Inspiring co-operative enterprise through education

International Business and SMEs

Module delivery: This session was delivered as part of the Comparative Entrepreneurship module at the University of the West of Scotland (fourth year undergraduate)International business and SMEs.

Duration: Including a Q&A session, the lecture was one and a half hours in duration.

Module relevance: This lecture expanded upon and provided a contrast with a previous session looking at internationalisation strategies for SMEs.

Content: The lecture assumed no previous knowledge of co-operatives. Firstly, a brief thought exercise was conducted; it is designed to get students thinking about the relationship between capital and labour in business. Depending on questions, this exercise usually lasts between 15-20 minutes. See The Meaning of Ownership folder at http://s.coop/162hh.

The context is set by looking at the co-operative model of enterprise in general before dealing with the topic at hand. This includes a discussion of core co-operative characteristics such as values and principles, ownership, governance, and surplus. The lecture then proceeds by communicating key co-operative statistics, both global and the UK; this section concludes by looking at some of the benefits of co-operatives in terms of economic and social factors (for example, productivity and wealth inequality). The introduction to co-operatives is concluded by examining a particular type of co-operative: worker-owned businesses.

The next section is a brief study of one of the most successful worker co-operatives globally: Mondragon Corporation. This business group, based in the Basque Country, is the tenth largest in Spain and has over 80,000 workers. Its unique structure is presented as well as its international presence. The lecture then describes how Mondragon Corporation implemented an internationalisation strategy that contrasts sharply with that of multinationals and other SMEs. Rather than de-localise or re-localise factories in the Basque Country, it opened new manufacturing facilities globally in an effort to protect its core workers at home. The lecture concludes with some suggested discussion questions.

Internationalisation and Co-operatives_Protecting Local Jobs.ppt

Reading list:

McDonnell, D., Macknight, E. and Donnelly, H. (2012) Democratic Enterprise: Ethical Business for the 21st Century, Glasgow: Co-operative Education Trust Scotland (see Chapters 5 & 6).

Erdal, D. (2011) Beyond the Corporation: Humanity Working, London: The Bodley Head (see Part III).

Luzarraga, J.M., D. Aranzadi and I. Irizar (2007), Understanding the Mondragon Globalization Process: Local Job Creation through Multi-Localization: Facing Globalization Threats to Community Stability, paper presented at the 1st CIRIEC International Research Conference on Social Economy, Victoria, Canada.

Mondragon Corporation - MONDRAGON Corporation in 2011. One year in three minutes: http://vimeo.com/43888493.