The La Base Solidarity Fund made its first two loans in December of 2004, to shoe factory Cooperativa Unidos por el Calzado (CUC) and to waste recycling coop Tren Blanco. But the origin of the fund traces back to a few months earlier, at a New York screening of the Canadian documentary The Take, about the process of worker-recovered factories in Argentina. At the end of the screening, director Avi Lewis was approached by New Yorker Brendan Martin, who had studied cooperativism and was an enthusiastic supporter. Brendan presented his project of a financial network to promote democratic work and asked Avi if Argentina might be the place to make it come to life. The documentary filmmaker was excited by the idea, and together the two began to brainstorm the birth of the non-profit organization.|
Brendan has a degree in Economics and wrote his thesis on cooperativism as an alternative form of development, based on democracy at work and equality in distribution. His studies had led him to visit the Spanish region of MondragÃ³n, where a communal cooperative project had enabled an enormous increase in living standards in a few decades. Seeing the impact a cooperative network could have on a region's economy was what motivated him to imagine a tool to strengthen cooperativism, and to keep this personal project for years while his working career led him into the world of computer programming.
Brendan and Avi registered The Working World as a non-profit in the United States as the organ that manages and receives donations for the La Base Solidarity Fund. After settling in Buenos Aires, Argentina, Brendan Martin contacted the people who had worked on The Take, and together they began what would become the Foundation Fund of Solidarity Microcredit.
After two years working in the field designing and preparing productive projects with recovered factories and cooperatives of all types, the process of institutionalization began with the request for legal status of the NGO in Argentina as a Foundation, a status it finally obtained in June of 2008. This in turn enabled other possibilities, such as an association with two other social organizations to apply for microcredit funds from the Argentine Microcredit Commission.
Starting in December 2007, the organization began to explore the possibility of geographical expansion and made its first loan to a cooperative in Bahía Blanca, 800 km. from Buenos Aires, and in February 2007, three loans in Rosario, 600km. away. And in 2008 The Working World:La Base won a Social Entrepreneur Award from Help Argentina
Throughout this time, The Working World:La Base has strengthened its relationship with the country's cooperatives and plans to continue expanding its outreach to include the most geographically distant and those whose production levels require larger investments.
As of late 2008, we have completed 106 loans, with a success rate that continues to improve year after year. And we are more enthusiastic than ever about our work designing projects with the cooperatives to enable the expansion of democracy in the workplace and in the number of people who benefit from a better and more empowered working life.