The Mondragon Cooperative Corporation (MCC) began 50 years ago when the Basques were on the losing side of the Spanish Civil War. Their capital city, Guernika, had been leveled by Franco and their language was banned. Their children were leaving. They had lived in the mountains around Mondragon for 1000 years. A Basque priest, who had studied the distributist teachings of the Catholic Church, began to teach classes on self-management of businesses and worked with the community to create an industrial school. The first five graduates of the industrial school, purchased some used equipment and started a stove company, which is now, Fagor, the 3rd largest producer of appliances in Europe. 05-Mondragon-Coop-Spain-aeriel_10026979114_lFagor started 14 years after the priest began his classes on self-management. Shortly thereafter they created a bank to help finance and to provide technical assistance to the various cooperative businesses in their group. The organizing drive to start their community bank was “savings or suitcases”. Fifty years later they have 85,000 people working in 120 companies with €38 billion of assets and annual revenue of €13 billion. Their industrial school is now an engineering and business university. Approximately 20,000 of those working in the co-ops are engineers. The co-ops jointly own second level co-ops that provide insurance, research and development and other services to the co-op companies that own them.

Mondragon’s growth and development was strengthened by its comprehensive approach:

  • 1941 Basque region of Spain - after capital bombed flat - Priest arrives teaching about independence through mutual self-reliance, self-managed businesses and continuous education
  • 1943 created a technical school for area youth to learn work skills
  • 1956 first 5 graduates of the school borrowed money from everyone in town to open the first business – making stoves. They purchased an existing plant and equipment from a nearby town.
  • 1959 created, Caja Laboral, co-op development bank with savings from co-ops and community members
  • 1959 Bank created an entrepreneurial division that provided R&D for all group businesses & hands-on lending
  • 1974 created Ikerlan – Technology R&D center
  • 1991 group of cooperatives incorporate as Mondragon Corporacion Cooperativa (MCC)