Take-aways from Economics & the Commons Conference (II)

800px-Ecc2013-logo-1The Economics and the Commons conference triggered many reactions.  As the debates about how to move forward they will be documented on the Conference Communication Platform. What I want to do here is simply collect a few post-conference reactions from participants, with their insights or ideas I’d love to keep in mind. So it’s like my personal ECC2013 memorable quotes pinboard. (part II)
Here we go:
Brian Davey /FEASTA) writes about his own take on the „From Here to There“ discussion:

„Recognising that ‚we‘ are not currently the main ‚actors‘ […] involves bringing indigenous peoples from being marginalised extras in a drama, currently evolving into a tragedy, […] to being the main stars and ‚actors‘  showing an alternative direction on the global stage.“


In a similar vein Kai Ehlers, who invites to an East-Western-Commons Project, reminds us of 1000 years old commons culture and history. Analysing the efforts of former generations to create self organized societies

„definitely ought to be part of the rising common movement.  In Russia, the commons developed in the shape of peasants communities, called ‚Òbchina‘.“

„Without any doubt, there is a strong relationship between the russian commons and the attempts of building up a socialist society in Soviet Union after the October Revolution. But the Revolution was structurally based on the nationalisation of the Russian common culture. It is important to understand, that this was a kind of state driven enclosure of the commons. Remembrance to common tradition is still alive, but the underlying structures have been destroyed. Today the question is, if and how people can overcome this (anti) cultural rape and find new ways for  self organisation.“.

About the idea of a Commons Re/Creating Economy he writes:

„to me it means, that commons are to be understood as an initial energy for a paradigm shift: from mistrustful competition to trustful mutual creativity.“


In an invitation to co-construct a Virtual Global Platform and Collective Sense Making, George Por (School of Commoning, London) writes:

„What we call a commons movement is more like an ecosystem of many movements, an ecosystem of ideas and desires, networks and commitments for change. […] With ECC 2103 we reached a new milestone; the ecosystem of the commons movements is now 3-year old, but […] still in search of its identity. Three-year-olds learn primarily through exploring, using all the senses. […] Yes, we have tons of information, and one can even say that we are drowning in information but starving for knowledge.

And he invites us to learn more about:

  • the operational principles that connect successful commons struggles“
  • „the burning needs for engagement and participation“, so that…
  • „collaborative meaning-making [and] identifying opportunities to act for change at increasing scale“ gets possible.“

„Combustion begins if a sufficiently strong oxidizer […] is present. The oxidizer of surprising emergence in the commons movements is our collective self-reflection that lets us see ourselves in the mirror of a broader collective consciousness. In such a mirror we could see that we are millions….“


Tina Bakolitska from Occupy London calls her write-up of her ECC-experience: Scrumming Futures:

„In Greece (greek – S.H.), there’s a special immediacy in thinking about Commoning and the Commons. You become familiar with these concepts (“Τα Κοινά”), when learning at school about the ancient agora and the origins of democracy.  […] Even outside school, these are concepts you use on a daily basis. They form the root of words such as community (“Κοινότητα”), society (“Κοινωνία”), communication (“Επικοινωνία”), transport (“Συγκοινωνία”) […]. Because of this etymology, society translates simultaneously as an organised group of people that live in accordance with certain rules, and as the act of participation. […] Communication is simply the process of building on, upon, participation – both the product and the process. […] This unity is not encountered elsewhere.

And she continues:

„a growing number of things in the world should be kept away from national sovereignty, the overwhelming power of the markets, and the instrumental use of individuals. From this viewpoint, common goods challenge both foundations of modernity, i.e. ownership and sovereignty.

Shouldn’t it say: „Commons challenge both foundations of modernity, i.e. ownership and sovereignty.“?

And while reminding us to avoid speaking „legalese, economese, nerdish, activish, academian“ (hihi) she invites us to realize, the abuse one can make of the performative power of language:

„Language certainly creates reality […] but there as elsewhere, the main determinant of success appears to be skill of use. One of my favourite examples of rearranging language to quicken, prime, catalyse a shift in perspective comes courtesy of a Brazilian bishop”When I give food to the poor, they call me a saint. When I ask why they are poor, they call me a communist.”

About the concept of enlivenment:

„I got the concept but there was no music, no resonance to it, perhaps because I couldn’t sense any of the required dynamics.“

Two important points: 1. resoncance is key, indeed. 2. are there enough ‚oxidizers‘ out there to spark a „spontaneous combustion“. I admit, I have some doubts. Tina has doubts regarding the „successful communication“:

„Would this really speak to an intelligent 8-year old? And how would it look on a t-shirt?“

I admit, this has not been part of my worries in preparing the conference at all. Each thing has its moment: communication AMONG different commoners (challenging enough; the ECC-moment) and communication towards a broader public. ECC was clearly not designed to get the message accross.


Allan Tonner describes his estrangements with the commons discourse for the last few years (and I guess he’s not the only one):

„Suddenly it seemed there were commons everywhere, anything even mildly desirable which the speaker determined everyone should have access to was a ‘commons’; an echo of socialism in a time which scarcely dares to utter its name.“

He is right, this ‚“commons = having access to pretty many things“ is still very present; it is  casual and conceptually diluting. Therefore, the conferences we host, the publications we offer is a try to get out of this and move foward towards a coherent sense-making-commons paradigm.

Allan wants to tease out wheter the grown interest in the commons …

„…is something useful to be drawn from all this, or if we are simply witnessing the manufacture of an ideology of the commons.“

Let us know about your insights, Allan!

Joel Dietz asks What the Commons is missing?

I am not sure if what he points us to is really missing (IMHO it isn’t, it was precisely at the core of the conference). Anyway: the question he asks is crucial to the whole commons-debate

„What does it mean to have an ecosystem that is growing and facilitating optimal outcomes for those within that ecosystem?“

„If we simply mesh together a bunch of different models and theories, one does not allow for models to emerge that have gone through the much harder process of consensus building after legitimate critical comments have been raised.“

And he finally reminds us (whit somehow drastic but to-the-point-reasons):

„Consensus without commitment is useless.“ … and that „The world needs more do-ers.“

Therefore we startet a few post-conference debates and actions.

More to follow!


ECC Logos by yaco
See also:

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