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Democratic Mobilisations, the Commons and Communities

on Thu, 08/11/2011 - 15:50

The recent mass mobilisations in the Arab world, Spain, Greece and other countries, have been signalling a deep yearning for real democracy expressing the desire of the people for greater freedom, participation, and ending the expropriation of the resources of all by the few.

The events of the present are calling us to co-create the future, as it emerges from them. That’s why we put in the focus of this workshop the relationship between the democratic mobilisations and the Commons.

Just as the Commons, those movements too tend to be beyond ideology, beyond capitalism and beyond communism. The deeply human urge to reach for a higher potential, stirred from within the hearts of ordinary people, far and wide, has ignited the same passion in others.

Not yet fully recovered from his heart surgery, George Pór guided us from his hospital bed with his wisdom and expertise throughout the whole process of workshop preparation, such is his passion to strengthen the Commons. (He even showed up in the last 15 minutes, via Skype video, to answer questions.)

The questions we explored in the workshop included:

  • Are these movements able to go beyond protest and grow as a positive alternative to the current status quo?
  • Can the activists/organisers embody in their working style and relationships the better world that they strive for?
  • Can the Commons and commoning grow out from this state of disruptive tension?

During the workshop we heard stories from the ground via Skype from Anthi Theiopoulou in Athens and Marco Berlinguer in Barcelona. Sharing their experiences and insights by connecting with them directly gave our work for a collaborative future more urgency, especially with Anthi’s advice not to be complacent and wait with constructive action until it is too late.

The workshop became an expression of emerging possibilities and what can happen when our online and offline peer to peer networks connect. The mixed media of video and skyping, coupled with face-to-face group processes, made the workshop very engaging and dynamic, with 19 participants.

We were very fortunate to have expert facilitator, Sofia Bustamante, founder of London Creative Labs and practitioner of the Art of Hosting to co-host the event. Sofia hosting guide Event Flow diagram served as a coordination vehicle for the team and a prototype for our ‘workshop design” practice.

Early in the workshop, we were treated to a surprising and very innovative Prezi creation by Mark Jagdev, telling the story of the Commons and commoning in the context of the Spanish and Greek protests

The day was structured to facilitate two rounds of World Café conversations around burning questions selected by attendees and one Open Space session around commons related topics.

Examples of burning questions were:

  • What are some of the success stories about existing commons?
  • What fundamental changes are necessary to move towards a commons-based society? 
  • What would an educational commons look like?

Themes of the Open Space conversations included:

  1. Killer App for commoning.
  2. Healing through commoning.
  3. The history of the Commons.
  4. A post-Web world, the commons and a collaborative future.

The results of the workshop included, in George’s words, this: “What was the most delicious fruit of the workshop is the School becoming a real commoning team baptised in fire, twice the size of the original and multiples of collective capabilities. Hurrah!”

The organisation and promotion of the workshop helped us plant a seed for the SoC ecosystem of supportive relationships, including people who were not present (and need a personalized follow up).

The third outcome was the production of a couple of seminal documents that will serve SoC beyond the boundaries of the this workshop, such as Hosting as a Team, and the 4-fold identity framework of the School.

It is also notable that Abraham Heinemann created a video to support the workshop’s theme, which triggered our search collaborative video editing tools and processes so that video-creation can also become an art of commoning.

Finally we created a prototype for future workshops, which can be much improved, no doubt; its lessons learned will contribute to the emergence of our next-gen workshops!