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Welcome, introductions, and burning questions

on Tue, 11/09/2010 - 07:12

Welcome to the hearth of the "School of Commoning" commons!


This is the central place where we gather, introduce ourselves, and start conversations about anything that matters to you and other commoners.

Let's introduce ourselves by sharing how we discovered the idea of the commons, what were our first thoughts, experiences and feelings about it, and what attracted us to this commons.

Here, you can also introduce your burning questions and if it gets comments from three or four people indicating their interest in the same, then feel free to open a new topic in the Questions We Talk About forum.

To get an overview of the Commoning Cafe process please see that info here on our 'learn' pages


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George Pór's picture


A founding member of the School of Commoning team, I am truly pleased to be one of your online hosts. What brought me to the co-creation with my colleagues of the School, as a commons-based and commons-supporting social enterprise,  was the the confluence of these factors:

  • my passion for a profound social transformation, a transition to a commons-based socety, and the commoning way to get there together
  • the shift of my life's work into a phase with a greater emphasis on writing, mentoring, and teaching
  • meeting with friends who are just as dedicated to commons education work as I am

I discovered "to common" as a verb only a few years ago in the writings of, and email exchanges with James QuilliganDavid Bollier, and Leo Burke. However, what it stands for makes me feel about it as an intimate, old friend. "Commoning" is a perfect expression of how i've been feeling about my work and life for long time. Looking at them as commons, i think of them in the sense of shared resource management.

I've been living my work and life as resources offered to the transition to a commons-based society, long before I heard about that term. What that meant and means to me is continually sensing how the movement for transformation can best use my talents and reconfigure them to what is  needed next.

Here's an early Twitter profile of mine to illustrate that point: 60s the Movement; 70s rad. sociology; 80s online groups; 90s org. transformation, communities of practice, WWW; 00s integrating; 10s fully available 2 Emergence. What's interesting are the inflection points of that trajectory: every capability plateau leading to the emergence of a new wave. It makes me wonder, isn't the life of each of us is a metaphor for evolution at every other scale, too?

What has pulled me from the inflection points upwards, into the next phase, was simply letting the choice of next steps be guided by conversations and commoning with those who also cared for a future in need of us. This year, that's what led me to co-create the School of Commoning with my friends.

p.s.: I also posted this reply in my blog that i use as my "commons" diary, here.

Abraham Heinemann's picture



I came across the paradigm of the Commons through being the web-admin of this site. It has provided me with many insights, some of which I have already had but now have a context to explain them in.

Most powerful to me though is that it has set out a basis upon which to build the answer to a question I have searched and worked on. Quite crude and over-arching but simply: If one is to study Marx then one can see how obviously our system will eat itself, but what is the solution. I think Marx had many great insights and insightful critics of Capitalism, but never really provided a route towards an alternative working model that really answered his own criticisms.

The Commons is that beginning of a practical path.

From my perspective, I think the Commons Learning Alliance is what is needed to bring an awareness of the Commons and what it is and then where to go with it. I feel that we must not create an elite of peoples already involved and aware of what the Commons is and further their education here, but also provide a way in for those who have no idea what so ever as to what the Commons is, plus relating it to the why and how difference it can make to the Common person (and therefore participation in it down the line).

I myself am interested in Education (unsurprisingly I guess as I am a student. I think Education needs to be less enclosed. A samll effort I am working on is an education share at my university.


Robin Temple's picture

I first heard about the commons in history lessons while at school in England but had not been aware of their real significance until the spring of this year when some friends of mine - Leo Burke and Carolyn Lee of the Anthroposphere Institute - helped me see the commons in a whole new light.

The commons are inspiring for me because they hold out the possibility of understanding and talking about the something new that is obviously emerging all around us and between us.

The systems we have at the moment for managing ourselves and the natural resources of the Earth - which, very clearly, are not working and not sustainable out into the future, can be

Other things that make the commons attractive to me:

- no-one 'owns' the ideas behind the commons. There is no 'official dogma' or political creed that has to be believed or with which I must agree

- the commons require practical action. So I, like George mentioning above, appreciate the idea of 'commoning' as something we can do together.

- learning about the commons and how to be commoners will require a new form of education. This is exciting to me because I'm an educator in my bones - and am looking forward to finding out, together with others, what this new 'education for commoning' will look like and how I can contribute to this new way of learning.

- the commons require me to be responsible for my actions to others, and support me in living out that responsibility - both in my local community but also as a citizen of the world.

There is often a big gap between our feeling the need to be responsible, in certain areas or for particular issues, and having the actual systems or mechanisms in place through which to express that sense of responsibility.

For me the commons provide an ideal 'system of accountablity' that empower me (and others, I hope) to express our innate sense of being connected to each other and, therefore, responsible to each other in all sorts of ways.


Mark Jagdev's picture


Greetings fellow commoners!

I am a fellow co-founder of the School and I am experiencing a great passion to realise the dream of a commons based society I hold in my heart. 

Hi Robin! Thank you for stopping by and giving us those excellent probing questions we can all think about together. I would love to learn more about you and how you came across the commons...

I think all commons are important but the work we have been doing recently in preparation to a presentation I will be giving with fellow commoner Tia Carr Williams has given me food for thought.. The presentation is centred around resource distribution in the Niger Delta and how the commons perspective on resource management (which is already practiced in various communities in Nigeria) can offer new solutions to the people there. Niger Delta is an extreme example of what happens when the people are disenfranchised and private interests overtake the needs and wishes of the people. In these situations of course material commons, the natural resources of the area are most crucial. See this trailer on the Niger Delta:

While non-violence is the only solution for responsible, productive and collaborative change the conditions there really turned into a war zone until thankfully the amnesty programme stabilised the situation. Our research gives me encouragement that this could be the time that all three sectors - private, public and civil society are seeking win-win-win solutions. I am really excited to see what creativity and collaboration can emerge out of the ideas we and others will present!  I think everyone wants to move forward and not step back into the violence. Fascinating times! 

Hello George! Great to see you here I am inspired by your authentic relentless passion for the commons which I get a real sense naturally arises from all your work with communities of practice and collective intelligence. What a perfect grounding you have that can give the commons movement a real injection of inspiring ways to develop our commoning capactities!  Working with you and learning from you gives me a deep appreciation of your presence here in the commons cafe and at the school of commoning. 

I pop into the cafe regularly every couple of hours or so for a herbal tea and a snack (sometimes a coffee) so I look forward to bumping into you all and creating some interesting conversations together! 

Mark Jagdev's picture


Here I re-post some more messages from the old version of the Commoning Cafe, hosted on our previous server:

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Posted by Marilyn Mehlmann:

Subject title: Why here?

Wed, 08/24/2011 - 21:44 — MarilynM

After a couple of decades working on sustainable development, I'm more and more convinced that a) ecological commons need to be recognized and protected, b) income differences need to shrink radically, instead of growing as they are now, c) the urge to cooperate and support, present in all people, needs nurturing... if we are to have a chance of creating sustainable societies.

Also: 'commons' I see not as single and indivisible but more like nested boxes. For instance we share our home - over the past 30 years probably with several hundred people, though we haven't been counting. We 'own' our home because that is the paradigm, but we can still share it and make a mini-commons. How do the rest of you feel about that?, Fb GAP Marilyn, twitter GAPMarilyn


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Posted by Anna Betz:

Subject title: 'commons' not as indivisible but more like nested boxes


Dear Marylin,

Welcome to the cafe in our virtual home.

I see the Commons as an umbrella and true representative of civil society as well as a governance system of our shared resources to balance markets and government.

How we come together to engage with what is of primary importance. What motivates us to do so from my experience affects the quality of the outcome. The energy that we create by working together passionately around something that really matters to us, has a sharing quality that inspires trust and hope. 

From that perspective I would consider the Commons as indivisible and as resources that we need to steward rather than own. However, sharing comes in many ways and on many levels and sharing ones house, land, tools, food is a way of commoning that by itself can lead to more awareness about deeper levels of commoning. 

Am I making sense?



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Posted by Marilyn Mehlmann:

Subject title: Yes!


Sense, certainly. Agree the passion is key.