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The School of Commoning and the Campaign for Commons Literacy

Here's an updated of the new phase of my work that I hinted at in my blog on the art of hosting the transition to a post-capitalist, commons-bas....


Since that blog entry, the School of Commoning got a new website, where you can learn about our philosophy and how interested people can work with us.


In this post, I just sketch out some key distinctions as to give us a chance to see commons and commoningnot just a new word for something that we don't really need to consider as such because it's the same as communities of practice. No, it is not. As Martin Siesta summed it up:


When I think of "commons" I think of shared resources, sometimes shared ownership  and who have many common values, being in the same "community of practice" may be one of them. When I think of "community of practice", ... there are shared values, some are within a profession and some across. In some cases there is shared resources, not sure about shared ownership.


So the difference I see is that with commons, in all cases there is a sharing of resources and often  seeding ownership of resources and putting the whole first . A community of practice may or may not share resources and put the whole first.


Here's what I'd add to it, from the pages of the School of Commoning

What Is the Commons?

It has many definitions and one of our favourites is this: “The Commons is building social relationships in such a way that all those things we need to reproduce our livelihood will be shared in a fair way, and managed in a sustainable way,” as Silke Helfrich  said at the 1st International Commons Conference in Berlin, October 2010.

Another definition that inspires our work at the School differentiates two kinds of commons based on “common pool resources” and “public goods.”  ProfessorElinor Ostrom,  who won the Nobel Prize for her work on the Commons explains the difference in this video clip

The commons is all that and much more. According to Wikipedia, “The commons is the social and political space where things get done and where people have a sense of belonging and have an element of control over their lives, providing sustenance, security and independence. It gives voice to civil society and helps us to learn new social practices, imagine a political, economic and social system beyond capitalism or communism.” (Wikipedia)

Here’s another way of thinking about it, which influences the School’s work: “The commons is the basis of society, which is the connection of individuals to one another and the recognition of their interdependency. It is expressed in culture as a way of life.” (Blue Labour blog, 15 May 2011)


What Is Commoning?

There’s no commons without people commoning: commoners engaged in mutually supportive relationships of co-creating and protecting material or intellectual resources essential to their life.

In a broader sense, the art of commoning is one and the same as the art of living. It’s being fully engaged with life, choosing something we are passionate about and engaging with others to achieve more than any one of us could achieve on our own for a better life for everyone and a thrivable culture.

In a more specific sense, we can distinguish three scopes of commoning. (Hence the three waves in the SoC logo.)

  • The ensemble of practices used by people in the course of managing shared resources and reclaiming the commons. So in its simplest form, "commoning’ is creating and maintaining something collectively" (Michel Bauwens).
  • Moving from the Me to the We, where people become capable to think, feel, and act as co-creative collective entities, without surrendering their individual autonomy.
  • Recognising the inherent connectedness of humanity as a whole, and having our individual and collective “centre of gravity” in a state of being, where we are not separate from it.

Inherent to the identity of the School of Commoning is strengthening the practices of all three ways, and stewarding the evolution of a “commoning” framework that connects them.  We work with our members, learners, associates, clients, and other stakeholders, helping them reaching their aspirations, no matter in which wave of commoning they want to manifest them.


One more piece of news for those of truly action-oriented. On August 18, we launched a Campaign for Commons Literacy, with the webmastering help of Benjamin, and financial support from JayMartin and others. We are very excited about the campaign because its challenges are high, and so is the potential of our network of friendships to meet them.

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