The Blog

Commons Rising in the Spring

This Spring something significant is really brewing!

Spring is the season when life, colour and vitality returns, gives new life, restores energy and inspires hope to renew our relationships to ourselves, to each other and to the world.

It is the ideal time to re-examine whether our present way of doing things is the only possible way and whether the dominant beliefs and values of western culture are really useful for constructing a fair, equitable and sustainable world.

For me and many others from around the world it is no longer just a choice between predatory markets or centralized hierarchies presided over by a state committed to planet-destroying economic growth. All over the world people are finding more sustainable and more life affirming ways of expressing their creativity, their love for the planet and each other and for living and working together so that we all benefit.

With her 30+ years of research, the late Nobel prize laureate Elinor Ostrom provides evidence that there are indeed other viable, more sustainable and life affirming models that allow everyone in a community to thrive. The tragedy of the Commons is not so common as Garrett Hardin may have wanted us to believe. Commons projects around the world are proof that a more humane and kinder system is possible and that we are not too stupid to govern ourselves and live sustainably.

Ostrom identified 8 design principles which affect the success of self-organized governance systems, including effective communication, internal trust and reciprocity, and the nature of the resource system as a whole.

As the tide of the Commons is rising, Commons gatherings are happening all over the world:

March 16th in Oxford

Commons and Commoning - Ideas and practices for a connected world. A one day programme with international commons activist and author, Silke Helfrich to facilitate and share new thinking and practices on the commons, commoning and commons creation in all areas of our lives: our communities, organisations, networks, disciplines.

March 20th-21stBarcelona

Sharing Commons Spring Institutions for/of the commons. State & Commons: An impossible match?. Reflections from a worldwide perspective by Michael Bauwens

March 23rd in London

A world that Works For Everyone. An event jointly organised by the Green Party and the School of Commoning featuring Silke Helfrich in the Series 'Meetings with a Remarkable Commoner'

March 27-29th in Georgia

6th annual "The SoTL Commons" conference in Savannah. The SoTL Commons Conference is a catalyst for learning, conversations and collaborations about SoTL as a key, evidence-based way to improve student learning.

April 9-11thCape Town

2013 IASC Africa Regional Meeting aims to bring together informal and formal networks. It proposes an ecosystem approach to natural resource management in Africa

April 11thStockholm

COMMONING THE CITY will explore the theory and practice of urban commons in the context of Sweden, and beyond. By bringing together professionals from the fields of urban theory, architecture, digital culture, film, literature and social sciences, as well as hands-on practitioners and policy makers, the conference will investigate what role the commons can have in shaping the cities' future.

April 25-26thParis

Property and Commons seminar will present for discussion the results of three years of surveys and research carried out in the framework of the PROPICE project (Intellectual Property, Commons and Exclusivity), sponsored by the French National Research Agency.

May 22nd- 24thBerlin

The Economics and the Commons Conference (ECC) will expand and empower the work of the rich array of commons - in nature, cities, civic life, the Internet, and many other realms, by exploring the commons as a coherent field of inquiry and action. It will convene approximately 240 commoners -- researchers, practitioners and advocates from around the world -- to explore the relationship of conventional economics and the commons, showcase key actors and initiatives, and devise plans for moving the commons paradigm forward.

May 23rd-25thAthens

The HYBRID CITY II: Subtle rEvolutions, Conference, workshops, exhibition and parallel events Hybrid City has grown into a peer reviewed conference, aiming to promote dialogue and knowledge exchange among experts drawn from academia, as well as artists, designers, researchers, advocates, stakeholders and decision makers, actively involved in addressing questions on the nature of the technologically mediated urban activity and experience.

June 3rd-7thMount Fuji, Japan

Commoners and the changing Commons.

Livelihoods, environmental security and shared knowledge. The conference offers participants not only the benefits of attending an exciting international meeting of the IASC and of visiting one of the world's most spectacular places, but also an opportunity to learn more about the Japanese experience with traditional, modernizing, and completely new commons in post-industrial society.

I am excited to participate in a couple of those events. An exciting opportunity to find out what can emerge when people from all over the world who truly care about each other, our world and its citizens gather to share experiences, insights, ideas, beliefs, dreams, skills and resources and spend time together to give space and time to listen, be with each other, learn from each other and become practical together.

Thanks to the internet, we have the tools that support our ongoing collaboration, spread our ideas and make what we do visible to the world. However, I believe real time gatherings where we are fully present are still the places that can make our ideas fly.

What mobilises citizens to join forces are no longer world wars or outside enemies but a desire for real change towards a better world for everyone. Don Tapscott reminded me of that when at a recent talk at the RSA in London he said: 'We live in the age of collaboration which is enabled by the internet.' It makes change by the people for the people possible on a very large scale. We are indeed on the same side and can give each other access to our resources, our ideas and the working of our hearts and minds.

This is the space of the Commons, our shared space both virtual and physical where together we create what we need for a good and sustainable life.

The 16th and 21st March will be opportunities to meet with a truly remarkable commoner. The School of Commoning in collaboration with the Green Party feature Silke Helfrich, the soft-spoken yet influential, global commons activist, member of the Commons Strategies Group. She is also the the co-editor of 'The Wealth of the Commons' anthology that you can find here. The event on the 21st March is co-sponsored by the Green Party UK.

If you're not in London but have friends there, please let them know about this free programme.

For details and to register, please visit the event's page here:

For background information, we recommend to read:

Why the Commons is Important for the Left, excerpt from the latest book by Derek Wall

The Wealth of the Commons book review, by Professor Leo Burke