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The Mission-Driven Venture: Business Solutions to the World s Most Vexing Social Problems by Marc J. Lane

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Chapter 7The Mondragón MiracleScaling the Peaks Beyond the Pyrenees

Spain's Basque country is nestled in the western foothills of the majestic Pyrenees mountains, which straddle the country's border with France. The people of the region, the oldest surviving ethnic group in Europe, are unique. Their language, now in decline, is unrelated to any other, current or extinct. Their traditional music is played on the txalaparta, their own version of a wooden xylophone. Their sports include stone-dragging with oxen and pelota, a bat-and-basket game you're unlikely to see elsewhere. And, as one might expect, their cuisine boasts cod, bream, and hake from the contiguous Bay of Biscay, but also txikiteos, a bar-hopping ritual that involves eating miniature hors d'oeuvres called pintxos while drinking small glasses of wine called txikitos.

The Basque region has always been favored by nature. The area is rich in coal, silver, iron, sugar, and other resources. For centuries, its traders found it easier to sail north to England than ride horses over the 10,000-foot mountains that separate Basque country from the Spanish capital. The Basques' commercial connection to England exposed them to the Industrial Revolution long before it touched other regions of Spain.

So it should come as no surprise that the Basque region is best known by some for its economic and social innovation. But one might never guess that José María Arizmendiarrieta (sometimes called Arizmedi), a young and idealistic Catholic ...

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