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Some reflections on specific outcomes of the Quilligan Seminars

on Thu, 05/31/2012 - 22:22

Launching at the House of Commons on 8 May 2012, the James Quilligan Seminar Series discussed the commons and a commons-based economy as a coherent and sustainable economic model adequate to the challenges of the future (all seminar notes). It explored alternative solutions to a range of political, economic, social and organisational issues from the perspective of the commons.

A wide range of participants took part in the twelve day series and included backgrounds such as academic, social entrepreneurship, economics, design, teaching, medicine, marketing, faith, geography, business, politics, etc.

Among the main issues that came out were the need for consumers to become producers of resources and how that can be achieved on a global level. Key elements of this process include co-production and co-governance and adding new value that is created through this co-process. This ranges from information and knowledge to resources and networks.

An interesting discussion in the Westminster Hub evolved aroundthe crowd and crowd funding as a new source of funding for the commons (notes). It was mentioned that Kickstarter helped raise 100 million USD in 2011, which would not have otherwise been raised and presented viable funding alternative separate from the financial system in place. In this context the importance of platforms and the way they are set up, governed and owned is critical.


The development of feedback loops and new trust mechanisms will allow for scaling up of crowd initiatives. Together with falling cost of sharing this creates new opportunities in terms of funding, organisational structures andlonger-term engagement. The role of co-operatives was mentioned as incredibly powerful and growing in importance, in particular the emerging data co-operatives.

The discussion at the New Economics Foundation started with James Quilligan (notes) outlining that one of the main challenges of our consumer society is replenishment and that the commons represents such a model.

The discussion revolved around the potential of the commons approach for a systemic transition towards a world based on social justice and environmental sustainability and referred to nef’s work on the Great Transition.

The historical role of the commons (in particular with regard to natural and heritage commons) and institutional development can serve as a basis for developing adequate mechanisms for protection of the commons in the future and address such threats to global commons such as environmental degradation, biodiversity reduction, intellectual property and the patenting of the human genome.

Some of the main questions whose exploration will continue after the seminars were:  How to get the debate on transition into areas where decisions are made?

Which areas of commons have most chance of gaining political support? What are the issues around the commons, which can excite the general public?

The seminar hosted by the Civil Society Forum gathered a range of civil society, local community, research and business organisations for half-a-day opportunity to reflect on organisational models that would suit the protection of commons.

Various insights were presented on adjusting organisational models to better serve and protect the well being of all. The examples discussed came from a wide range of areas such as the Arab Spring and governance, conservation project and community engagement in Mali, sustainable management and leadership, etc.

The role of Social Charters as feasibility studies for particular commons was outlined by James Quilligan (notes). Furthermore, the form of Trusteeships as legal and fiduciary guardians of commons was discussed.

The Convergence Workshop hosted by the School of Commoning took stock of the main discussions of the 12 day-seminar series and recognised the momentum created by the series and the energy and commitment to take this process further. For this purpose interested hosts proposed the formation of a series of working groups:  community currencies, mapping and visual images of the commons, health-wellbeing-gardens-housing, outreach, developing resource tools for learning and development in the areas of the commons.

More on the follow-up plans can be found here, as well as on the Commons Rising Platform for online forums and discussions. Join these platforms and contribute to building a discussion and knowledge of the growing importance of commons for finding solutions on a local, as well as global level and being part of a journey towards a mosre sustainable and just world.