Post from Foothold Fellow Keryna Johnson
I recently returned from a trip to Spain, where I got to participate in a USD class on
Participatory Leadership. The class curriculum involved visiting and learning from the employee-owners of Mondragon Corporation, a federation of over 100 worker-owned cooperative businesses that employ over 75,000 individuals.
In many ways Mondragon can be seen as one of the largest egalitarian collaboratives on the planet, as their democratic decision-making model ensures that all workers are equal owners in the businesses, and have an equal say in what happens. They are arguably also the most successful, with revenues in excess of 12 billion euros annually.
One of the discussion points that came up throughout our week in the class was the importance of values, both to the formation and success of Mondragon. We were taught that the organization was founded on four key values: dignity, solidarity, work, and education. The importance of shared values also came up in our readings, and one reading in particular made me think of my work as a Foothold Fellow.
The reading can be found in From Mondragon To America, and in it the author suggests that the first step in forming a collective action group is to determine if there are shared values. The author points out that there is often confusion between structure and values, with the main difference being the structure may change over time, but that the underlying values should be fixed.
The author takes a critical look at organizations that state they are values-based but do not manifest their values into concrete action. He says that true values should elicit a change in behavior, and that ultimately “values are ideas to which we are committed by choice and which stimulate us to act in a particular way”.
I can apply this to my work with Foothold by continuing to identify and highlight the shared values among the members of the collaborative I support, and by also supporting the manifestation of those values into tangible action.