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The Mondragon Valley is arguably the most iconic and successful example of cooperative enterprise anywhere in the world. Its structure combines unique public-private partnerships, high value manufacturing, industrial focus and co-operative culture, which is pretty unique in terms of Smart Specialisation and Inclusive Growth Strategies. It has also been described as one of the most important sociological phenomena of the 20th century. The cooperative movement was founded in 1956 to provide work and employment to local people at a time of great societal economic need. It has seen significant growth: composed of more than 260 different companies and subsidiaries, with over 75,000 workers in 35 countries, and annual revenues of over €12 billion, this constellation of worker-led ventures describes itself as ‘humanity at work’ (HEALES, HODGSON, RICH, "Humanity at work", The Young Foundation, 2016). However, the valley faces deep global changes of the 21st century that might put the Mondragon model at risk.

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Photo credit: Participatory City: www.participatorycity.org
 

The main challenge to be addressed by this project is what Industry 4.0 and the so-called ‘Next Economy’ (RIFKIN 2008) means for this distinctive employment and territorial economic model. Currently, 25% of the local economy in the valley is based on industrial activity (automotive, machine tool and related sectors), income per capita is 35.000€, unemployment is low (9%) for Spanish standards and the Gini coefficient is still one of the lowest in Europe (25%). All these positive indicators could change if a new approach is not co-created and implemented in order to face employment and income inequalities that robotization, AI and high dependence on fossil fuels is expected to have in industrial areas like this valley. 

This is why they have asked Agirre Lehendakaria Center to help them with the design of this whole process, bringing methodological support, based on our work in the UK and Montreal, and disseminating the process internationally as well.