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The School spreads its wings: graceful inaugural flight sets a successful precedence

on Mon, 08/08/2011 - 22:10

Meetings with Remarkable Commoners -  Michel Bauwens 

On 14th May 2011 the recently launched School of Commoning,  had the pleasure of  presenting  renowned integral philosopher and founder of the P2P Foundation, Michel Bauwens, as the first guest in a series of ‘Meetings with Remarkable Commoners’. The series will showcase high profile commoners  from around the world who are changing the way social systems are structured. The topic for this inaugural meeting was 'Governance in Worker Cooperatives, Peer to Peer (P2P) Networks, and Commons'. 

We took this opportunity to introduce the School as a learning platform for anyone who is open to co-learning with the aim of co-creating a better world for everyone by exploring together  what it will take to co-create a commoning culture  and open access to the protection and cultivation of our particular common pool of resources – education.

Commoning principles (which can be found here) encourage learning directly linked to experience rather than by lecturing. We believe that co-learning is a collective and profoundly collaborative experience. Contributions from all participants are considered highly valuable in the learning journey, where our shared desire is to discover the creative edge of commons innovation within a strong, interconnected, caring culture beyond individual ego. 

What are The Commons?

Michel gave three clear categories for what the commons has come to encompass:

1.  Inherited Commons – e.g. earth, water, forests –  are heavily under attack and becoming scarce commons. It doesn't have to be this way i.e. in Switzerland, Austria, Japan they are well managed under an agricultural commons, and have been protected for hundreds of years by good collective arrangements between the farmers.

2.   Immaterial Commons – e.g. Cultural, intellectual, enabled by the internet, makes commoning stronger and easier to do than before. Commoning in this sense can be abstract but when we do it around something we care about, whether its free software, open design or wikipedia this really creates a community of shared interest because its something that we all care about. 

3.  Material Commons – that we which we co create e.g. common stock, common machinery. Think of zip-car, owned by a company but why not have the community own it. Then there is the Commons Car, claimed to be the first open source car, now one of many such projects. 

In addition we learned that the commons in theory and practice goes beyond a model based on the assumption of infinite growth – with its destructive impacts on the environment and social relationships.

The Commons model emphasises sustainability rather than creating products planned for obsolescence.

It questions the enclosure within a set of ever hardening intellectual property laws which serve to slow down innovation. The commons cannot be bought or enclosed, because by definition, the commons is shared, continually renewed and enhanced between all of us through commoning.

What is its Relationship with P2P and Worker Cooperatives?'

Michel explained that the cooperative movement has traditionally fallen within the material commons which makes sense given its main involvement with the material stocks of housing, credit unions, banking and agriculture. The commons movement , however, while including cooperatives as an important piece of its history and identity, also includes all other forms of governance models thereby protecting and cultivating all manner of commons.  The Commons, therefore, crucially include those models which exist to maintain and cultivate inherited and immaterial commons. It is in the realm of immaterial commons, enabled by the internet, that Michels' P2P foundation works from, and which he boldly predicts will drive the third revolution in human productivity.

 As the discussion progressed we discussed  the need to co-create sustainable commons-based institutions to protect, manage and cultivate these commons. The overriding sentiment was to create institutions that are commons and are therefore inherently sustainable by their nature.

 If you would like to read a transcript what Michel had to say about our transition towards these institutions please click here. In summary, the two hours that we shared together gave us a tantalising taste of what commoning is all about by sharing a mature learning environment where each participants perspective, experience and wisdom was deeply appreciated by the whole group. There was a high degree of attentive listening and Michel Bauwens excelled in his remarkable commoner tag, pulling us all forward in expanding our understanding of the commons.

If you are interested in learning more about the transition from immaterial to material P2P production and gamification/serious games that link to the material world, please click here.