Cooperation between cooperatives during the pandemic


Cooperation between cooperatives during the pandemic


Cooperation between cooperatives during the pandemic

The Higher Polytechnic School hosted a conference aimed at master's students in which various cooperatives explained their success stories during the pandemic



On 18 February, the Higher Polytechnic School organised a multi-centre conference in which members of various MONDRAGON Corporation cooperatives explained their efforts and strategic challenges in a market conditioned by the COVID-19 pandemic. The conference was aimed at those studying for Master's degrees at Universities and due to the safety measures it was organised in a multi-centre format at the facilities of Iturripe, Garaia and Orona-Ideo, which were remotely connected to one another. Each speaker was present in a classroom together with master's students and their coordinators.

  • Tomás Martín, representing Orbea,, was present in the classroom of the Master's in Strategic Design.
  • Oxel Etxeberria of Bexen Cardio accompanied the students of the Master's in Biomedical Technology.
  • Iñigo Ucín, President of MONDRAGON Corporación and Nuria Agirre from Laboral Kutxa, accompanied those studying for the Master's in Robotics and Energy.
  • Zuriñe Arakistain from Mondragon Assemblyand Javier Amezaga from Eroski were with the students of the Master's in Data Analysis and Cybersecurity.
  • Susana Otegi, from Bexen Medical,joined those studying for the Master's in Innovation on the Orona-Ideo Campus in Hernani.

All of the classrooms were remotely connected to one another and the conference was moderated by Nekane Errasti, Academic Coordinator of the Higher Polytechnic School.

Combining efforts

Iñigo Ucín, President of MONDRAGON Corporation, highlighted the importance of having been capable of seeking synergies between different agents at the height of the crisis. To do this, at MONDRAGON the firm decision was made to defend people first, and once its position was consolidated, emphasis was placed on the ability of the cooperatives to add value to society. An essential factor for this has been the ability of the cooperatives and the cooperative members to reinvent themselves and adapt to a new reality.

In this respect, Nuria Agirre, Director of Social Management at Laboral Kutxa, highlighted the changes of attitude of customers and the need to adapt to them, “people were no longer withdrawing money from ATMs, they did not want to touch the card machines in stores, there was an increase in the use of contactless devices and the percentage of customers who fitted the "digital customer" profile was multiplied and reached 50%”. Agirre said that many of these challenges related to digitalization had already been laid out in the strategic plan and that the pandemic has accelerated them.

Increasing activity

Oxel Etxeberria, Managing Director of Bexen Cardio, asserted the business network made up by the MONDRAGON cooperatives since, in his opinion, having the universities and other companies nearby and predisposed facilitated performance in the 2020 financial year. Thanks to this, and strengthening its position as the only electromedicine manufacturer in the Basque Country, Bexen Cardio was able to increase its activity in order to respond to social requirements.

Tomás Martín, Development Engineer at Orbea was of the same opinion. According to Martín the economic activity of Orbea has greatly accelerated, increasing its business volume and hiring of personnel. Nonetheless, they remain cautious at the company, “we are hoping that everyone who took up cycling as a hobby or a means of transport during the pandemic continue to do so in the future too”.

Social responsibility

In addition to commercial action, some of the MONDRAGON cooperatives became key players during the hardest times of the pandemic. This is the case of Eroski. According to Javier Amezaga, Managing Director of the brand, the success of Eroski during the pandemic lies in the fact that they were able to work with their focus on people, “staff commitment has been spectacular, overcoming fear to provide an essential service”. Furthermore, they have continued to show commitment by searching for new solutions and alternatives for collaborating with local producers who overnight found themselves without a way of selling the fresh products that they were producing.

This level of commitment is what has made Mondragon Assembly capable of manufacturing 18 machines for producing face masks in a tight turnaround time of 12 weeks. Zuriñe Arakistain, International Relations Manager at Mondragon Assembly, highlighted the capacity of those who work for the cooperative to handle the pressure at the time, being aware at all times of the latent need to make progress in the search for practical solutions for facing this challenge.

Finally, Susana Otegi, Head of Marketing at Bexen Medical, wished to highlight the cooperative's long experience of 42 years in the manufacture of medical materials, which was undoubtedly the key to them being able to produce the face masks in such a short time. Similarly, the suitability for vaccine storage of facilities built years ago made them ideal candidates for managing the vaccines. The pandemic presented an opportunity, and at Bexen Medical they had to make good decisions quickly, which in the long term have proved to be the right ones.

In short, the Master's students from the Higher Polytechnic School had the opportunity to learn about different ways of approaching the reality of business in a time of pandemic. The MONDRAGON cooperatives opted for commitment and people as the focal point of their action, managing to maintain their position or even strengthen it.