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Eric Lee, 22, FUN company, Korea

What does the cooperative identity mean to you?

The beauty of diversity.

My cooperative, FunCompany, was born out of a 4 year degree from Mondragon University. To achieve my degree and complete my university education, I was part of an international team that had to establish a successful, operational cooperative. No lectures, no professors, no exams. Instead, we had to form a cooperative as a team and learn Leadership, Entrepreneurship, and Innovation through real life experiences.

We started with 16 members from many countries, and we’ve worked on many projects around the world. From selling food on Shanghai’s streets to holding a huge Korean culture event in Spain Bilbao — we’ve completed more than 100 projects as a team. 

I find that the strength of a cooperative is important during difficult times. While faster and efficient decision-making processes can help companies perform better in the market, when it comes to situations like a financial crisis, a global pandemic or climate change, collaborative problem-solving abilities is important to deal with uncertainties. 

Thanks to our cooperative identity, during COVID-19, Funcompany could continue to operate based on our solid foundation of trust to make a safe space for everyone. Furthermore, we found business opportunities and could pivot our focus to cover everyone. 

My cooperative experience has changed my life. When there is conflict, I am more focused on understanding other people’s perspective, making it fuel for my own growth. This also helps me in my personal relationships with family and friends. 

The Korean cooperative growth began with a social and economic boom. Many Korean cooperatives face economic difficulties by focusing on social values rather than competitiveness in the market. However, based on my experience, I believe that cooperatives can provide strong framework built on social values, that can also serve as a solid foundation for sustainable operations, in a world of capitalism. 

This is how I want to live: by using cooperatives to solve problems around me.