New report on the Commons: A New Alignment of Movements?

AnneMarie from @CommonFutures shared this report by David Bollier & Pat Conaty a couple weeks ago, and it makes for a useful overview, so thanks! I’m summarizing some key points below:

Can the commons paradigm constitute a shared agenda for change, at local, national, European level? Can it expand existing movements into majorities and build cross-movement collaboration and action?

Movements which hold the promise of political mobilization and reformation:

A. The Co-Operatives Movement: Employment in the co-operative movement – at 250 million people – is actually larger today than that of multinational companies, membership is higher than in trade unions and political parties (p.5)

Trends: polarization between small and big, new and historic co-ops; corporatization; elitism; loss of members’ trust

New wave of coops: strong social ethic, yet lacking operational skills & policy support; also lacking is focus on sustainability and environment

Opportunities to create an aligned economically alternative movement:

  • a new, open co-operativism based on a multistakeholder approach to support not just workers and consumers, but also investors and philantropists (FairShare model)
  • commons based peer production models that would be independent from capital markets (Cooperativa Integral Catalana, Common Futures)

B. Social and Solidarity Economy: Advocates post-capitalist transformation putting people and the planet first. between 9% and 11.5% of economically active citizens in Sweden, Belgium, France, Holland and Italy work in Social and Solidarity Economy enterprises (p.12).

The strategic challenge for the solidarity economy is to build horizontal alliances and to advance co-production and co-financing. (p.12)

Trends & opportunities: national lawmaking efforts to recognize and promote sustainable economy and build transformation agendas – eg fairer production chains, co-production and cooperation rather than competitiveness

C. The Degrowth Movement: new language to approach “the economy” and “the environment”; abolishing economic growth as a social objective

Challenges: unified agenda; Important concepts in the discourse of the degrowth movement include voluntary simplicity, sharing, social justice, conviviality, happiness, alternative indicators to GDP and appropriate scale technology… (p.14)

D. Peer Production: open/libre software for digital collaboration, publishing, mixing and remixing, open design, manufacturing etc.

Challenges: invent new ways to enable it and self-reproduction over time, to break the logic of capitalism;  “netarchical capitalism” reaping the benefits and producing generalized crisis of precarity among contributors in open platforms, according to M. Bauwens from P2P Foundation (p.19)

Opportunities: enables self organization, autonomy, resilience via interdependency of open networks

E.The Sharing and Collaborative Economy: distinct fields of innovation according to B. Tincq from OuiShare – consumption, fabrication, knowledge, funding, governance, exchange systems

Venture capital funding schemes are seen as some of the controversial bits of the movement, but on the up side there are also experiments in open value networks such as Sensorica to find the right balance.

In between there is a mix of non-profit and for profit driven approaches, like  centralised production using local infrastructure: FabLabs and Makers spaces

Challenges: sustainability and ownership issues involving communities; lack of a commons model; ecological effects posed by extraction of raw materials

F.The Commons Movement: self-organized groups of people can and do create systems of governance and management for their shared wealth, often outperforming bureaucratic systems and predatory markets (p.23);

Permaculture, CSA, community land trusts, participatory budgeting, community currencies

Goteo vision: “hacktivism + crowdfunding + wide social collaboration = the building of new commons. “

Strategies for convergence

“each movement seems to want to change the relationships between the state, market and civil society.” -Frédéric Sultan

Major obstacle seems to be the coordination costs between movements: “existing organizations don’t have time to be part of collective discussions. We need to fill this gap….”

  • Knowledge sharing. Co-sponsor joint research in areas where the movements overlap the most: Construct new structures | Reform existing organisations | Change legal structures | Reform economic structures | Focus on theory and the paradigm shift; 
  • Database building, use tagging, qualitative research and a highly interactive online platform (Real Economy Lab does work on this)
  • Find a common overarching goal: “Buen Vivir”, “The living economy”, the commons perspective as a rallying vision
  • Build a network of commons educators (Synergia in Canada/UK, Commons Institute of German commoners); also through film (Kontent Films US)
  • Build public/ social partnerships (under way in Italy, UK, US, public banking in Germany); “partner state”, “Can we envisage a state rooted in the commons?”; open API regulation; commons friendly policies (Podemos, Partido X, Syriza)
1 Like

More convergence stories

Here’s link to another good report along these lines out last Fall, titled “Weaving the Community Resilience and New Economy Movements” with quite a few rich insights and excerpts culled from a series of conversations with thinkers, practitioners, and influencers:

It, too, names a set of around 10 key themes or principles to navigate by.

I’ve been working on a good deal of mapping and comparison based on these reports and related frameworks or recommendations from the landscape of change theorists and actionists…part of an upcoming project called Real Economy Lab.

More to come! Here’s one recent metamap for example: