Commons of Health and Well-being

“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... Commons are organized around resources that are collectively owned or shared between or among populations. These resources are said to be held in common and can include everything from natural resources to domains of the cultural sphere…”

How can we start envisioning a commons-based health care system? 
(Can such an action-oriented inquiry also help us envisioning the future of any social system in a commons-based society?)Answering those questions, we are not to build utopias but observe the existing paths of transition to a new system based on a logic different from the one of the private sector (profit) or the state (control). The logic of the commons is all for the Whole, the Whole for all.

The question of how a healthcare system--or any social systems, for that matter--would look like in a commons-based society, can be approached in an inductive way (starting with observation of the emerging social practices) and deductive way (starting with first principles of the commons). Here, we will use only the first approach. The second may be the subject of a separate note and conversation.

So, how is the future already here even if not evenly distributed? How can we recognise commons in our personal life and how can we strengthen them in any form in which they exist already? Pioneering, commons-like examples in health care are:

Living Medicine  facilitates skill sharing of foods and herbs for health to build a self care model which includes and transcends cultural traditions and links them to evidence based medicine. Workshops are held in parks and green spaces and enable participants to experience of how we are an integral part of nature, how by being in touch with the natural processes we observe around us we can learn about ourselves.

Another example is the Intelligent Waiting room project which is part of SustainCare. It uses the space and time when people wait to see their doctors in a creative way by engaging patients in activities and also linking them to local supportive networks. Healthy food demonstrations, exercise programmes and the opportunity to talk to a health facilitator are some of the activities which encourage patients to take a more active role in their own recovery or in preventative healthcare.

Patient social networks are another  example where patients exchange their experiences with treatments (conventional, natural, holistic) for particular illnesses or symptoms. Ongoing clinical studies show new value for patient social networks. See search health where clinical studies show new value for patient social networks.

These are just some of the current social practices of health care, which point beyond the status quo, towards the future system, and are worth amplifying and connecting with each other in order to empower and let them scale them up.

These examples represent a tiny, random sample from a vast ocean of projects, initiatives and movements that have already engaged the hearts and minds of millions around the world. What else is already moving and what can we observe in the domain of health care? What other projects and initiatives do you know of, which:

• Empower people to influence the conditions affecting their health,
• Put the collective intelligence of the whole in the service of people’s well-being
• Help people grow a more intimate relationship with nature, and its healing forces

What would be some of the other desired characteristics of a future “commons of health and well-being”? What do you see that needs to be included, which would inspire you?  We invite you to work with us on a collaboratively vetted and prioritized list of those characteristics and sense together into the next steps on our learning journey towards a commons of health and well being. (The "we" in the "we invite you" is Anna Betz in collaboration with George Pór, members of the School of Commoning). Improvedhealth care education and delivery will mean improved awareness and wellbeing for everyone and less expense.

Here are some questions worth seeing into:

What can we do to make the existing projects stronger?

What can we do to facilitate connections and collaboration between them?

In order to grow and evolve, the commons will need financial resources. Given what the commons initiatives do for public health, the government must support them more generously. What would it take to create a partnership between the public and commons sectors?

If you want to help us finding answers please contact, Anna Betz at:  modernherbalmedicine (at) gmail (dot) com

Or join us on Facebook.



The links below will take you to more content related to this topic.

Health Commons Resources

1.  The Health Commons and Care of New Mexico's Uninsured    A seamless system of social, behavioral, and medical services for the uninsured was created to address the social determinants of disease, reduce health disparities, and foster local economic development in 2 inner-city neighborhoods and 2 rural counties in New Mexico.

2.  A Health Commons using p2p approach

3.   Reliable Prosperity: The health of people and the ecosystems upon which they depend is inextricably linked.


4.   Global Health Commons

5.  Treating Healthcare as a Commons

6.   Integrative Medicine insights: Integral Healthcare: The Benefits and Challenges of Integrating Complementary and Alternative Medicine with a Conventional Healthcare Practice  Integral Healthcare

7.    Health Commons: Treating Love and Health as a Commons

8.    People powered Health – when Health becomes a Commons

9.  People Powered Health is a programme from NESTA, working with the Innovation Unit, to support the design and delivery of innovative  

     services for people that are living with long term health conditions

  • Recognising people as assets
  • Building on people's capabilities
  • Promoting mutuality and reciprocity
  • Developing peer support networks  
  • Breaking down barriers between professionals and users
  • Facilitating rather than delivering


10.   Health Commons at Dar Ul-Quba in the US. A drop-in centre dedicated to local residents with a focus on healthy individuals and comunity. Services are free of charge and open to everyone. Connects health and hope for participants.


11. ReThink Health Action

       Health Commons Talking Points


              check out this presentation - Fannie E. Rippel Foundation


When Love & Health Become a Commons

People dont care how much you know unless they know how much you care about them

The primary things healers do is  dealing with an attitude. It is not about us all becoming healers but to pay attention to what people neglected to pay attention to and which got us into a crisis.   

What I am seeing is a web of friendships , the whole of society will be based on webs of friendships. There will be nobody outside of it except some sociopaths or criminals who choose to be outside. The new norm will be not just that everyone will have a friend but a web of friendships where a friendship in a deep sense will infuse all relationships amongst humans. When there is no ego or power, there is no reason why a friendships shouldn’t connect everyone,  to connect with friends in a deeper way and then connect with the rest of the world.

In that context the attention to each others health will move out from the medical and become part of everybody’s life. The caring about each other will be generalised and love translates into caring for each other.

My body and health is not my private possession but a commons. This means that in a commons based society the wellbeing including the vibrant health of everybody is a matter of main concern of everybody else in my web of friendships.

Calling my attention to things I need to be aware of is then not just the job of my close family and friends but it will be the case of everybody for each other. There will be a much wider context to what        I have access to  through all my friendships. The wellbeing for the individual is the goal of the whole. And the individual will see their own wellbeing as part of the wellbeing of the whole. We embody this through love and attention to each other. We expand our relationship between us to the rest of the world by the intermediary of the commons.

The whole fabric of society needs to be woven to beyond ego. We need to model something that anybody can make part of their life style. Of how to  be caring for oneself and for one another. A key point is that in the conditions of modern life one person is not enough to be fully responsible for one self. That requires Commons.  That is why the Commons is not a phantasy but there is the requirement of life itself to move forward. 

It requires re-training of our senses and our vision of how we experience and see things. 

Unless the Commons is in our guts, we are in danger of coming across as a new ideology or a new philosophy. 

The source document is our philosophy but we also need the gut type experience. Social movements have to be grounded in the politics of the body where the body becomes social. Once ill health is caused mostly by social factors then healing has to be social also.

Another part of the meaning is related to the division of labour and expertise.  As individuals we are  born in a world of division of  expertise. The health commons could be a commons of health practitioners, a platform where experts come together to share and collaborate as a community that works in service of the Whole. 

I would even go further and say health will be held in every commons not only the health commons. Through that perspective the major challenge of a health commons is helping health become part of the connective  tissue in every commons. It requires a shift in - the same shift as realising like my wellbeing is dependent on everyone. It is realising that we are all connected and not isolated atoms. Some people realise things at a cognitive level first. As understanding deepens it drops from the mind to the heart. I realise that it is my love and caring, a deeply felt reality that drives my thinking. The thinking emerges from the inner attitude. it cant be taught like math or other subjects. Commons educators will be effective only if they embody it in their attitude to each other and to the rest of the world. That shift needs to be in the centre of our attitude in the SoC. In this way it becomes transformational when we do this shift ourselves. 

The truth of what we are saying will not be only in our words but in our energy. 

Something much larger than me comes through this individual with limited personal expression. Pre-assessing of how it will be in a world where we all care for each other. It is the love that manifests as attention which enables the coming forth of pre-sensed reality of the future. Even love is not personal but is also a commons.