Spotlight Interviews with Co-operators

Marta Lozano Molano, Founding Member of Wazo Cooperative

“Spotlight Interviews with Co-operators” is a series of interviews with co-operators from around the world with whom ILO officials have crossed paths during the course of their work on cooperatives and the wider social and solidarity economy (SSE). On this occasion, the ILO interviewed Marta Lozano Molano, a founding member of Wazo Coop.

Article | 24 March 2021

Could you tell us a bit about your background?

Marta Lozano Molano
I am the president of the non-profit cooperative Wazo Coop and director of Wazo Magazine. I also work as an expert evaluator of Creative Europe (Culture Sub-programme. Support for European Cooperation Projects at The European Commission's Education, Audiovisual and Culture Executive Agency).

I have a degree in Music Composition by Higher School of Music of the Basque Country “Musikene” (Spain) and an Artist Master by Guildhall School of Music and Drama of London (UK). For some years I worked as a full-time composer (my music has been played across Europe and America) and as a singer at the London Symphony Chorus traveling around the world at international tours sharing stage with London Symphony Orchestra, BBC Symphony Orchestra and Berliner Philharmoniker, among others.

Despite the fact that I had a successful music career in London I decided to return to my homeland in Extremadura (Spain) to support the sustainable development of my community. Consequently, I focused my music career in the composition of social music, music that promotes social, economic and environmental sustainable development. Subsequently I co-founded Wazo Coop. I feel very honored because I have recently been selected among the “Top 100 Women In Social Enterprise” by Euclid Network (2021) and among “100 Leading Women in Cooperatives” by She-Coops (2020).

What is Wazo Coop about? When and how was it born? Who are its members? What are its objectives?

Wazo Coop is a non-profit social cooperative that generates positive impact in rural areas, specially in Extremadura which is a south western region of Spain that borders with Portugal. It is a low populated and rural region that faces many challenges related to employment, infrastructure, and equality.

The story of Wazo Coop started in 2015 with Wazo Magazine, a social journal supported by worldwide professionals who present articles in Spanish and English about Social and Solidarity Economy (SSE) and Creative Cultural Industries. It is published every season in a digital format to reduce the environmental impact and carbon footprint. In 2017, the project scaled up and a team consisting of Andrea Vincenti (Italy), José Luis Díaz (Spain) and myself co-founded Wazo Coop in order to create positive impact in rural communities.

The cooperative was founded to face the rural challenges, to lead the change in Extremadura and to create opportunities for the local community. Our region faces many challenges but also has much potential: environmental biodiversity, traditional food products, and an amazing cultural heritage. More importantly you can find many creative minds of all ages looking forward to work together and contribute to change here in Extremadura and worldwide.

Nowadays we work on the empowerment and leadership of residents of rural areas. We cooperate and develop projects for social transformation of rural areas, we promote participatory leadership by means of innovation and creative methods for positive changes.

What do you think is the role of cooperatives and other social and solidarity economy (SSE) organizations in advancing the rights and improving the livelihoods of workers in the creative economy?

SSE is an ethical and values-based approach to economic development that prioritizes the welfare of people and planet, over profit and growth. In this context, cooperatives are jointly owned and democratically managed enterprises that promote Sustainable Development Goal 8 on “Decent work and economic growth”. Cooperatives are people-centred enterprises owned, controlled and run by and for their members to realise their common economic, social, and cultural needs and aspirations. Cooperatives can bring people together in a democratic and equal way in the creative economy.

Cooperatives and wider SSE promote and allow sustained, inclusive and sustainable economic growth, full and productive employment and decent work in the creative economy. In fact, the social and solidarity economy and the creative economy share values and create positive impact in communities.

Creative Economy consists of knowledge-based economic activities related to creativity, ideas, creative expressions, and artistic and cultural heritage and values. Creative and cultural Industries foster positive externalities while preserving and promoting cultural heritage and diversity. Also many experiences worldwide show that the creative economy positively contributes to the sustainable local development of rural and low populated areas. The combination of both has many potentialities and can achieve great results.

In the current context of the changing world of work, and unfolding risks (pandemics, natural disasters, conflicts, technological changes), what are some of the challenges and opportunities for cooperatives and other SSE organizations of workers in the creative economy?

We are living through hard times. As in other sectors, the COVID-19 pandemic is having a devastating impact across the creative economy. This economy includes more than 30 million people globally in music, art, literature, cultural heritage and more. Majority are young people and they are making great efforts to cope with the challenges they are facing. It is estimated that the cancellation of public performances alone has cost authors roughly 30 per cent of global royalties.

This situation has revealed and increased previous vulnerabilities, that the stakeholders of the creative economy were working hard to solve before the health crisis: low incomes, informality of economy, lack of social protection. Many professionals were, before the pandemic, and now are facing risk of exclusion. This situation is more alarming in rural and low populated areas. Workers in cooperatives and other SSE organizations can have access to social and economic assistance through their organizations. So the negative impact of the pandemic is somewhat reduced.

Technological empowerment bring real opportunities for cooperatives of the creative economy, especially in rural and low populated areas, where the digitalization in the lasts months has increased the possibilities to connect with distant cooperatives and stakeholders, the reduction of costs related to transport (also good for the environmental impact) and the improvement of personal, family and work conciliation.

What are the future plans of Wazo Coop around strengthening social and solidarity economy organizations of workers in the creative economy?

Wazo Coop Team
In this regard Wazo Coop is fully engaged with two Sustainable Development Goals: 8 and 11.

On SDG 8 “decent work and economic growth” we are already working in the development of social programs to promote SSE projects among young people in Extremadura. One example is Joven-ESS (SSE Youth) a capacity building project for the youth of rural areas of Extremadura (less than 2.000 inhabitants towns) through webinars, podcasts, and cooperative fora. Wazo Coop is also working in the Erasmus + project about knowledge transfer to improve employability. EU SMART Composer is developing a practical tool to facilitate VET Music Educator-Music Students knowledge transfer to improve their employability.

On SDG 11 “Make cities inclusive, safe, resilient and sustainable” we are working on Sustainable Development of the Heritage of Extremadura (DESOPAEX), a 2020-2030 program to promote sustainable development of the rural areas of Extremadura aligned with the 2030 Agenda by means of heritage valuation and SSE activities. One recent output of this program is the Transmedia Manual for Sustainable Tourism in Tierra de Barros that offers SSE tools for historic and cultural heritage promotion.