March 22, 2023
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One of the key issues I have addressed over the years is ownership – the stranglehold it has at the hands of corporations, financial institutions, and wealthy landlords, and the power and wellbeing workers and communities can realize by building a very different local system.
In this newsletter, I want to call your attention to the remarkable work of my long-time friend and colleague, Georgia Kelly, and the achievements of the Mondragon Cooperatives and the Basque region of Spain.
— David Korten
The Best Local Model for a
Viable Human Future
David Korten |March 22, 2023
As we search for ways to create a viable human future of peace, equality, and environmental health, we are in desperate need of examples that demonstrate such a future is within our human means and suggest pathways to achievement on an ultimately global scale.
I have long followed the work of my friend and colleague Georgia Kelly, who has led group tours to the Basque region of Spain to study the Mondragon Cooperatives for the last 15 years. As Georgia observes “…[T]he Mondragon cooperatives comprise nearly 100 businesses, a university complex, a bank with 380 branches, a supermarket chain, and the largest Research and Development complex in Europe….” All are cooperatively owned and managed by members of the larger Basque community.
Georgia has now written a paper “The Ethics and Values of Cooperative Culture in the Basque Region of Spain” exploring the history and structure of the Mondragon cooperatives within the larger context of the evolving culture and institutions of the Basque region of some 2.2 million people. It explores their inspiring success in implementing each of three defining principles of the Ecological Civilization on which a viable human future depends:
1. Peace: They resolved a major armed conflict and achieved disarmament and reconciliation through negotiation.
2. Equity: They eliminated poverty and achieved significant equality free of disruptive concentrations of wealth and power.
3. Environmental Health: They maintain a beautiful healthy environment and are leaders in environmental care.
Prompted by Georgia’s previous reports on the Mondragon cooperatives, I’ve long marveled at how they are structured and managed to secure commitment to community wellbeing. Each worker—including those with management responsibilities—owns just one share in the corporation. Each share comes with one vote. And that share can only be sold back to the cooperatively owned corporation for purchase by a new worker-owner. Because there are no shares available for public sale, control is forever equitably shared and rooted in the Basque community in which these workers live.
In her new paper, Georgia explores how the other major institutions of the Basque region are structured and managed to serve the wellbeing of people and the place where they live.
The Basque region may be the best model we have for deeply democratic local self-management in an Ecological Civilization. It presents us with a compelling contemporary demonstration that the wellbeing of life in community is within our human means to achieve.
The Basque region has a distinctive history and needs. Its experience is not directly replicable. It is, however, a source of invaluable inspiration and guidance worthy of much deeper examination and sharing.
As Georgia notes at the end of her paper, there are many related efforts underway around the world. And many are engaged in learning together through mutual exchange of lessons from their experience. This gives me hope for the possibility of a viable and spiritually vibrant human future. I urge you to read her paper. Then share and discuss it with friends and colleagues to explore what lessons may be relevant to your community. Or perhaps to a business with which you are affiliated.
“When ownership is local, part of the return to the owners comes from the business’s contributions to the wellbeing of the community in which the owners live. When the business is owned by its workers, workers get the full return on the value of their labor.
David recently joined Larry Greene for a lively discussion – “Building an Ecological Civilization” – on his Navigating Our Future podcast for the San Juan Islands Community Network.
From the Book Shelf …
Agenda for a New Economy (2nd edition)
“The Goal: Create a planetary system of coherent, self-reliant local economies that function as dynamic, life-nurturing sub-systsems of their local ecosystems.
When economies are local and self-reliant, people have more control over their lives and enjoy the full benefit of their labor and investments. When communities focus on sustaining themselves using their own resources rather than appropriating the resources of others, they give more attnetion to living within their environmental means.”
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