[permaculture] Mondragon and Permaculture Worker Cooperatives

grifenhope at gmail.com grifenhope at gmail.com
Fri Nov 6 15:34:26 EST 2009

Gracias nick, who is the international permaculture council? And do you know how they are planning to assist institutes like Instituto chileno de permacultura en Chile, or someone I can talk to?  We are presently in the atacama desert on tour, contemplating 0-4mm of rain per year...and a Chilean permaculture cooperative. Love from us, Grifen and Javiera
-----Original Message-----
From: Permaculture Cooperative <permaculturecoop at gmail.com>
Date: Fri, 6 Nov 2009 12:03:29 
To: <permaculture at lists.ibiblio.org>; Evan Schoepke<thejulianeffect at gmail.com>; kirstie stramler<spiggygogo at gmail.com>
Subject: [permaculture] Mondragon and Permaculture Worker Cooperatives

hi all

let me chime in with some quick observations (actually its a brain dump,
again, will post this to a blog and tidy-up later)

1. in the 1983 PDC that are available as MP3, Bill Mollison talks at length
about the Mondragon Cooperative (along with Commonworks etc) as an
organisational framework - a natural order of People Care, Fair Share - that
permaculture projects ought use. I actually found these just before we went
to Mondragon (such is life!). Also, re-reading the Permaculture Designers
Manual he has a couple of references again to it in the Alternative Nation
section towards the end of the book. In the 1983 PDC talks he ends by saying
something like "I think I will go and pay the Mondragon cooperators a
visit". As far as I know - which isnt much, he never did. And judging from
the conservative, industrial, mass-consumer framework of the Mondragon
Cooperatives - who in the 1980s would of been immersed and adapting to the
end of Franco's regime, the enslaught of global neoliberalism i.e.
outsourcing, multinationals moving into the local markets etc... Bill may of
simply bounced straight-off the Mondragon Experience. IMHO the Basque
language and culture are one kind of self-protection mechanism for the
Arrasate locals and also the Mondragon Cooperators. Also the highly
developed internal "corporate culture" act as a auto-immune system.
Protecting them from the outside.

2. cooperatives (especially worker cooperatives) in the advanced industrial
societies are the opposite to the modern tyrannical corporation (with all
its pathologies). i.e. worker ownership and self-management, vs wage slavery
and top-down decision making etc.. the cooperative sector has been under
systematic attack from the state and the business community for the last 30
years. For instance, a single example (and there are many others) is the
chart that maps the number of cooperative organic distributors in the USA.
In 1982 there were 28 consumer cooperative distributors. Today there is just
1. http://www.msu.edu/~howardp/coopmap.pdf
https://www.msu.edu/~howardp/organicdistributors.html This pattern is
repeated in Australia (New Labor), UK (Thatcher), USA (Reagan) with credit
unions, mutual societies, food cooperatives, consumer cooperatives. etc. The
entire social economy, along with the social-welfare state is being
systematically dismantled by neoliberalism and being replaced with the
rapacious corporate state-capitalism we are now joyously living under. As
the saying says "you might not be interested in politics, but politics is
interested in you."

3. the permaculture pioneers, along with everybody else (from the Arctic to
the outer-space) have been forced to adapt to the realities of this form of
globalisation. And so as cooperative and social forms of organisation are
being systematically being dismantled we are being sold a entrepreneurial
story (a lie). The permaculture pioneers where forced to survive in this
increasingly hostile market economy, with its tendency towards concentration
of ownership and control.

4. I agree that there is an entire generation of babyboomer, and now later,
permaculture pioneers that need support with succession. this was actually
one of the first ideas discussed in Australia for a horizontal Permaculture
Cooperative. I actually registered the domain www.Permaculture.coop (and
paid for it with mine and kirsties money) under trust with Tagari (Bill
Mollison). This support service would be a worker cooperative and provide
administrative, marketing, finance, legal, IT and also perennial
polyculture-style ecological farming services. On many farms, sites,
communes, communities etc... the founders are really at retiring age, and
want a succession, and sometimes will find a WWOOFer with abilities and will
to help that transition. But immediatley there is a power imbalance. The
WWOOFer is living precariously (usually) and has little support from any
kind of succession planning organisation i.e. a global Permaculture.Coop.
Succession takes time, money, knowledge and services. Often the WWoofer and
the Pioneer are burning-out (if they arent already) trying to do too much.
Eventually something gives, an argument ensues and the there is no Social
Council (as in Mondragon) or any kind of third-party mechanism for
resolution. So the Pioneers that survive are still running things basically
by themselves and are essentially bosses to the workers around them, that
come and go. They literally have no ownership of the permaculture operation;
financial or decision making. If you dig below the surface and actually TALK
to many WWOOFers, permies etc the stories of exploitation, arguments,
falling-outs etc are legion. Indeed for many this is the Permaculture story.
And it comes all the way from the top of the teacher-student hierarchy down
to the smallest operation. Often its not an intentional, I am going to
exploit you situation. Its a reality of survival. The Permaculture Pioneer
is working abnormally long hours, and expects all around them to do the
same. The fact that there is little pooling of resources .i.e. services,
finance, equipment... on an organised and global framework makes harder work

5. I havent followed this up, but I learned that the Dutch Permaculture
School has made itself into a cooperative so that projects launched as part
of the PDC design project have an organisational home.

6. I had a kitchen meeting with Andy Goldring of Permaculture Association of
Britain about a permaculture worker cooperative and he shared my view, that
to scale-up and sustain BIG industrial ecology style permaculture projects,
a worker-cooperative (or UK style Rochdale cooperative as in the Cooperative
Group of the UK) was a natural phase in organisational evolution.
Some groups in the UK are Radical Routes secondary cooperative and Rootstock
social investments division.
Eastside Roots in Bristol.
The UK cooperative scene is deep and rich and I am hoping to research and
develop within this culture.

5. Also had a good chat with Ben Brangwyn, a co-founder of the Transition
Network (of Transition Town Totnes). The famous Transition Towns Totnes, has
started a cooperative, an Industrial Provident Society (I think) a kind of
credit union for the Totnes Pound. Interestingly the Totnes Pound section of
the website is twice as busy as an other section and the in public meetings
its also the most asked about the Transition Towns process. For the
Transition (Transition Towns) Movement there big problem now they have
raised a lot of awareness and interest and now are faced with Project
Delivery and Implementation. I expect to see more Transition cooperatives...

6. In the USA, there is an re-emergant interest in social economy networks.
Have recently started to email the SEN and share some of the permaculture
worker cooperative research. The US Social Forum 2010 is in Detroit
http://www.ussf2010.org/, where there is a lot of food justice, worker
cooperative and sustainability style renewal going on now the big
auto-makers have imploded and been bailed-out by the state-capitalists.
Mondragon is also working with the United Steel Workers (one of the only
real unions in the USA) to work on setting-up Mondragon style worker


Micheal Moores movie Capitalism a Love Story
http://permaculture.tv/?p=739 features
lost footage of FDR talking about an Economic Bill of Rights and features
worker cooperatives. http://permaculture.tv/?p=844

we have the domain WorkerCooperatives.com and have been threatining to
set-up a video blog like Permaculture TV.

*Food Rebellions *

*The Nation* has caused a splash, with a feature issue called “Food
For All<http://www.thenation.com/doc/20090921>”
about food activism from US coast to
A decent, if shallow and unimaginative critique “Cornucopia
in that edition, calls for food activists to go beyond evangalism, for
enduring institutional arrangements that go beyond informal volunteer driven
local community efforts. Our focus has been worker cooperative
organisations: Mondragon, Radical Routes etc.

These networks are forming, In Oakland, the Network of Bay Area Workers
Cooperatives <http://www.nobawc.org/> and other groups have formed
JASecon <http://jasecon.org/>
for *Just Alternative Sustainable Economy* and hosting a *Grassroots Economy
Festival* at the Humanist Hall <http://www.humanisthall.net/>. We visited
some of these organisations earlier this year, and like Radical
the UK and Mondragon
Basque Country the resilience comes from a network or group of cooperation.

Another article from *The Nation* is about Detroits “Quiet
the food justice movement in Detroit, which will host the USA Social Forum
in 2010 <http://www.ussf2010.org/>.

7. Brazilian Permaculture Worker cooperatives- in relation to Jorgen's
direct question about avoiding mistakes, think about giving ownership of
decisions and the organisation to the people involved. Perhaps it would be a
multi-stakeholder hybrid model. i.e. teachers, students, workers,
community... I have some notes from the Mondragon talk and a PPT that I
hesitate to post to the web, but will email privately. Also have a video
that needs uploading.

8. Permaculture Worker Cooperative Movement - we have been thinking that
permaculture worker cooperatives need to become a movement, perhaps with a
unique flavor of education, part permaculture, part worker cooperative


9. Lastly, I have just had an interview with Tony Andersen, permaculture
organiser of the Klimaforum09 (the climate social forum preceeding COP15) in
Copenhagen this Dec 7-18. The International Permaculture Council has
developed a strategy for dealing with Climate Change. They call it 10 000
Trees. Basically they think that 5-7 metres of sea-level rise is inevitable,
its intertia/momentum in the climate/global ecology and we can try to stop
the planet from mega-death if we plant something like 5000-7000 trees per
person in the next 25 years (most of the sequestered carbon is in the soil
within the perennial polyculture agroecology). We also need to reduce C02
emissions down to 1 tonne per person. They see Permaculture Institutes (and
in my view a permaculture worker cooperative movement) as the key to
success. I have 30 minutes of interview that I will be posting ASAP. More
http://permaculture.tv/?p=1079 http://permaculture.tv/?tag=tony-andersen


10. A Transition/Succession to Permaculture Mondragon Complex: education at
Mondragon is subsidised by the industrial cooperatives. the Mondragon
University doesnt make money. it loses money. It is possible for students at
Mondragon to work part-time within the cooperatives to help pay for study
and living expenses. It also gives them a cooperative and industrial
experience. The Mondragon Cooperative is actually a group of 120
cooperatives, all working within a inter-cooperative framework. Organised
with Industrial groups. Within permaculture the groups might be; Urban,
Rural, Marketing, Education, Industrial (Solar, Wind, Hydro), Construction,
Food, Research, Publishing, Finance.

Key to this is a Research and Development, Enterprise Development, Venture
Capital and Financial Division



I am personally grateful for the super hard work, creativity and dogged,
never-say-die attitude of the Permaculture Pioneers. like plant ecology,
they may be loners, spikey and pretty hard company, but they have had to
adapt and survive in some extremely hard conditions.

kirstie and myself have been exploring the organisation level of
permaculture evolution.

 The organic farming, perennial polyculture, community supported agriculture
pioneering work has been done. We need to go back to that 1983 PDC talk of
Mollisons and work-out a Permaculture.coop project.

We hope others might join with us in the research and development of such a

Anyone interested please get in touch with us below.


skype permaculturecoop
email permaculturecoop at gmail.com
phone +1 415 670 9710
plans http://gaiapermaculture.com
video http://Permaculture.TV
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