Jose María Luzárraga Monasterio
Ashoka Fellow since 2015   |   Spain

Jose María Luzárraga Monasterio

Mondragon Team Academy
José María Luzarraga is building an international community of teampreneurs and young leading changemakers through the definition and implementation of a new vision of education. At Mondragon Team…
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This description of Jose María Luzárraga Monasterio's work was prepared when Jose María Luzárraga Monasterio was elected to the Ashoka Fellowship in 2015.


José María Luzarraga is building an international community of teampreneurs and young leading changemakers through the definition and implementation of a new vision of education. At Mondragon Team Academy 50% of graduates take on entrepreneurial activities, compared to 1-2% of alumni from traditional studies, while 97% of students manage to find a job, at a time when the youth unemployment rate in Europe is more than 20%, reaching 50% in countries such as Spain or Greece.

The New Idea

Jose María is building a generation of changemaker entrepreneurs by implementing an educational model adapted to the new way society is organized that encourages teampreneurship through experimentation. Inspired by the values and positive social impact of the Basque Mondragon Corporation, the largest workers cooperative in the world whose original vision was to create people-centered enterprises with an economic and social impact, as well as the TiimiAkatemia educational innovation experiment in Finland, José María with 3 teammates co-founded in 2008 Mondragon Team Academy (MTA), a global team of teams that inserts this vision into the education system.

The cornerstone of this pioneer movement is teamlearning, where students become MTA teampreneurs & commit to create a team learning company throughout the academic year, and take responsibility for their participation, complementing other members’ abilities and personal skills. The key to MTA lies in connecting the teampreneurs’ passions with their learning process, and doing so as a team, rather than individually, in which you only succeed if your team mate succeeds as well.

The learning model focuses on a Learning by Doing methodology, in which the students are not taught about entrepreneurship, but are given the tools and opportunities to set up their own ventures.

In this context, José María is leading the creation of a global network of local MTA centers, or “labs”, in which the teampreneurship concept is replicated and adapted. This ensures a connection between the local communities and the global learning process, providing a source of inspiration for initiatives and solutions. In addition to allowing the expansion of MTA through an international network of MTA labs cocreated with local partners in each city, this strategy helps create a generation of glocal changemakers: Young entrepreneurs with the capacity and motivation to change the world around them, with a local commitment and a global mindset.

The Problem

The current educational model, where skills such as creativity, teamwork or empathy are ignored, is incompatible with entrepreneurial education. Fragmentation by subjects, an undefined role of the teacher, isolation of individual learning, obsolete examination systems, accumulation of theoretical contents, and student passivity and frustration as a result of a system that doesn’t connect the students’ learning with their interests, motivations and personal skills, are some of the barriers identified.

There are existing initiatives aimed at boosting entrepreneurial activity, which either take place outside of the educational system, or are justified under economic or business studies. However, none of them are reformulating the learning process as such and in most cases these attempts focus too much on an individual entrepreneurship model, promoting self-employment or individual ventures.

This is enhanced by a persistent “localist” attitude in a world that is increasingly globalized. Many individuals do not have the opportunity or the resources to interact with other cultures and discover different realities, while those who do, are not always given the tools to interpret these realities or apply them to their own actions and decision-making. The lack of a glocal approach to learning and entrepreneurial activity is one of the many barriers to a changemaker society today.

The current socio-economic situation in Spain and southern Europe has pushed youth unemployment to more than 50%, creating an unsustainable environment in which the lack of professional opportunities during the younger population’s most vital years is limiting the development of their personal, professional and social skills.

Overall, Spain is not a country with high levels of entrepreneurship. According to the Global Entrepreneurship Monitor (GEM) Report 2014, the percentage of early-stage entrepreneurial activity is of 5.5 while only 7.0% of the population is owner-manager of a business. While entrepreneurial activity by "necessity" in Spain increased from 26% to 29%, entrepreneurship by “opportunity” remains at 33%, below the European average of 47%. Moreover, entrepreneurial activity in Spain is often given a negative implication, either associated to self-employment or lack of formal work, or to a privileged activity accessible only to a few.

On another hand, the support system in Spain to create new businesses is inefficient. In spite of the increasing resources invested in innovation spaces, accelerators, incubators and other programs since the recession hit Spain in 2008, the country is still in need of solid entrepreneurial activity. Those who do take on entrepreneurship often focus too much on designing elaborate business plans and developing the idea instead of putting it to practice. While there are initiatives that seek to change this reality, they are often more focused on the business idea and viability, rather than the development and professional growth of the entrepreneur him/herself.

Putting aside the country’s socio-economic conditions, the lack of entrepreneurial spirit does not only affect Spain or southern Europe in general, but reflects a worldwide attitude that needs to be transformed. Globally, the average of early-stage entrepreneurial activity is only of 8.5%.

The Strategy

José María is building a network of interdependent “MTA labs” in 3 continents that share the necessary values and learning methodology to boost a generation of teampreneurs and glocal changemakers.

With the objective of democratizing entrepreneurship, making it available to all and not just to “the best”, José María established an undergraduate degree (LEINN – Leadership Entrepreneurship Innovation) aimed at students aged 17-25, within Mondragon University, based in the Basque Country. He soon realized that in order to keep the necessary link between these young people and their local communities, the model needed to be multi-local, and promoted and accompanied the opening of other local labs situated in and outside the Basque Country. To date, 9 international labs have been established with the goal of reaching 20 labs by 2020.

Throughout the degree’s four years, the students are encouraged to “re-learn” everything they know and are taught to become team players. From day one the students create a “team learning cooperative” (legally presented as an association) based on their interests and personal abilities. By the second year, the business becomes a “junior cooperative”, a new legal concept that MTA introduced in the Basque Country legislation. During the third year, the joint venture becomes a real cooperative, paying its taxes and social security, while the fourth year is dedicated at scaling and expanding the business’s outreach.

Throughout the 4-year process, the students (or “LEINNers”) go on Learning Journeys, with expenses covered by the revenue generated from their own cooperatives. The trips include Finland, to understand and experiment the innovative education system, San Francisco (Silicon Valley), to discover the cradle of entrepreneurship; India, to connect with a radically different social context and social entrepreneurship; and finally China, in which they are encouraged to scale up their business projects addressing one of the biggest emerging economy and find new potential business partners. As well as providing a global experience far different from their own environment, these journeys have a strong social component, ensuring that the students are aware of the intrinsic social nature that all enterprises must include.

As a result of the Learning Journeys, and due to the interest of local partners in China and India to root MTA in their own communities, José María took on the challenge to open the first MTA labs outside Spain, including Shanghai (China), Pune (India) and Queretaro (Mexico).

In order to accelerate the current social transformation process, beyond creating the “generation of the future”, MTA launched MINN (a one-year Master Programme in Intrapreneurship and Open Innovation), with the same principles and methodologies as LEINN, but aimed at professional leaders, intrapreneurs, business-owners, or start up entrepreneurs.

MTA is also testing its vision and methodology by launching pilot projects with other target groups, with notable impact: EKINN (Entrepreneurship Knowledge and Innovation) is a 12-month pilot project aimed at the unemployed, in which 75 people participated. Since then, 15 of them founded their own company.

To date, approximately 700 people have experienced MTA’s educational process and 50 enterprises have been created.

Figures show that one year after graduation, 54% of LEINN alumni are taking on entrepreneurial activities (compared to 1 – 2% of students from regular university degrees), 30% are working on intrapreneurial or innovation related projects within existing organizations and 97% are employed.

As for the MINN alumni, many have developed a new entrepreneurial activity or scaled a current one, while others have led intrapreneurial initiatives within their companies. It’s the case of a MINNer in Mexico, who led an innovation strategy in his company that resulted in the opening of a new production plant, hiring of 30 new employees (from 50 to 80), and 80% increase in the company’s turnover.

Nevertheless, the impact goes beyond figures and percentages: a personal and professional transformation also occurs. While it is a qualitative measurement, all of the students who have experienced an MTA program have defined it as a turning point in their personal and professional lives.

In order to provide an enabling environment for those students who have set-up their companies, helping them grow and expand, José María is designing MTA Business Group, a continuation structure for “LEINNers” and “MINNers” in which their joint ventures are matured and scaled, leveraging the foundations established during the learning processes. MTA Business Group is part of the strategy to ensure the long-term social impact of the ventures created and developed during LEINN and MINN.

The Person

José María (Basque Country, Spain) is a serial entrepreneur. During his youth, he launched and developed numerous ventures and social enterprises such as a travel agency for solidarity tourism, a junior enterprise association at his Faculty, or a social enterprise called “Get carried away” a ride service to avoid drink driving. These initiatives addressed very different issues and sectors, but all had a common philosophy: connecting people in an increasingly globalized world.

Unable to find the key to unlock his vision of glocal changemakers, José María decided to travel to India to discover new realities and work on some of the local projects taking place in the country. There, he understood the power of the interconnected world, strengthening his belief that “a problem in India can be solved from Spain” and vice versa.

This and other many experiences acquired travelling around the world helped him reach the conclusion that ordinary people can do extraordinary things when they undertake as a team. He saw this vision reflected in Mondragon Corporation (a network of workers cooperatives present in five continents whose headquarters are located in the Basque Country) and carefully studied its model. After four years visiting different Mondragon centers, he found that although Mondragon’s commercial and economic dimensions have expanded, its cooperative and social benefits have not. He therefore put together a team within the Mondragon University with the objective of installing teampreneurial education within the institution, providing it with the international and social responsibility it was lacking.

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