Commons and Occupy


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This thread is part of the online component of the Occupy-Commons strategy conversation at the OWS Forum on the Commons in New York, February 16-18, 2012 described here.

Thinking of a possible, Commons-inspired strategy as guidance to support wise choices in our daily work in and around the Occupations, prompts such questions as:

What new possibilities can we see when we look at Occupy through the “Commons” lens? What does it suggest about better ways to govern and manage our various kinds of common pool resources”?

What are the commonalities in Occupy and Commons, in terms of principles, systems and processes of co-production and co-governance? Are Elinor Ostrom‘s design principles relevant to the Occupy movement?

What are examples of good practices in existing commons (in and outside Occupy) for personal accountability, as in “letting other members know what they can count on me for”?

How does a healthy dynamics of local/global decision-making look like and what can we learn from the dynamics of managing local and global commons?

Do those questions speak to you? What are yours? What do you think, where should we start our exploration of them?
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8 Comments on “Commons and Occupy”

  1. February 16, 2012 at 6:47 am #

    Ostrom’s 7 principles for well-managed commons are brilliant design guidelines for any group to utilize in protecting the value of a resource. These are invaluable to those of us looking to find new ways to manage our resources collectively, justly and sustainably… esp on local or even regional scales. Many formal and informal examples exist, ex. see commons-based Collective Action and Property Rights Sourcebook: http://www.capri.cgiar.org
    Does anyone have examples of occupy projects utilizing these or similar design principles?

    The 8th overarching principle concerns the need for protecting associated commons across scales, ie for commons resources that “are parts of larger systems: appropriation, provision, monitoring, enforcement, conflict resolution, and governance activities are organized in multiple layers of nested enterprises”… presumably this could mean cross-border or even global commons

    This is where things get tricky… if we want to create new models and institutions that can address things at the scale Occupy is attempting to address… transformation and transparency in politics, corporate oversight of use of commons, fair and just trade regulations, sustainable monetary and taxation systems, human rights enforcement… Is it a matter of learning locally and scaling? Or is there potential to enable simultaneous horizontal associations, and representative regional and world bodies, that can transcend and include all scales to the global where trans-national corporations now reign supreme?

    mb steisslinger

  2. February 16, 2012 at 9:13 am #

    hi Mary Beth – I appreciate your last questions, the answer to which would move the edge Occupy’s preparedness, and by extension the preparedness of the 99%, to provide a Commons-inspired, large-scale resource management regime, as an alternative to the Market’s and the State’s.

    Regarding the potential of horizontal associations, you may find useful approach in the concept of “scaling across” that I wrote about here.

  3. February 16, 2012 at 12:58 pm #

    Hey there,

    My questions are:

    • (How) can any popular commons system engender a sense of universal empowerment and equality whilst coordinating and restricting itself sufficiently to prevent over-exploitation of resources?

    • (How) can we(/one) transmit sufficient understanding and full appreciation of the value of these oftentimes complicated, abstract, and (to many) unnervingly-radical ideas to people in an effective, accessible, easily understood and non-(perceived-as)-threatening manner?

    • (How) can a burgeoning commons movement account for actions and agents that are working beyond it’s control? Does an effective commons equal a benevolent big brother?

  4. February 16, 2012 at 2:34 pm #

    I re-post here one of the questions that Tina posted in her introduction because it is highly relevant to developing a possible, Commons-inspired strategy as guidance to support wise choices in our daily work, in and around the Occupations:

      why have successful socioeconomic experiments (e.g. co-operatives) failed to spread? Some interesting thoughts about the subject can be found here:

      http://www.occupyforum.org.uk/showthread.php?466-What-s-preventing-good-socioeconomic-experiments-from-spreading-take-2

    So, what do you guys, think?

  5. February 16, 2012 at 6:31 pm #

    Hey Jonni, good questions… will take a stab at the first ? here, and interested to see what others say, too…
    J’s ? part one: “(How) can any popular commons system engender a sense of universal empowerment and equality…”

    mb responds: this is the sort of thing that happens when people stand up for what others know is right… it happened w/ Ghandi, it happened w/ MLK… we saw it in South Africa, we see it happening w/ occupy… it’s a process, and it usually is not quick but builds over time, but it amazes me how fast Occupy is moving

    J’s ? part two: “…whilst coordinating and restricting itself sufficiently to prevent over-exploitation of resources?”

    mb responds: reposting this resource of studies of local commons as it did not copy live above: http://www.capri.cgiar.org/sourcebook.asp

    for me, this is about the ideas of subsidiarity: the stakeholders, who have a rightful sense of ownership will most often take the long-term self-interest route if the commons management is well designed and people receive fair compensation for what the resource can realistically produce… this has to happen across scales for larger resources, as just compensation is a huge driver of management protection (ex. Earth Climate Commons Trust proposal: http://thefutureofoccupy.org/2011/12/12/sage-advice-for-occupy-from-nobel-winner-elinor-ostrom/ )

    … and checks and balances (of which we currently have very few in the world, but can ideally come from civil society orgs, good governance if avail, other associated commons groups which is most important, i think as no commons exists in a vacuum)

    • (How) can we(/one) transmit sufficient understanding and full appreciation of the value of these oftentimes complicated, abstract, and (to many) unnervingly-radical ideas to people in an effective, accessible, easily understood and non-(perceived-as)-threatening manner?

  6. February 17, 2012 at 8:30 am #

    Hi,
    I proposed to the OWS Forum on the Commons last night that we begin cataloging the mechanisms through which capitalism/patriarchy gains footholds in areas not yet commodified. Sara Burke followed that up with a proposal for similar cataloging of the many creative examples of people’s successful resistance to corporatization.

    MaryBeth encouraged me to follow up on this proposal here. I’d like to brainstorm with others on how to proceed on both — two sides to the same coin (yikes, are even our metaphors commercially driven?).

    So, I’d like to begin creating a list of each of those general areas. Then, when one clicks on an event on that list, it will open to a detailed page written by someone who knows the ins and outs of the matter.

    This proposal was inspired by, especially, talks by George Caffentzis and Silvia Federici, along with one person’s comments from the non-audience (for want of a better description); unfortunately, I didn’t get her name.

    To repeat what I said at the gathering, George described “rules” in the crystallization of the commons in Maine among lobster fisher-folk: 1) Future Focus: Care to not deplete resources and helping nature to replenish the resources; 2) Training new apprentices, through rituals, etc. and 3) Resisting enclosure (I think I got that right. If not, George, please straighten me out about that!).

    Silvia then went into detail about mechanisms used to thwart that crystallization of the Commons, particularly through the nefarious spreading of the ideology of commercialization and ownership, and in looking especially at the destructiveness of Micro-Financing as currently practiced and promoted, mechanisms pushed by many not-for-profits and NGOs. I was also thinking of, as an example, the way Nestle was able to penetrate its infant formula into Africa, and the way Monsanto creates the “need” for genetically engineered crops.

    Anyone here interested in pursuing this project with me?

    Thanks.

    Mitchel Cohen

    • February 18, 2012 at 5:49 pm #

      hi Mitchel,

      Thank you for taking time in the midst of a high-energy on-site event to post your proposal online.

      > So, I’d like to begin creating a list of each of those general areas. Then, when one clicks on an event on that list, it will open to a detailed page written by someone who knows the ins and outs of the matter… Anyone here interested in pursuing this project with me?

      That sounds like an important project that could also benefit from the pattern language that Georg (from Occupy Innsbruck) and I mentioned here and in the reply above that.

      There’s not (yet) a lot of people online here, and maybe not enough for your proposal to gain the traction necessary to take off. If you describe your proposal in a bit more depth and create even a modest beginning for both lists (using pattern language, or not), then they could go up on the “Documents” section of the wiki, and the group working on it could have conversation space supporting the development of those catalogues, either here or on the OWS site, cross-linked with the wiki…

      Would that make sense to you?

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