image credit: MONDRAGON-Corporation (Flickr CC)

The city of Richmond, California is fighting a local recession with origins that stretch back at least 60 years.

For this economically depressed city the answer to the boom and bust style of business that often leaves communities in tatters is a democratic, cooperative model inspired by the Mondragon Corporation, a federation of worker-owned cooperatives in Spain’s Basque region.

Richmond was an industrial boomtown during the Second World War, but suffered a harsh economic downturn in the post war years. Unemployment is currently at 17% in the city and crime is high.

But cooperatives are offering hope in the form of a greener, more democratic business model.

From the Los Angeles Times:

Richmond Solar has trained needy residents to work as green-energy installers and now aims to transform some into bosses by forming a worker-owned cooperative.

The city’s first bicycle shop has opened with similar dreams: Young men who have volunteered to learn the repair trade soon may be elevated to co-owners.

Richmond’s cooperatives have a long way to go until it they match Mondragon’s nearly 84,000 worker-owners, but they’ve got to start somewhere.

See the following video report from Al Jazeera English for more: