Re: continuing: Mondragon and more


Richard Moore

Bcc: contributors

From: dt 
Date: 16 September 2009 02:19:45 IST
To: Richard Moore <•••@••.•••>
Subject: Re: continuing: Mondragon and more

Hi Richard,

Mondragon was still going strong up until a couple of years ago, when I
last checked in on it.  A couple of good books:
From Mondragon to America – Greg Macleod, and
Making Mondragon – Whyte & Whyte
the second one has a very detailed case study of how Mondragon
restructured itself when many of the co-ops had a lot of trouble during
the recession of the early ’80s.  Very open process.  As for the
question of why no one has been able to replicate it’s success
elsewhere, I think has most to do with the speciifc culture and history
of the region: Franco, the Basque people, the incredible vision and
abilities of  Father José María Arizmendiarrieta.

I keep hoping something like that will sprout up elsewhere…

I have also wondered about the currency issues you raised — I can’t
help but think that a local credit system or at the very least a
non-interest, WIR-like bank/credit union could make another Mondragon
elsewhere a lot easier.  (I too believe that Mondragon didn’t need such
a system due to it’s very specific cultural/historical context.  But
then again, surely it wouldn’t have hurt.)


Hi dt,
The most fundamental lesson of Mondragon is that co-operatives can be efficient and competitive as enterprises of all kinds, while better serving their worker-owners at the same time, as compared to the capitalist model. 
Wherever a viable co-operative can be established, a ‘Mondragon seed’ will be planted. We don’t need to think in terms of a whole co-operative city all at once. It might be useful, for example, to identify audiences that might be able to organize a co-operative (a group of recently laid-off skilled workers?), and organize a video showing of the Mondragon material for them.
As I see it, the important thing for us to ‘take away’ from recognizing the value of the Mondragon example, is to ‘keep it in mind’ as life continues to unfold. As we meet people and learn of situations, we can keep our eyes open for fertile soil for co-operative ventures.

From: david moore 
Date: 15 September 2009 23:04:09 IST
To: richard moore <•••@••.•••>
Subject: RE: continuing: Mondragon and more

dave here.
i watched the mondragon videos.
wow !!  it’s just like the hope of the 60’s
actually materialized in the world.

it seems there are lots of reasons that it was able to work there at that time;
and lots of reasons it would be difficult to “make” it happen elsewhere, but
gee! what a terrific model.   


hi dave,
Above I mentioned about any co-operative venture being a ‘seed of Mondragon’. It seems to me that in your own work, when the ER department ‘went independent’, with you as an important change agent in the process, you were planting such a seed. To some extent, the ER was becoming more like a co-operative, with a greater sense of direct ownership by the ER docs, and a closer relationship between value-created and reward-received.
And then in the call center, as one of the doctor-workers, you showed your ‘ownership’ of your role by developing an improved call-handling protocol for the group and for the larger organization. You have been seeding Mondragon principles all along, evolving out of your own experiences and native wisdom. 
Perhaps you will run across yet-another seed-planting opportunity.

From: Andrew MacDonald 
Date: 15 September 2009 20:35:22 IST
To: Richard Moore <•••@••.•••>
Subject: Re: excited by our fledgling efforts

Hi Richard

Thanks for getting back. Like many I appreciate an opportunity to explore vital issues. 
You wrote: “My belief is that there are plenty of activists out there who know the system is broken, and are trying to do something about it. But because they don’t quite understand how broken the system is, and in how many ways it’s broken, they are for the most part pursuing cul de sacs.”
This raises a question we seldom directly address: what actually does help people grow and change? As your observation implies many of us know the system’s broken but the things we know don’t lead us to the solution. You suggest it’s because we don’t know how much it’s broken or in how may ways it is. The implication here is that we could provide crucial data about how it’s broken and this would make a difference. In other words a qualitative difference in info would suffice.

I think we’d continue to make the crucial error which is to assume that the problem is out there, with them. We’d continue to think that we’re not part of the problem. Or if we give some nod to this, we’d just be being a bit modest, while remaining sure the problem’s out there. 

Tom Atlee who you mentioned, and who’s work I much admire recently commented “I see a number of trends converging toward a common ground from fields as diverse as activism, evolutionary spirituality, organizational development, and systems thinking.” They’re all moving into a common pattern and I think what they’re converging on is just this notion, that the solution is intimately connected to ourselves, to who we really are. Tom’s big on the collective intelligence that arises in groups as a place were this becomes evident. That’s been my experience too. I think good groups (in which we don’t lose our autonomy) can be so effective because they connects us to our relational nature – they show us we’re not really alone . . . we just thought we were. I suspect that the answer will be found in a new context. No amount of new information will suffice.

Hi Andrew,

Thanks for continuing some interesting threads.

Information helps, if it can shift an activist to a more effective path, or inspire someone from passivity to activism. Educating the passive Western masses about ‘the realities of the matrix’, however, seems to be of negligible value, and is a losing battle besides. 

The problem is not in us, if one means that in a personal sense – as in, “Your carbon footprint is too big”. We cannot, in general, do other than work within the system that is here, and it is hardly a crime to seek to give one’s family a ‘good life’ as best one can. Yet as long as that system keeps running, civilization and the Earth will keep deteriorating.
The problem is in us, in that it is our responsibility to create the solution, to change the system. As long as we fail to rise to this challenge, this species imperative, we remain in that sense responsible for the problem that-is-not-us, this system, this machine that is out there.
You refer to Tom Atlee’s work around dialog processes and co-intelligence, and to the importance of the realization that we are not alone. Permit me to frame that idea on a broader canvas.
Our normal ‘reality’ is that we are isolated individuals / families in a mass society. Our only way to interact with that society, or to have any effect on it, is by the personal choices we make – where we live, what work we pursue, what we buy or don’t buy, what groups we support, where we travel or don’t travel, who we vote for, etc. 
When we have a certain kind of experience with other people, involving a certain quality of dialog, we can suddenly realize that this isolation is not inevitable after all. Instead of just me-and-the-system there can be us-and-the-system. The big breakthrough in this experience is the realization that a group can become an us, that a higher collective consciousness can come into being, a consciousness that is both powerful and liberating
The ‘little meaning’ of not alone is the realization that others care about the same things we do, or care about us personally. That’s nice. Warm hugs all around, please. The ‘big meaning’ of not alone, is not alone as an active agent in society. That’s profound. Consider that all around, please.
I think all of wisdom can be found in everyday sayings. The trick is to keep them in mind always, and to apply them at every appropriate time – but only at appropriate times. The one that is appropriate now is many hands make light work. Very simple, and always true – but only when the hands can work in harmony. 
We aren’t used to people working in harmony, accept perhaps in their jobs. The realization that people can come into harmony on their own, around real-world issues, opens our vistas of what is possible. Could a whole community come into harmony? Could the many hands of a community make light work of the community’s problems? 
When you realize that isolation is not inevitable, by the direct experience of an us-manifesting event, and when you understand this happened by means of a certain way of communicating, then you know at a visceral level that another world is possible. Cooperation can be just as practical as competition, as an organizing principle. We just need to learn these ways of doing it. Mondragon provides a model at one level, and dialog process provide a model at another level. 
You quote Tom, “the solution is intimately connected to ourselves, to who we really are“. This is so true at so many levels. At the level of us, as a collective political actor, Tom seems to be saying that ‘ourselves are the solution’, and ‘who we really are’ is the savior we’ve been looking for. Truth.
And then at a genetic level, ‘we really are’ social primates, evolved or designed to function in a cohesive and mutually supportive community. This innate social need is ‘intimately connected to ourselves’, and the ‘solution’ is to recreate such a culture. Also truth.

From: DeAnna Martin <•••@••.•••>
Date: 16 September 2009 01:01:11 IST
Subject: [WC] Jim Rough & Dr. Manfred Hellrigl to present in San Diego 9/23/09

Hi DF’ers and Wisdom Council Enthusiasts!

 This is a special notice for those of you
living in or near San Diego, CA and those of you who know people who do!

We’d love for you to attend, or forward this on to those who would want to
attend, a presentation next Wednesday, Sept. 23rd, from 7-9 PM in San Diego.

A flier is attached with details… Thanks in advance for your help!
– DeAnna

A brief description is also provided here:

How “We the People” of California Can Come Together and Find Solutions to
the Challenges in Our Communities

WHEN: Wednesday, September 23rd, 2009, 7:00 – 9:00 PM

WHERE: Center for Social Justice, Lincoln High School – Rooms 553 & 554,
4777 Imperial Ave, San Diego, CA 92113

WHAT: An introduction to Dynamic Facilitation and Wisdom Councils with
author, Jim Rough, of “Society’s Breakthrough: Releasing essential virtue
and wisdom in all the people” and Dr. Manfred Hellrigl, director of the
Department for Future Related Issues in Austria. Learn strategies for making
practical progress on California’s public issues and hear how Austria is
currently applying these social inventions in different cities.

Co-sponsored by San Diego Common Cause, Empower San Diego, the League of
Women Voters-San Diego, Plan of Action in a Changing Era.

Light refreshments will be served. $5 suggested donation (to benefit the
Center for Social Justice student organization). No one turned away for lack
of funds.


Hi DeAnna,

Thanks for this event, I hope our readers in San Diego will avail of the opportunity. The Wisdom Councils in Austria were particularly impressive, and hearing what Manfred has to say will be a special treat. Is there any possibility of recording and uploading the audio of the event?

best wishes,

From: “Madeline Bruce”
Date: 15 September 2009 19:18:17 IST
Subject: Re: continuing: Mondragon and more

Open discussion, in any situation, has gone out of style, and it is to the detriment of our society, of our world, as if that needs saying.  People are feeling afraid, with this shrinking economy, and rising unemployment.  Now is definitely the time when we should be looking at each other, and talking to each other rather than to our leaders, who have lost the ball.  Human beings are capable of incredible things, but we have lost much by our complaisant reliance on the system, the Matrix, to meet all our needs. Human beings survived well in the Arctic, making homes and lives and families out of nothing more than ice and fish and seals.  To rely on greedy Wall Street Sharks, who don’t know how to do anything but make themselves rich was a big mistake.  Now it is time to move on, with our own lives and communites, in a manageable, sober way.  Let’s start with small meetings of interested people in our own homes, and take it from there. – Madeline Bruce, Nanaimo, B. C.

Mi Madeline,
Well put! And your sense of urgency is well expressed. Starting with small groups in our homes makes sense to me. In your case, you might want to make it women only at the beginning, given some of the experiences you have reported.


From: herb
Date: 15 September 2009 17:19:54 IST
Subject: Re: continuing: Mondragon and more

rkm> The problem is tyranny, and the answer is democracy

Martin Bubber said the problem was education vs. propaganda.  Regardless, people must be ready to accept real democracy (which for me is some form of direct, as in Mondragon, rather than representational democracy).  Disaster is going to make retooling the thinking of the formerly privileged US (and European for that matter) peoples thinking a lot easier than it is now in the afterglow of the orgy of consumption that marked the last half of the twentieth century.  Direct democracy is a natural impulse and is recapitulated through out the social species.  It is not, as erroneously presumed, the alpha male that decides where the group is going, it is actually the development of consensus in the herd that leads to a change of direction of a flock of birds, or a herd of herbivores.

What I see us struggling against is not tyranny, in the political sense, which I see as more of a symptom of the real problem of domestication of humans by other humans, an extension of the domestication behaviors directed towards likely animals early in our development.  The methods of domestication, chiefly involving training of the animal to see “their” human as a source of security, are readily adapted by dominant individuals to the work of domesticating their fellow humans.  There are a lot of sources in the anarchist literature that explore this idea, but the basic idea is to disabuse folks of the false wisdom that says dependency is a good thing.  It is the animal slated for slaughter that gets the best feed.

The strength to resist domestication (and outright domination and exploitation) comes from locally organized groups that are inclusive and not mere membership organizations.  To this end I am participating with a group of high school students here in Missoula who are canvassing door to door with the idea of instigating local community solidarity by giving folks a chance to tell their personal stories and thereby creating an opening for further organization when the need is felt more strongly.  Our hope is to introduce neighbors to the experience of local, directly democratic organizing based on shared experience and goals.  No revolution planned, but we must crawl before we can walk.

Mondragon, beautiful as it is, is no surprise.  The Basque have millennia of experience organizing themselves along clan lines and resisting oppression, often successfully.  They were walking before they began running.

Humble goals are the most important ones to beginnings and the hardest to generate enthusiasm for since folks have become addicted to spectacle.


Hi Herb,
Thanks for some very useful insights. 
I agree that domestication is an important concept in these discussions. A domesticated animal does not know how to provide for itself according to its own nature. It can only conform to its confinement regime, and thereby receive sustenance. Our confinement regime is civilization, we conform by taking jobs, and thereby receive sustenance. We have no more control over this regime than a sheep has over which pasture he is led to. 
I really like your project, with students gathering stories from folks. Everyone who participates is being valued and listened to. That is exactly how inclusiveness can be achieved. You are off to a good start, if only a crawl. 
What will you be doing with the stories? A document? website? CD? Will you include photos?

From: Ed Goertzen 
Date: 15 September 2009 14:16:40 IST
To: Richard Moore <•••@••.•••>
Subject: A Way out of the mess

Hi Richard:

It has long been my belief that you/we are on the right track with the idea of community regeneration. 
Our local Government abolished the electoral ward system (6 wards) and set up a ‘city at large’ electoral system, thus distancing the representation further from the people. 

One person can represent about 100- 300 (As Did Edmund Burke, but cannot possibly know and represent 100,000.
I’m currently trying to set up an organizational structure that will represent what you call community and I call neighbourhood.

By using and defining the Canada Elections poll area as neighbourhood of average 300 persons, about 100 of whom may have some clue as to how we are governed, and having them represent that area, with some training, we may be able to do what Henry VIII did, as below. 

Ed G

History of the English Speaking Peoples. by Sir Winston Churchill 
Chapter – Cardinal Wolsley – Pp 42

Thus it was that this system of arbitrary government, however despotic in theory, however contrary to the principles believed to lie behind Magna Carta, in fact rested tacitly on the real will of the people.  Henry VIII, like his father, found an institution ready to his hand in the unpaid Justice of the Peace, the local squire or landlord, and taught him to govern.  Rules and regulations of remarkable complexity were given to the Justice to administer; and later in the century Justices’ manuals were produced, which ran through innumerable editions and covered almost every contingency which could arise in country life.
     (Note: The ancient Knights did not merely ‘rescue maidens in distress’, but in reality acted as both the king’s law enforcer and refusing, on behalf of the people, to enforce any dumb laws that might be decreed. In doing so, acting as precursor to the current “Justices of the Peace”, who ALLOW charges to be laid by police.) 

Hi Ed,
There are many ways we can imagine improving our election systems. I certainly agree that a direct connection between representatives and a relatively small constituency is one of the best ideas going. There is also much to be gained from initiatives, referenda, and recalls. And from things like proportional representation, and multi-choice voting, depending on the situation and scale. We could also talk about campaign and funding reform, and balanced media coverage of candidates and their positions.
But when all is said and one, these kinds of reform efforts are facing a losing battle these days. Not only that, but electoral politics in its very essence is not capable of delivering democratic governance. Once you get beyond the local level, electoral systems have always evolved into competing-party systems. This is in some sense a reflection of the ‘need for community’ among the population of politicians. 
In any case, we end up with parties that compete for power by means of competing for constituencies. They all start out with grand principles, like the Greens. But the inherent dynamics of political realities always lead to the corrupt systems we have everywhere in the West. Parties have always two faces. One face is turned toward the public, making promises that are never kept. The other face is turned toward the campaign funders, and the power brokers, and that face is making deals that stick.