by Gudrun Dometeit
One word before I start describing what we have done on the second day of our World Young Leaders Forum in Buenos Aires: Although travelling a lot I have never been to South America before. If I am honest – I always preferred Asia, North America or any other place in the world. I am not an exception: Most of the other young leaders I was talking to also weren’t very much interested in the continent. But I am sure a lot of us will change their mind after this World Forum. And one of the reasons for this are the Argentinians we met here: Passionate in what they are doing, very (self)critical and always with a sense of humour towards the weaknesses of their country. Like Sergio Berensztein, an analyst from Buenos Aires, who gave us in the morning a very frank overview of Argentinas political system (“They lie about everything.” and “Corruption is part of the game.” )
Afterwards we started our on-site visits in Buenos Aires. I joined for a trip with Julian Massaldi, one of the founders of La Base, an organization which gives micro-loans to companies with a “democratic structure”. In fact they are supporting around 40 cooperatives, where decisions are made by assemblies. The money for the foundation is mainly coming from individual donations. We visited “MacBody”, one of the cooperatives, in a residential area in the northern part of the town. The company is producing clothes for children and once had 300 employees. In 2007 it went bancrupt, but 40 employees decided to continue, try to use the brand-name and to preserve the rest of the working-places. They went through another crisis in 2009 and had to cut the number of employees again. Now there are 22 people left – sewing and cutting in huge halls with posters of Christina Kirchner on the walls.
This sounds not like a real business-success-story but something else was interesting: The workers obviously enjoyed being entrepreneurs although nobody got a special training for it. “We don’t want an impresario any more, we don’t want to take orders from somebody else.” – these were the sentences we’ve heard. One said, that the self-managed way of working strengthened him as a human being. By the way: Everybody gets the same wage.
It’s an experiment and I am not sure if this will be a sustainable model. In order to make cooperatives like MacBody more competitive also in the future and more attractive for others we have been discussing different ideas: asking practioners to give management training, trying to initiate a long-term strategy, cooperating with universities etc.
by Gudrun Dometeit