Cooperation as a lever for social innovation
The dynamism and relevance of social entrepreneurs appeared evident in the presence of Ana Aguirre, Markel Gilbert Gutierrez and Iñigo Ibiriku , three young people from a recent promotion of Mondragón University. Mondragón University belongs to the Mondragón Cooperative Corporation, the largest and most emblematic of Spain and possibly Europe. The Mondragón Corporation owns as many companies as the Cuypstraat Albert Amsterdam market has stands (over 300) .
At dinner , Ana explains that despite this venerable position, Fagor, the founding company of the group, is already in deep trouble. It has shut down, leaving 1,800 jobs lost (see this report from France 24). The market for household electrical equipment, specialty Fagor is in significant decline, the population equipping less. The explanation given by Ana seems a little short. In a changing economic environment, being part of a cooperative group should not remove a company ‘s ability to innovate. Mondragón situation also illustrates the social tensions and changes in social economy in the current context, marked by short-term oriented policies and fragmentation of engagements.
Not withstanding the situation of the Mondragón group, the cooperative model has been chosen by the 3 young people from Mondragón University to develop their business to promote social innovation. Their enthusiasm is utterly contagious. Their cooperative is called Tazebaez, Basque phrase meaning “Why not?”.
Human relations in the workplace, and interpersonal communication are the most important elements that catalyze social innovation. Tested in China, Spain and elsewhere, this inter-personal and intelligent approach, arguably Slow of consulancy and coaching towards more cooperative and sustainable models, was one of the factors encouraging remarkable changes in some of the conventional companies approached. Social dialogue was for example finally established between Chinese workers and managers of a large Western company based in China.
Portraits SOIAeu © Pierre Johnson 2/4