Enabling Policy Environments for Co-operative Development: A Comparative Experience

Northern Ontario, Manitoba, and Saskatchewan Regional Node of the Social Economy Suite,

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Monica Juarez Adeler

Year: 2013

This dissertation explores the particular evolution of an organization, the Mondragon Co-operative Corporation, to shed light on the co-operative development process, and compares some of its complexities to the Manitoba co-operative sector. This study uses historical, political, and socio-economic research, institutional analysis, policy and legal analysis, and semi-structured interviews to better understand the co-operative development process from a critical and interdisciplinary perspective. This study uncovers the importance of institutional frameworks in understanding the development of the Mondragon group. By analyzing its well-known development story through this critical and interdisciplinary lens, this dissertation helps rethink the assumptions of much of the literature on co-operative and policy development that often overlooks the study of this phenomenon.

Co-operative development factors and strategies widely discussed in the literature often fail to analyze the invisible cultural assumptions that underpin and help determine the development process. By studying the extent to which Mondragon’s development is deeply embedded in and shaped by its cultural, legal, and institutional contradictions, this dissertation aims to rethink the co-operative development phenomenon. This study finds that institutional frameworks are crucial to understand co-operative development choices and strategies. The contradictions and complexities of institutional frameworks create room to counter the status quo. The study of the Mondragon group tells us that co-operatives can unknowingly reproduce contradictions while challenging the dominant logic to seek change. The influence of institutional contradictions and complexities is highly important to make sense of co-operative development behaviours as well as to understand how institutions change in society. This study concludes with a comparison of the Manitoba co-operative experience in the light of the Mondragon case, and offers concluding thoughts and recommendations for the Manitoba co-operative sector.

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