The Worker Co-operative Movements in Italy, Mondragon and France: Context, Success Factors and Lessons


The objective of this paper is to analyze the public policy environment, capitalization environment, availability of federation support, and the context for the worker co-op movements in each of Italy, Mondragon (Spain) and France. These three countries or regions have the largest, most dynamic worker co-op movements in the world. To grow a large worker co-op movement, a system of supports is required to enable the transfer of appropriate knowledge to many people, in addition to having access to worker coop-friendly sources of capital. Although there were some success factors in each region which could not be easily replicated in other places and although there were significant differences among regions, there were many common elements contributing to the success of the worker co-op movement in all three places. These were: (1) sufficient capital accessible to worker co-ops; (2) technical assistance provided to worker co-ops in the start-up phase; (3) a mandatory indivisible reserve, at least for those “mostly mutual” worker co-ops which were able to receive government support; (4) significant federation and consortia structures which support, guide, direct, and help educate the worker co-operatives; (5) significant concentrations by industry; (6) a strong sense of solidarity and inter-cooperation; and (7) scale: having achieved a size and strength to enable the worker co-op movements to be taken seriously by governments, the broader co-operative sector, etc.

This research project would not have been possible without the financial contribution of the Canadian Social Economy Research Partnerships, based at the University of Victoria and supported by the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council.