What's a Co-op Anyway? Mondragón Today.

Sept. 18, 2011 by Philip Beard

GoLocal co-founder Philip Beard reports on this week's intensive seminar in Mondragón, Basque Country (Spain), studying the world's most successful worker-owned cooperative movement.

What's a Co-op Anyway?  Mondragón Today.

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Greetings, Dear Readers in Sonoma County and beyond, from the lovely, currently rainy town of  Arrasate/Mondragón in the Basque Country of northern Spain.  (Arrasate is the age-old Basque name for the town in the unique, mysterious Basque language called Euskera, pronounced ayooSCARE-a.)  I’m here for a weeklong seminar that begins tomorrow under the auspices of Sonoma’s Praxis Peace Institute and the Mondragón Cooperative Corporation (MCC).Twenty-five of us North Americans will be studying the history, philosophy, and business practices of the worker-owned co-ops that make up the MCC – looking for ideas and practices that can be applied to our various enterprises in the U.S.  In my case, of course, that would be the GoLocal Cooperative of Sonoma County.

So the theme of this weeklong blog will be: What can GoLocal learn from the Mondragón cooperatives?  How might we put these lessons to best use?

My first evening here, I had dinner with Georgia Kelly, the co-organizer of the seminar, and Ellen Brown, author of “The Web of Debt” and a strong promoter of “public banking” in the U.S. Our main discussion topic was AB750, the bill currently before Gov. Brown on setting up a commission to study the feasibility of creating a public-owned California central bank.  Ellen argues that the state treasury, instead of sending its $62 billion “investment pool” money to Wall St. brokers and paying them to invest it wherever, could put it in public-benefit California projects via a publicly owned bank.  This and like measures would put the state back on stable fiscal footing in a very short time. (For more info on what that’s all about, go to Public Banking Institute's site.  And if you haven’t already done so, use the link there to urge Jerry Brown to sign that bill!)

This afternoon the rest of the group arrived.  Mikel Lezamiz, the MCC “Director of Corporate Dissemination”, came to our hotel at 7 o’clock to greet us and tell us a bit about the week’s program.  (Plus more than any of us jet-lagged creatures wanted to hear about Euskera grammar…)    It’s an intriguing group, ranging in age from 19 to over 70, three of them African Americans from Mississippi, a broad swath of environmental and social activists, about as many women as men.  So the cooperative gospel will be spread in many pockets of the USA when we all return – an exciting prospect.

If you click on the slideshow button at the top of the post, you can see a few photos taken Sunday.  More coming soon.  -- Philip