The earth cries out for a new story: a story of a world that works for everyone.
Such a story invites us to consider there is more that unites us than divides us. Not only do we have a common genetic inheritance, we have a common cultural inheritance founded on a deep set of shared aspirations: for security, for the wellbeing of our loved ones, and for full participation in the possibilities of life.
These aspirations lead us to understand that effective stewardship of the biosphere is essential, that societal responsibilities must balance short-term and long-term requirements, and that informed citizens can effectively self-organize to manage their affairs.
These aspirations are best served by a deep and vibrant appreciation of the commons: the rich reservoir of natural and cultural resources upon which we depend for life. The School of Commoning is dedicated to enable people and organisations to deepen their understanding of and participation in local and global commons.
It has many definitions and one of our favourites is this: “The Commons is building social relationships in such a way that all those things we need to reproduce our livelihood will be shared in a fair way, and managed in a sustainable way,” as Silke Helfrich said at the 1st International Commons Conference in Berlin, October 2010.
Another definition that inspires our work at the School differentiates two kinds of commons based on “common pool resources” and “public goods.” Professor Elinor Ostrom, who won the Nobel Prize for her work on the Commons explains the difference in this video clip.
The commons is all that and much more. According to Wikipedia, “The commons is 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. It gives voice to civil society and helps us to learn new social practices, imagine a political, economic and social system beyond capitalism or communism.” (Wikipedia)
Here’s another way of thinking about it, which influences the School’s work: “The commons is the basis of society, which is the connection of individuals to one another and the recognition of their interdependency. It is expressed in culture as a way of life.” (Blue Labour blog, 15 May 2011)
While the term "commons" has been in use for centuries in one context or another, the "global commons" is a recent conceptualization of something that is ageless and has several meanings:
- those resources that are shared by all of humanity, such as the sky, the oceans, the internet, human knowledge, or even the planet itself
- the sum of all various local and regional commons across the world
- an operating assumption espousing that the natural resources of the earth and the cultural resources of humanity are to be sustainably and equitably stewarded for the benefit of all, both now and in the future.
There’s no commons without people commoning: commoners engaged in mutually supportive relationships of co-creating and protecting material or intellectual resources essential to their life. In the words of Martin Luther King, we are "caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one directly affects all indirectly."
The art of commoning, in a broader sense, is one and the same as the art of living. It’s being fully engaged with life, choosing something we are passionate about and engaging with others to achieve more than any one of us could achieve on our own for a better life for everyone and a thrivable culture.
In a more specific sense, we can distinguish three scopes of commoning. (Hence the three waves in the SoC logo.)
- The ensemble of practices used by people in the course of managing shared resources and reclaiming the commons. So in its simplest form, "commoning’ is creating and maintaining something collectively" (Michel Bauwens).
- Moving from the Me to the We, where people become capable to think, feel, and act as co-creative collective entities, without surrendering their individual autonomy.
- Recognising the inherent unity and connectedness of humanity as a whole, and expanding our sense of self to include it. That's the shift from us to all of us.
Inherent to the identity of the School of Commoning is strengthening the practices of all three ways, and stewarding the evolution of a “commoning” framework that connects them. We work with our members, learners, associates, clients, and other stakeholders, helping them reaching their aspirations, no matter in which wave of commoning they want to manifest them.
Invitation to a Radical Inquiry. We explores the premise that all life is an indivisible unity. That unity is not some advanced state that we evolve into. Rather, it is a priori or prior to any divisions or difference-making mental or social structures that we tend to overlay on reality. In practice, this means that our decisions, behaviors, and actions take the totality into account, and we operate for the good of the whole. We invite you to join with us in a fearless, unbounded exploration of the implications and possibilities of this presumption.
We acknowledge and respect the inherent indivisibility of humanity as a whole. Thinking, sensing and acting from the vantage point of that inherent unity, we align with the emergence of a better future for all. The possible world that we are passionately attracted to is the one, where:
- The well-being and full development of everyone is the goal of the whole society.
- Domination is replaced by partnering and commoning as the mainstream way of organising work, learning, and social life.
- Organisations are responsive to the Whole, including their members, stakeholders, the biosphere, the noosphere, present and future generations.
- People work in democratic workplaces free of fear and exploitation, in all public, private, and commons enterprises.
- Work as creative self-expression is not the privilege of the few, anymore.
- All social institutions are designed and function to increase aliveness, joy, and prosperity for all.
- Economy, politics, culture, and community life revolve around cultivating a diverse variety of commons institutions.
- A flourishing market plays an important but not the central role. The locus of freedom, innovation, and creativity shifted from it to the Commons. “Free access, free use, free expression, free interaction that stands against private control, that is, the control exerted by private property, its legal structures, and its market forces. Freedom in this context can only be freedom of the common. (Common Wealth, by Antonio Negri and Michael Hardt)
The purpose of the School of Commoning, as a Community Interest Company, is to benefit society, by enhancing individual and collective competences in the creation, protection, and governance of commons.
The Commons is at its best when autonomy and solidarity, creativity and community, are honoured, along with the deeply human urge to reach for improved lives lived in a just and caring world. It is why we believe, the Commons has the potential to reach the hearts and minds of millions in the years to come, just like the environmental movement did in the 80s.
We’re committed to turn that potential into reality. We contribute to that by enabling people, organisations and social systems to develop better practices for strengthening and governing the Commons, as an autonomous partner to the private and public sectors.
We support the international commons movement and people who want to learn about the Commons, with well-organized knowledge resources and educational programs. We partner and build synergy with other organisations that have the Commons at their heart, and "strengthen the linkages between commons practitioners, scholars, and activists, so that we can learn from each other and support each other’s work." (David Bollier).
We promote and support the collaboration of commons-related groups and organisations, practitioners, researchers, and policy makers.
We do all that by 1. developing and delivering educational, media, networking, "serious game," and mobile apps projects that promote the Commons, and 2. inspire others to do the same.
Our originating principle, by which all others are infused is:
We recognise the inherent connectedness of humanity as a whole, and keep our individual and collective “centre of gravity” not separate from it.
1. The School is itself a commons. That requires of us to take responsibility for our common wealth both accessible and protected from vandalism and enclosures. The assets on our site are licensed for free under Creative Commons arrangement.
2. We organise ourselves in ways that foster relationships, participation, creativity, learning and development.
3. We welcome and appreciate creative friction coming from the beyond-ego expression of our diverse talents, experiences, and learning paths.
4. We continually enhance the collective intelligence of the Company and its ecosystem, and seek collective wisdom to guide it.
5. We foster collaboration and co-evolution with all commons, movements of transition to a sustainable world, and other potential allies.
Honoring those principles, we contribute to human and social evolution towards greater complexity, connectivity, and integration at higher levels of harmony and well-being.
We offer awareness raising, and support to capacity building in commons matters for people and groups, including government, civil society, business, and educational institutions, with programs tailored to their needs.
We offer that currently, through the educational proogrammes, Commons Advisory Services, a community Knowledge Garden, commons conversations online.
1. Our educational programmes will include:
- Workshops and seminars delivered in face-to-face settings in the UK, and soon, in North America.
- E-learning courses, some of which are introductory, others cover more advanced topics. Some course are free, others have a modest tuition. The e-learning courses take place on the virtual Commons Campus, an advanced learning management system.
- Social learning courses online, which emphasize mutual exploration and shared innovation. As we learn together, we grow our collective intelligence.
- The Commons Campus and our online pedagogy supportare available to commons educators organiations wanting offering courses on the commons and wanting to use our facility.
- Our faculty is also available to develop commons curricula for schools and higher education.
2. Commons Advisory Services. We work with an international network of commons experts and scholars to provide commons design and consulting services to organisations civil society and the public and private sectors.
3. Knowledge Garden. It is an interactive, living repository of an expanding body of knowledge about the commons. It has a range of commons-related documents organized by subject areas and tagged for easy find and reference. This is a Creative Commons-licensed, open-source space where users can browse, quote, add-to, reuse, repurpose or even remix resources.
4. Commons conversations online take place on the Converse space. This is an interaction hub that hosts conversations about anything relating to the commons, including the Campaign for Commons Literacy and the development of the School of Commoning itself as a commons.