Talking about the question of medium and long-term challenges facing Basque business while addressing a group of students on a Master’s Programme in Business Management at a local University, it occurred to me to ask the audience how many actually knew who the founder of the Basque Co-operative Movement was. To my complete surprise, it turned out that the majority of the students present truly had no idea. One even went so far as to ask whether my question was an exercise in showing off my knowledge of the members of the local football team, Athletic Bilbao.
Astounded by their reaction, I turned my thoughts to the bigger picture, and asked myself: just what sort of society are we building? Is it not common sense that our trained professionals know about the life and work of someone who was ahead of his time, and who is now an icon among management gurus? Is it not sad that our business graduates know precious little about an entrepreneurial movement without parallel throughout the world?
Here at home, while we persist in ignoring the value of the contribution made by the Basque Co-operative Movement, the rest of the world regularly comes here to Baskland on pilgrimage to get a good first-hand look at the philosophy and modus operandi of a management model based on people. This unique model of ours is not only committed to the society around it with a notable sense of social responsibility, but one which also manifests a clear intergenerational commitment leading to developing enduring business projects over time.
Cognizant of the fact that the model is far from perfect, nor indeed the sole possible model to follow, I do believe it is a template, which could be very useful in balancing wealth creation and social cohesion. In my opinion, we would do well to drink from its fountain, improve its defects, develop its capacities, and strengthen it in order to arrive at unexplored territories.
Companies need to constantly review and revise their ideology and update their management model. Not to be overlooked, however, is the need for serious thought regarding the social direction of the organisation.
May we commit ourselves to ensuring that Basque people learn about José María Arizmendiarreta and his ideology. I assure you, dear reader, that should you yourself tap into his philosophy, life and work, you will find that it will forever change how you see life.