The Mondragón Corporation is an inspiration.
The largest cooperative in the world, they are a federated network of over 250 co-operative businesses who together are the seventh biggest group in Spain. They employ over 80,000 people, have their own banks, universities, research laboratories and social security systems.
They have proven to be incredibly resilient to the on going economic crisis. Unemployment in the Basque region where they are based is less than half than the rest of Spain (and lower still in the town of Mondragon itself).
- Balance. Between interests and needs; technological imperatives and social needs; financial needs of the firm and economic needs of members; members and management; co-operative and co-operative groups; cooperative groups and the host community.
- Future orientation. Planning must be orientated towards a future well beyond the time when the immediate problem has been solved.
- Organisational self-evaluation. Nothing is ever perfect. Frequent self-critical evaluations need to be built into the structure.
- Openness and non-discrimination. Membership is open to any person who can contribute as a stakeholder.
- Pluralism in politics. There is no identification with any political party or ideology. Individual members can freely express their views.
- Freedom of information for members on all matters relevant to decisions on their rights and responsibilities.
- Complementarity. Individual co-operatives should buy and sell to each other as long as this entails no serious sacrifice.
- Size limitation. This is based on the premiss that it is difficult for an organisation to remain flexible, democratic and efficient when it grows beyond a certain size.
- Formation into groups. Co-operatives associate in groups to achieve economy of scale and reinforce solidarity.
The 1980 documentary above, made by the BBC as part of the Horizon series, is a great introduction to their work, but have a read of these two articles in The Guardian and check out these videos too to learn more: