Cooperative education: key lessons from Andalusia and Mondragon

10 Jul 2022

Cooperative education was on the agenda at the ‘Cooperatives, the time is now!’ event in Seville where delegates heard from educators involved in the social economy sector.

Speakers included José Ariza from the Andalusian School of Social Economy, set up 20 years ago by the Andalusian worker cooperative federation to provide training for social economy actors. It has expanded operations beyond Andalusia and now works with cooperative professionals across Spain and in  Europe and Latin America.

Likewise, the Mondragon Corporation in the Basque Country was an early investor in cooperative education, to help drive its purpose of rebuilding its village from the ruins of the Spanish civil war.

“Education can be key to rebuilding,” said Nagore Ipiña, Dean of the Faculty of Humanities and Education Sciences of Mondragon University.  Mondragon initially opened a school for apprenticeships but then set up various schools, colleges and a university.

“As a university and faculty we have a responsibility to increase the visibility of what we do,” added Ms Ipiña, noting that when they apply to the university many young people don’t know what a cooperative is.

“Training doesn’t have to be theoretical only but also practical,” she said. “We need to help them see what it is to be part of a cooperative.” To that end, a third of the board of directors of the university are students. “We have to be a model for them in how we work, take decisions and create participatory spaces,” added Ms Ipiña.

This approach has a focus on personal development, rather than a given curriculum, tracing how each student evolves.

Leire Uriarte, cooperative researcher at Mondragon University, added that cooperative training needs to be permanent and systemic, as part of a strategy – this is crucial for keeping the cooperative identity alive.

“Cooperative values can be attractive for today’s youth,” she said.

Mondragon

Aitor Lizartza, co-founder of the Mondragon Team Academy entrepreneurship unit at the university, said the unit was formed to help young people cooperate and show them a different way of doing business.   

Watch the full recording from 21 June here (in Spanish).

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