Caring for Commons session mission report

I’m not sure where to put this but here’s a start. Apologies that this report is late - my computer is near death with a virus so I had to wait until I could borrow one.

Betta, Helene and I, with help of Barbara, Noemi and all the participants tackled the challenge of Caring for Commons. This was a big topic so we felt we had to establish some clear understanding first, but we found this led to rich discussion which squeezed our time for preparing our presentation.

Here are two documents from our session, both on Google docs.

This is the notes reporting the session 

Here is a summary of links and ideas we gathered before the session

These are open to edit by anyone who has the links but we ask for respect in doing so. We will add more edits and invite you to. This open editing is a good example of the key issue at the heart of the Commons: the need for us to open up Commons to everyone while also establishing boundaries, education and rules to protect and replenish.

Our overall challenge was: How to shift to a culture of Commons to enable young people to have a thriving future. In sharing their experiences and ideas, participants ranged across all the other conference strands such as learning and resilience, with a lot of thinking about alternative currencies, occupation of public space, free open data and so on. So, we agreed that Commons is fundamental to all the issues of thriving and access to resources.

We broke our challenge down into four themes, some of which were more macro or theoretical, some more about process to achieve the shift:

A big challenge - how to protect the commons in the face of a global shift (i.e. at Rio) to place economic value on nature. Solutions Include implementing the Ecocide law, implementing a Global Council of Planetary Rights to Protect the Commons, and the widespread generation of tools to reclaim the economic framework in ways that don’t devalue nature.

A challenge important to Council of Europe - How to manage the commons when we live in an unequal society? Solution - separate our private inalienable rights from public equality so no economic barriers to accessing commons as a principle (more private resources cant buy access to commons)

A process challenge - How to reuse empty spaces for the common good? One solution is to charge different levels of taxation, either plus or minus according to their private or shared use, at the city level.

A process challenge - How to create the Commons. Solution: This group delineated a method of using software for network aggregation in establishing communities of interest in the varios aspects of the Commons. These communities can designate reputable and authoritative figures to interact with policymakers relaying common community concerns. In this process they can define transnationally applicable legalities that apply to both the natural and the built environment.

Please continue to comment here and suggest ways these actions can be carried out.

The commons? Quite a wide scope of things!

We opened our #Lote breakout session last Thursday on Caring for the commons with sharing what the commons was for each of us. And the result is quite interesting. It showed that much of what has been discussed during these four days has a relationship the the commons, whether you understand commons as something to take care of or to create collectively, as a way of being and doing or as the embodiment of an outcome. Someone mentioned the transformative aspect of the concept… Could the commons be the banner behind which to rally for a great transition? It has the power to provide a systemic response…

What the commons represent for each of us -a large scope of things, that’s for sure!:

  • Sharing with respect
  • Sharing, learning, helping together
  • Sharing knowledge
  • Human rights
  • Access to good
  • Access to wasted things (space, etc...)
  • Survival of environment
  • New renaissance for humans
  • Getting movement going down up
  • Essence of human being, love
  • Systemic way of preserving the natural environment
  • A way to bring nature back to health
  • Culture --> being stewards
  • Giving is generative
  • Ways to make the world better
  • Relation with goods & resources
  • Give without thinking of getting back, commons is what you get back
  • Dangers of commoditization of the commons
  • Being all alive here
  • Things were common before we were there
  • The history of the commons, land commons extended to other commons
  • Keep public parks open
  • Open access
  • Ways to make the world better
  • Concept that brings people together
  • New thinking of life
  • Living in common
  • Transformative aspect of the concept
  • Ability to transform concept into policy
  • Power for implementation
  • Potential relation with the natural world &  each other
  • Managing diversity -Boundaries/Differences
  • Way of transforming society.
  • Get humans to change the dialogue
  • Overlaps of paths
  • Change of mentality
Was emerged clearly also was a need to know more about the commons. We will pursue this conversation.

Things that stay with me:

Although I’m no expert in this and the session was really a way for me to understand better the multitude of aspects related to commons, I remember:

  • we cannot conceive commons only at national level, if they are not commons for everybody; commons should transcend nationality;

-the boundaries between public and private are blurred when it comes to commons: they can exist at the intersection of the two, or beyond; sometimes we can enable and make something accessible for everyone with just a small gift and step further from the public and private actors (e.g. like a public community garden administered by a group of citizens in the common interest and available to anyone)

-the need for bottom up (localized) approaches instead of inventing branches within the different houses of commoning

I have some photos from the session I’ll post when I get back home, thanks Bridget, Helene, Betta!

On not overdefining

Just adding a thought that emerged in my mind during the last weeks …

In the Caring for Commons session, subgroup unused resources and abandoned houses, we met with an interesting problem. We proposed various means to make abandoned houses available to be used by the general public as they see fit (including the homeless, entrepeneurs needing workspace etc.). This however does not mean the houses become “commons” in the full sense including ownership - they might just be used like commons for some time. We kinda resolved this by saying “usage for the common good” when presenting the results, but there seems to be more to this.

Namely: Knowing too exactly what the commons are and what not might lead us to pass by at opportunities that are similar to commons and useful to society, but not strictly commons. It’s the danger of conceptualization: while concepts help to simplify and communicate, reality is always more blurry. And at times, it makes sense to forget concepts for a while and be just pragmatic … .

(On the other hand, strong principles also have their place … cf. Richard Stallman and his Free Software philosophy, leading to countless exclusions of packages from Debian Linux because of small “licence incompatibility” issues. But then again, leading to greater, more free replacements for these … . So it seems there’s still something to explore about principles / concept strenght with respect to commons.)

Visually, a cone

I agree, in part. But commons in my mind are like arranged on a cone: on the tightest end you have a definition that’s really normative in itself and it aims to push for larger embrace of commons; on the other, more wide surface you have practices of commons that opens up the reach at a whole new level, it’s like a snowballing effect: you recognize opportunity for commons and that one gets hooked in the whole commons discussion. and it doesn’t matter the extent to which it fits a conceptualization in so much as it produces value, so it enriches the reach of the concept. maybe changing it’s conceptualization over time, who knows?