we usually go there and see the, it’s an incredible building. And we have

excursions to Bilbao to the Bougain High Museum, which was partially built by a Mondragon construction

cooperative. And we go to San Sebastian. We see different places. We go to the Vask Parliament.

We’re actually the only group that does that. But we do have a session with the Department of

Coexistence and Human Rights, which used to be called the Department of Peace. And it gives,

I think, the people who go on our trip, it gives them an idea of the depth of which the society

is working on social transformation. That they created this department and the Vask Parliament

is quite extraordinary. I mean, it is in a ton of this region of Spain, so they are allowed their

own parliament. And it’s exemplary. I mean, if you read some of the things that these

former presidents, current presidents say, and write, it’s just inspiring. It’s like some of

our best writing about what we’d like the world to be. And the vision they have is so

exemplary, I guess, is the word. So we will have a group that goes to these different places that

week of September, 10th to 16th. And it will be our 12th week long seminar in Mondragon. And we

also go to actually one of the Mondragon University campuses for a day. There’s an American professor

there who gives us kind of an overview and lecture and his experience being in Mondragon for

30 years. And we eat at their cafeteria, which is like a gourmet restaurant, not like a normal

cafeteria. Excellent food in the region. As probably many people know, they have lots of

multi-star visual and restaurants in the Vask region. They’re noted for this. So there’s several

five-star in the recently sands of bastion. So there’s some excellent restaurants there. That

food is one of their things. They’re noted for. I love that. And I’ve been a foodie for some time

now. And I like to tell folks eating wonderful food, far in the table food. So on is one of my

favorite sports. And I’m struck just to pick up on this food threat for a brief moment here in

the United States. It’s my opinion that one of the top 10 or 12 most important issues we have

in front of us to take on and tackle and transform is food system related. How we’re doing food here

in this country in particular. And as I travel around to other parts of the world, including

in some of the European nations, I am struck. For instance, I was in a relatively rural part of

Austria, a few years back for a work trip. And we had rented a car and we’re driving and stopped at

the gas station, which of course, like here in the US, the gas station has a bit of a food mark.

Well, you walk in. And it’s as if you’re in this gourmet artisan, you know, all these fresh

foods produce wonderful olives, olive oil, fresh baked breads. I mean, just fabulous foods,

which is quite a contrast from most of what we see here in the United States when we’re

fueling a vehicle and stopping in the quickie mart or whatever it’s called. And like that.

You know, so I’m just I’m so thrilled to hear about the food aspect. And I’m curious. I know that

one of the big arms of the Mondragon system has to do with food and agriculture. Can you tell us

a bit about what they’re up to with with that particular focus? Yes, I think, you know, they

always had fewer far fewer agricultural cooperatives because it’s a hilly terrain and it’s

mostly had an industrial background. But they do have some agricultural cooperatives. In fact,

our group went to one last year and we’ll go again this year because we have at least probably one

farmer coming who’s very interested in that. We try to tailor the particular seminar to what

our group of people going that year want to learn about. So if we have a couple of people who

really want to learn about farms, then we’ll go to an agricultural co-op. If we have nobody that

wants to learn about that, we would go somewhere else. So I try to tailor it every year, ask for

things that will answer questions and relate to what people are doing who are going on that particular

trip. One thing that they do have is a large supermarket chain called Erosky. And they are all

over Spain. I think they took it over. I don’t know the history of that particular

complex, but I do know that they were converting the Erosky supermarkets in the Basque region.

They all are converted now to worker owned. And then they started converting the ones in the

other parts of Spain to worker owned. So that is a huge supermarket. Apparently I’ve been told

it’s like Walmart. I’ve never been in a Walmart. But it’s huge and it covers everything. I mean,

they sell all kinds of fresh food, vegetables, fruit, grains, breads. They have a fair trade section,

they have books, they have household goods, TVs, appliances, just everything like that. And

they have a smaller ones in some communities. Like in Madragon, there’s a great big supermarket

on the outskirts of the town, which we stop in at the end of our first day so people can see it

and shop in it. And then there’s a swallow in right around the corner from our hotel.

You can run over and get a bunch of grapes or orange juice, but lots of fresh food, really,

extraordinary. But I agree with you that the whole, the fast food mentality is just not there like

it is here. I’ve never actually never been into those cookie marks. Yeah. Yeah. Well, that sounds

absolutely wonderful. And I want to ask, it sounds like from what you’ve told me in our previous

conversations, you have some very interesting folks who join you for this annual immersive

experience. And I’m curious, tell us a bit about the folks who often join. And also,

how many spots are available overall? Because I hope some of our friends from the Y on Earth

community audience and network will be able to join. And I know it’s probably spaces limited,

right? Yeah. Are you hearing any noises in the background from my side? I’m not.

Right. Okay. There’s a lot more to me. Okay. So would you repeat the question I got distracted

by the question? No problem. And I love this because it’s an example of how our podcasts are

done in real time with real people. And we don’t do those productions. So the question basically

is, Georgia, how many spots are available? Because I imagined spaces limited and tell us a bit

about the folks who tend to come and join you for these experiences. To me, the ideal number is

around between 12 and 15. We can take more. But that is the number I feel works the best.

We have to have at least 10. That’s required to do the seminar. But I have found

over the years that it’s better not to go over 15. We had 25 one year that was like a zoo.

So I wouldn’t want to do that again. But we do have spaces right now. And I expect we’ll

fill. We always do. We’ve never had to cancel it. So if we’ve got time still, too. And I think

there was something else you asked me about it. Sorry, he’s been there. Oh, no worries.

Yeah. And so, yeah, I hope folks, if you want to join, I’m very much hoping to be there. And if

if you want to be a part of this experience, I would encourage you to get in touch with Georgia

sooner than later to make sure you’ve got a spot. And yeah, the second question, Georgia is

just to share a bit with our audience about some of the folks who tend to join you for this experience.

You’ve mentioned to me recently that you often have professors and folks who are really engaged

in these topics and looking at cultural and social transformational change.

Yes, we often affect every trip we’ve taken. We’ve had professors who want to teach the model

and do. And we have people from all walks of life who are interested in this model, especially

people who are politically oriented and don’t see any hope in the future of capitalism. And they

want to say, okay, what are some alternatives that work? And the thing about going to modernen

is you see a hybrid system. That’s what I’ve always called it. And yet, it’s something else.

Cooperativism, that’s such a word. It’s, you know, it has elements of capitalism. It has elements

of socialism. It has its own cooperativism. But I wouldn’t categorize it. And I don’t think they

do either. They never use this term so they don’t. But it appeals to people who are looking for real

economical alternatives to the meal and the real capital capitalism that is so destructive in

our societies. And this is an alternative. And it’s a model that works and works really,

really well. The thing is it requires a certain type of understanding and mentality. And I think

one of the most important things that it requires is for a person to have a sense of

enough. You can’t be the kind of person that wants more and more and more and that has to prove

yourself worth by your gadgets and your possessions. Because that isn’t the kind of persons

you thrive in a cooperative community. So it takes a different mentality than this kind of

neoliberal mentality has been part of our culture for many decades,

it’s not from the beginning.

So it takes a different mindset.

And what they always tell us when they go for our seminar

is that you have to be mature to be in a cooperative.

And a lot of that, I think they mean

that in order to be a decision maker

because they are democratically run,

but there is a point at which they work on consensus,

but that doesn’t mean 100% agreement.

It means they would like 80%.

But if they have to make a decision

in a certain amount of time, they will go

with a simple majority, not what they want.

And they will try to actually always do better than that,

but they would never require 100% buy-in, which is practical.

And I think a lot of the cooperatives in the US

that began with that idea that we will be consensus driven,

we’ll always be 100% in agreement.

What that did, and they learned the ones that survived,

learned pretty quickly that what that does

is gives one person the opportunity

to sabotage the whole thing.

So if you’re really serious about the business,

you cannot be consensus on your sabotaging

your own organization.

And of course, Longerdon understands that.

I never referred to as the tyranny of the minority.

Right, it’s the tyranny of the minority.

And I think many people who are focused on democracy

in the US confuse 100% agreement

with a democratic process.

Democratic process needs people

of different opinions, different ideas

they bring to the floor and share.

And the majority will win out at a given time.

But through the discussion, they understand why.

And I think the mature part, in order to step back and say,

OK, my vision didn’t pass luster this time.

So that’s OK.

It will probably another time.

That’s a sense of maturity and not being ego driven.

Yeah, you’ve got the right answer.

No one else does.

Right, so beautiful.

And really, it offers us so much to internalize and consider

and potentially even adopt into our own lives and organizations.

And speaking of that, I’m really excited to share a project

we’re working on currently, which is another book focused

on regenerative finance, social enterprise, stewardship,

philanthropy, and eco scene economics.

And for this book, we’re inviting a number of thought leaders,

authors, et cetera, to share essays and articles

to have a diverse collection of voices and input

on how we can evolve our structures and systems

toward a saner, happier, more ecologically balanced,

regeneratively, and stewardship-oriented way

of doing business with each other.

And so I’m so thrilled to share, Georgia, that it’s very, very,

very likely you’ll be sharing an essay with us in this book

project with taking some of the particular insights

and inspiration from the Monderdown Cooperatives.

Indeed, I look forward to doing that.

And I’m happy to be part of it.

Thank you for asking.

Yeah, it’s really my pleasure.

I’m very, very excited about this project.

And speaking of books, I mentioned that I studied

in grad school, the Monderdown Cooperatives

did an in-depth dive for a sustainable economic development

course I was taking and had a professor

from who did a lot of work through the World Bank

and the International Monetary Fund.

And I’m not sure he was quite buying it.

That’s OK.

But one of the books I really enjoyed

is called We Build, The Road As We Travel by Roy Morris.

And this is a bit dated now.

But I recall some financial figures that just stuck in my head

that I’ll ask you about in a moment, Georgia.

But I want to be sure to also mention some wonderful reads

by an author, Mark Carlansky, including one

called the Basque History of the World.

And he’s also written one called Salt and one called Cod.

And if you’re curious about European history,

but also how in pre-Columbus times, European Fisher

peoples were already interacting with native North American

peoples along the Atlantic coast, including the Basque

peoples very likely.

These books are wonderful.

And Salt and Cod go together.

Salted Cod was actually one of the early forms

of transportable protein that enabled opening up

of overland and seafaring trading

to really move toward the Far East, toward Asia,

and then globally.

So a lot of really interesting world history rooted

right in the Basque region.

And I guess I’ve got to give a shout out

to my new novel VeridiToss in my book YonEarth,

because Mondragon is actually mentioned in both of these,

which I’m happy about.

And in Why on Earth, there’s a non-fiction discussion

of more regenerative and sustainable economic systems.

And in VeridiToss, in the course of the story,

there’s some discussion there as well.

But yeah, facts and figures, what I recall is that with the data

we had in the mid to late 1990s,

the cooperatives were doing something

around $5 billion a year US equivalent

in annual revenue in their financial arm.

They essentially have their own banking and finance arm

that I’d love to ask you about as well.

I guess they were managing somewhere

in the vicinity of $6 billion US equivalent in assets

around that time.

And I assume that’s changed a bit.

I don’t know if you have those figures off the top of your head.

I don’t have the latest.

The last I did see was $24 billion.


I know what that’s going.

That’s revenue or assets that are managed.

Yeah, I’m not good on this stuff.

I haven’t really paid attention.

I should have looked this up before it’s flipped today,

but I didn’t.

No problem.

I don’t know off the top of my head what it is.

But they do have their own banking system,

which has made a huge difference.

And it’s the reason why the cooperative movement there

has grown like it has.

They really helped it grow.

And I think Father Evers Mindy had yet to have that vision

that we have to have a bank if this is going

to be a viable alternative.

And he actually forged the names of two other people

because they didn’t see any reason to have a bank who

are part of the cooperatives at the time.

He just forged their names, put the papers to the government,

and established the bank.

And the others who didn’t want to sign something,

well, we don’t know I think about banking.

We’ve never worked in a bank.

And as well, you’ll learn.

They did.

So today, their bank has about 400 branches

or located all over Spain.

They’re not just in the vast region.

It’s Laveral Kucha is the name of the bank.

And yeah, so they got their tentacles

in all different parts of an economy, which is why they thrived,

I think.

One of the reasons, the culture is what I’m more interested in

in a way, I’m not a finance person,

but I’m really interested in how the culture supports

this kind of an economic model.

And it does.

And our seminar over years, over the years,

has brought in more of those parts of the culture

that show why this worked there and why it continues

to thrive.

And last year, we had a meeting with the mayor

of Madrigan, a woman in her, I think, maybe early to mid-40s.

And she was elected the mayor when she was 35.

She’s going to run for her third term this year.

And the representative of Madrigan said she’ll win again.

A lovely person who speaks fluent English

and have a session that fits in the parliament building

in Madrigan, and I’m going to request it again this year.

Oh, fabulous.

And I’m really hoping we’ll get a chance

to do some amazing additional podcast interviews

when we’re over there.

And yeah, with the bank revenue figures and whatever

else we can provide, I’ll see if we can add that

into the show notes.

And yeah, I mean, 24 billion a year plus or minus

is substantial, whether it’s revenue or assets

under management.

It’s significant.

And I remember hearing that they even

had a manufacturing facility here in the United States

or maybe are still operating it.

I don’t know if they can do that.

They do.

One of the ones that I know about

is they make or Bayon bicycles, which are racing bikes.

And they’re so light.

I could pick it up with one hand.

A friend of mine has one.

And it’s just unbelievable how light it is.

So racers use them a lot.

And they have a manufacturing plant in Alabama actually.


Yeah, yeah, fabulous.

And speaking of the culture and the economy,

we recently concluded a four-part regeneration

Renaissance series and split that into ecology, culture,

and economy.

And it seems to me all three are so important

for the challenges and opportunities

we’re all sharing here on planet Earth currently.

And it seems to me that Mondragon has done such an exemplary

job with all three of those.

And I’m curious if you know of any other ecological

regenerative work they’ve done in the region

they’re in addition to the agricultural work.

Is that something that you’ve noticed

traveling around that region?

You mean environmentally sustainable?

It’s not something at first that they were so focused on.

They are now.

But even when I first went there in 2008,

it just looked like everything was so well cared for,

so well managed.

Nothing excessive.

They don’t have this overuse of things that we have, I guess.

So there’s always been a certain sense in the society

of enough again.

So there isn’t this, what can I put it?

They live sustainably.

They don’t have to try to live sustainably.

It’s like they already do.

And I think some of the things that they’re focused on now

is hitting certain goals, which I mentioned in the essay.

I did right.

The goals that the government, the vast government,

is attempting to reach by 2030, 2050.

And they are on track to do that.

And they’re part of the Paris Accords.

They go to the Kant meetings.

Their parliament is very engaged in meeting

sustainability markers, at least by 2030.

So they’re on the road to this.

They weren’t 10 years ago, but they are now.

That’s fun.

And they move quickly.

As I mentioned in the article that I wrote,

is when they decide to do something,

it’s not a huge thing that they spend a year writing proposals

about or doing research studies about.

They say, OK, let’s have a meeting, and then we do it.

And one of the examples of that was when COVID broke out,

the Spanish government realized they

were really unprepared.

They didn’t have masks for the health care workers,

and they needed to get them fast.

So they contacted Monitoring, and they

contacted two Monitoring Cooperatives,

one that makes medical supplies.

And they asked them if they could do it quickly.

Within a week, they had some of them out already.

Within a month, they had, I think, 10 million masks created.

So this is the way they worked.

They worked quickly.

They worked efficiently.

And if they haven’t done something two years ago,

they can have it going now.

They’re very efficient.

And that’s something that, when I see how difficult it is

to get environmental laws passed here, even in California,

there have to be these studies.

And then there’s more studies and then there’s meetings.

They don’t do that there.

I mean, they may have the meetings and studies,

but it’s quick.

It’s not a year or a two year or not another review.

I mean, we have so many assembly blocks.

They don’t work that way.

They work on getting things done.

And it’s inspiring.

Sometimes working here politically is so frustrating.


Because you’re working against corporations

that are fighting you on every sustainability measure

you want to put through.

And there, they don’t have that.

It’s just different.

It’s so inspiring.

I just wrote joy and deficiency.

It’s what a way to be.

What a way to be.

As you can see, I’m very much a Huffici Anato of Mondragon.

And I remember the first couple of years I went, people said,

well, after you’ve gone a few years,

the romance will wear off.

Well, you know what?

It hasn’t.

And it’s been 15 years.

Because I learn new things every time I go.

And they do new things every time.

There’s something new every time we go.

That is quite a, quite a testament.

That’s so beautiful.

Let me, Georgia, remind our audience.

This is the YonEarth Community Podcast.

I’m your host, Aaron William Perry.

Today we’re visiting with Georgia Kelly,

the executive director of the Praxis Peace Institute,

which hosts an annual week long immersive experience

with the Mondragon cooperatives in the Basque region of Spain.

And if you’re just joining, you can join this year’s experience,

which is in September, September 10 to 16, 2023.

We still have some spots available.

I’m saying week, because I’m assuming I’m going to go.

I hope you are.

Yeah, I hope so, too, Georgia.

And you can find more information and connect with Georgia

at PraxisPeace.org.

That’s PR-A-X-I-S-P-S-D-O-R-G.

Also, she has a YouTube channel for the Praxis Peace Institute.

The handle is at ppi536.

We’ll include these links in the show notes, of course.

And I want to be sure to mention and think our sponsors and supporters

who make our YonEarth Community Podcast possible.

This includes Chelsea Green Publishing.

And you can go to YonEarth.org slash Partners Dash Supporters

to find special deals with many of our partners and supporters.

And with Chelsea Green, they’re offering a 35% discount

on their books, audio books, et cetera.

So you can click through from the YonEarth.org website

to take advantage of that.

Purium organic superfoods love these, use them every day.

They’re great.

We’ve had an episode with David Sandivall, the founder and CEO

of Purium, of course, Earth Hero, sustainable home, supplies

and more, much, much more pet supplies, home supplies.

Check them out.

Weylay waters and soil works.

We want to make sure we have a moment to share about our regeneratively

and biodynamically grown hemp infused aroma therapy soaking salts.

This is a little social enterprise.

We sit up incubated within the YonEarth community

and the proceeds go to support our nonprofit, the YonEarth community.

And we have many different aroma therapy blends.

And similarly, we’ve got soil works.

This is for the garden, for the house plants, for the yard.

This is a beautiful biodynamic blend of soil amendments

for your enjoyment with the plants and the critters

and the birds and bees and pollinators.

And finally, want to be sure to thank all of our ambassadors

and everybody who’s engaged with our monthly giving program.

And if you haven’t yet, and you’d like to set up a monthly donation

at any level, you can click on the donate button at WhyOn earth.org.

If you give it $33 or greater, we’ll send you, as a thank you,

a jar of the Weylay water soaking salts each month,

or possibly three or five jars, depending on your giving level.

So it’s another set of examples of some of the regenerative

and sustainability oriented economic systems

that we’re helping to plant and sprout and grow and water

here on this side of the Atlantic Ocean.

And yeah, George, I wanted to share a quote from

Father Ariz Mendias, as I guess you say, for shorts.

He’s quoted and says, 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.

And you had mentioned earlier that there’s this sense

of social justice and working for social justice

at the heart of the Mondragon cooperatives.

And I know Universal Nature is one of the principles

that is articulated.

And I was hoping you could share with us a bit

about what you know this community to be doing

when it comes to peace, justice, democracy, human dignity, et cetera.

Well, that’s where I’ve kind of gone a little bit

outside the cooperatives into the culture

because I think the vast parliament has

does a lot of that work and the NGOs do as well.

When we first went to Mondragon for a few years,

they used to take us to a peace center

that was located on the grounds of a monastery

in Ransesu, which is not far from Mondragon.

And that peace center now is located somewhere else.

But we always went there and I thought,

well, what is the connection between the peace center

and that, and I never quite totally knew what it was,

but they used to take us there.

And then when the director was no longer ahead of it

because he had been made the head of the peace department

in the parliament, we didn’t go there anymore.

I said, well, let’s go meet him in the parliament.

So they got permission for our group to go through the parliament

and have a session with him.

He’s written some books on conflict resolution

and had a deal with conflict.

His name is Yonan Fernandez

and an incredible peace maker.

He is really responsible for the ETA or ETA,

which was the vast terrorist organization.

It no longer exists.

And he was one of the people who spearheaded the talks.

They were really truth and reconciliation processes

with the perpetrators and victims of ETA violence.

And that group actually dissolved itself

after I think eight years of these talks

and bringing in other peace makers,

that’s a longer story.

But it shows the intent when he accomplished that,

the parliament decided, okay, we need a department of peace

and people feed the head of it.

So it’s saying that opportunity.

Again, it’s the efficiency with the vision.

They see what this man accomplished.

They see, okay, this is the time

to create a department of peace.

He will be head of it.

And these are the things that we can figure out

that will work on.

So now they work with prisoners.

They work in the society differently.

They’ve reoriented their focus

because they don’t have a terrorist organization anymore.

That was handled.

So these kinds of projects

and the way they work and listening to all of the stakeholders.

They don’t just listen to the people with the power.

They listen to everybody.

And in that process, everybody hears everyone else.

And it works extraordinarily well.

And again, it takes maturity.

It takes the understanding that you don’t have all the answers

and that you’re willing to hear

other people’s experiences.

It’s a discipline.

I don’t think it comes to any of this naturally,

but they are ahead of us in this work by far

as a society.

Yeah, so much of what you describe

with respect to the culture

reminds me of several of the indigenous communities

that I’m connected to, including the Mohawk,

where I have some of my own ethnic heritage.

And my friends, my relatives in the Mohawk nation

also have a very inclusive approach to governance.

And actually the framers and founders

of the democracy here, the Republic of the United States

took some inspirational direction from the Mohawk

and the other tribes in the Erkoi Confederacy.

And I’m curious, do you have a sense

that the Basque people have a type of indigeneity?

It’s almost a deeper connection with that region

with each other culturally than perhaps we find

in some of the other Western countries.

Probably, I mean, that’s certainly the assumption.

And they were cut off from different parts of Europe

for a long, long time.

And their language is related to no other language

on the planet.

So they’re very unique and part of what

was the isolation, I think.

But the fact that their language is so unique

is very interesting.

And when was it not been able to connect it

to any other known language?

Maybe at some point they will, but they haven’t so far.

I always joke with them that it’s probably

came from Atlantis, and some of them made it to shore

and they kept the language alive.

But it is an Indo-European, like all the languages

that surround it, or any other.

So it’s a unique community in probably many ways

that I don’t understand, but I’m still studying it

because I’m fascinated by it.

Well, Georgia, I am as well.

And so grateful for this opportunity

to learn from you today and really looking forward

to hopefully joining you on this adventure in September.

And before we sign off from our podcast discussion,

of course, in a few minutes we’ll

do our Behind the Scenes Chat, which

is available to our Ambassador Network.

If anyone in our audience would like to become an ambassador

and you can just find the page called Become an Ambassador

on the Y-North.org website and you’ll

get walked through the simple steps to do so.

So before we have our Behind the Scenes Chat, Georgia,

and I guess I’ll probably end up asking you a little bit

about some food items when we do that among other things.

I just wanted to open the floor to you in case there’s

anything else you’d like to say or share

with our audience before we sign off.

And thank you so much for taking the time

to visit with us today.

Well, thank you for having me on, Erin.

I really enjoyed the discussion with you.

And I think one thing I want to tell people

is we do have a whole page on Mondragon

on the Praxis Piece website.

And that page tells all about the program

that we do at the Mondragon Cooperative.

So people can find out a lot about it.

And they can also email me, Georgia at Praxis Piece.org.

And we can set up a time to talk if they would like to do that

to give you more information about the actual program.

So we’ll just put that out there.

And then to go to our YouTube channel

because we do have several programs that are free

and people can watch that are really interesting.

I interview a lot of people like Erin does.

So you can go see some of those programs on our site.

That’s so wonderful.

And it reminds me, as we were preparing for our interview today,

you noticed the book by Bernard Leiter over my shoulder

here on the shelf, The Future of Money,

which is such an important piece of work for both of us.

And both of us had the opportunity

to get to know Bernard reasonably well

before his passing a couple of years ago.

And of course, you got to know him really well.

And maybe as a beautiful little honoring, you know,

the homage to Bernard and his incredible work

around regenerative finance and economics.

You could share with us just a wee bit

about your beautiful friendship with Bernard.

Well, Bernard was actually a neighbor of mine.

When I lived in Nile Valley, he lived just behind me on the hill.

And sometimes we would just talk from our backyards.

But when we got together, probably at least three times a week,

either for lunch or coffee or tea,

where we would talk about the books he was reading

to prepare for writing that book, The Future of Money.

So I started reading all the same books

so we could talk about them.

And it was a fascinating learning experience for me.

I think Bernard was like a mentor.

I learned so much in that process.

And one of the books that he read,

because he was very into the inside of currency.

And one of the books he read was the creation

of the patriarchy by Gerda Learner, which is a profound book.

And certainly changed the way I see a lot of things.

Brilliant woman, she passed a few years ago, also in her 90s.

But an extraordinary book, The Creation of Patriarchy.

I learned a lot from it, so did he,

incorporated ideas from it in his book.

And we read a lot of the same books together

and had these discussions.

So it was a rich time of learning in my life.


Can you tell us again the author of Creation of the Patriarchy?

Yes, it’s Gerda Learner, and we are any are.

OK, that’s absolutely wonderful.

And I like to share with folks for anybody

who’s interested in regenerative finance,

stewardship economics, even interested

in what cryptocurrencies and digital currencies

can do for the betterment of our world.

I recommend humbly that Bernard Leotard’s book,

The Future of Money, is Must Reading.

And what a joy to visit today, Georgia.

And I’m so happy not only that we could record this interview,

but also that we’re connected and collaborating

on some other fronts now as well.

And once again, thanks so much for joining us today.

Thank you.

Talk to you later.


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