Strategy workshop: Welcome – Introductions – Burning Questions

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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.

Please introduce yourself and share with the other participants what your driving question(s) are on the Commons.

In this thread we can also discuss any question about the workshop itself.

To keep with the flow of conversation in this thread and any of the following threads of this workshop, when you post something to them do not forget to check the “Notify me of follow-up comments via email” box at the bottom.

The Commons and Occupy

Growing a Commons-inspired “Occupy theory” of collective action

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31 Comments on “Strategy workshop: Welcome – Introductions – Burning Questions”

  1. February 14, 2012 at 4:11 am #

    Hello, I’m Georg from Austria!

    My background in short:
    * coordinator of
    * member of Occupy Innsbruck
    * public project lead of Creative Commons Austria

    My specific interest:
    * How can we understand and communicate “Money as Commons”

    Looking forward to working and learning with you!

    All the best from Innsbruck / Tyrol / Austria / Europe

  2. February 14, 2012 at 6:11 am #

    hi Georg, und Herzlich Willkommen!

    I see “Money as Commons” is a pivotal domain of a Commons-inspired Occupy strategy for two reasons :

    1. The crisis of the current monetary system cries for a Commons-based solution free from the domination of State and Market.
    2. Money as Commons is a great meme, supported by and supporting the convergence of such powerful social movements of our times: the Commons, Occupy, and Complementary Currencies.

    I’m wondering whether you’d be interested to share with us your current thinking and questions about the subject, maybe in the form of a blogpost that you could also re-post at . If you would do that soon and invite your OccupyMoney friends to join the conversation, then maybe we could develop a joint position paper in the next couple of days that we can present to the OWS Forum.

    I know that one of the leading thinkers of “money as commons,” James Quilligan will also speak at the Forum and I’d invite him to comment on the conversation if you started and facilitated one.

    What do you think?


    p.s. Thank for linking The Future of Occupy from your site! If other workshop participants will do the same, that would increase the visibility of this conversation.

    • February 16, 2012 at 1:16 am #

      As an inspirational starting point I would like to quote Charles Eisenstein:
      Sacred Economics: Chapter 11, Currencies of the Commons

      “Conceptually, it [a to be designed money] might look something like this:
      Our money derives its value from the right to harvest 300,000 tons of cod from the Newfoundland cod fishery, the right to draw 30 million gallons of water monthly from the Ogallala Aquifer, the right to emit 10 billion tons of CO2, the right to pump 2 billion barrels of oil from the ground, the use of the X-microhertz band of the electromagnetic spectrum …”

      • February 17, 2012 at 8:53 am #

        HI Georg,
        Anna from UK here, background Sociology with Anthroplogy at London School of Economics.

        Money is only needed to share out scarce resources. We live in a system of manufactured scarcity, so it seems that money is essential. But the reality behind this is abundance. So much needs to be constantly destroyed in order to maintain this belief in scarcity. When indigenous peoples live within the confines of their biosystem, it is an expression of a natural respect for their environment, not because they feel they need to limit their consumption. Money will only be needed in this way until we too can connect with that innate feeling of being ‘at one with’ the earth and all its inhabitants. As Charles points out in his book we are headed in that direction. But as I discovered recently in a workshop on ‘Sacred Economics’, the challenge is for people to relate to humanity as one family. We have a long way to go.

  3. February 14, 2012 at 10:06 am #

    hello fellow Commoners and Occupiers,

    I’ve just realized that in my enthusiasm for responding to Georg’s message above, I forgot to introduce myself. I’m a Hungarian-born American living in London, a guy from the student movements of the 60s, tremendously inspired by both the Commons movement and Occupy.

    Professionally, I’m a “collective intelligenceresearcher, mentor, change consultant, designer/host of virtual communities since the mid-80s.
    Socially, I’m a movement connector, director of the School of Commoning, founding editor of this website and the FoO newsletter, and one of the facilitators of this workshop.
    Philosophically, I’m an evolutionist, who thinks capitalism is not the last word of evolution.
    Spiritually, I stand in the non-dual prior unity of all that there is, and draw strength from it.

    My burning question is: how can this workshop make even a tiny contribution to the self-organizing, connective intelligence and wisdom of the Occupy movement?

    love, consciousness, and solidarity!


  4. February 15, 2012 at 8:23 pm #

    Hi, I”m Gerry Gleason in Chicago. I’m currently between “scarce money” jobs, and working on an open source program called Wagn. I’m also very interesting in the new money, working in the “metacurrency” network.

  5. February 15, 2012 at 9:34 pm #

    Hi All,
    I live in Seattle, and have co-hosted an UnMoney Convergence ( in 2008 and have been in some of the same places George has been exploring collective intelligence and wisdom. I am involved in community and national level, permaculture, sustainable ag , and transition movements. We will be hosting a similar UnMoney Convergence on April 25 in San Francisco. I will post a link in the next few days.

    Locally, I am a member of the community Alliance for Global Justice, “Strengthening Local Economies Everywhere” is our framework. I work on a projecttaking on the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation for their role in promoting high tech and high finance as solutions for African Agriculture.

    Since the 2008 convergence, I have been following a lead that Chris Cook has been following. My version if the inquiry is ” what would it be like if a town recreates the commons by buying itself? Each resident would be a member of a corporation that makes decisions about enterprise as well as public life.

    Finally, I am involved in Occupy just a bit, looking at what we are calling an emergent strategy for occupy in Seattle and other places.

    How do we create and implement strategy when the world is in rapid flux? How do we maintain continuity in the movement over time when people come and go?
    Looking forward to the conversation as it unfolds,

    Bill Aal
    Tools for Change

  6. February 15, 2012 at 10:52 pm #

    Hello Friends @ our world,

    I kept hoping humanity would awaken simultaneously to the immense crises and the opportunities we currently face. Occupy is the closest approximation to that awakening … and hoping it continues to unfold… Willing to do what i can to help it unfold!

    I am a systems biologist who has worked at the intersection of community-based ecological restoration and social justice activism. I left the last good paying job i had to devote my time and energy to learning, networking, and writing about the commons movement as a way help us collectively open to the possibilities that abound. If only we can figure out how to organize ourselves around what truly matters… life, sharing, justice, peace… all thru the various natural and social commons we share, local to global.

    I too am hugely interested in a restructured and transformed economics as a foundation to an all-win world. Even more foundationally, i am interested in how people recognize their sovereignty, and empower each other to do such things?

    cooperate, collaborate, co-create,
    mb steisslinger

  7. February 16, 2012 at 1:25 am #

    Hello I’m Tina,

    Involved with Occupy London outreach and very interested in strategic ways and means of reclaiming the commons.

    My background is in experimental biochemistry and physics with pit stops at neurobiology and systems biology. Means my analyses tend to be data-driven (but will happily test any theoretical tools that might be useful) and my focus on applicability.

    Some of the burning questions I’d like to explore are:

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

    * is the Iceland model (e.g. crowdsourced constitution) reproducible? If no, why not? If yes, how can we make it happen?

    * what can the Occupy movement learn from successful advocacy campaigns (e.g. ACT UP, Jubilee 2000) and what (if anything) is different about it?

    * would coordinated attacks on the transnational corporations network (e.g. by move-your-money campaigns, international actions or Anonymous) be able to structurally and functionally alter this network? If yes, how could one optimise such an intervention? If no, why not?



    • February 16, 2012 at 6:34 am #

      Hey Tina!

      I like your questions 🙂

      Especially with your last questions I got the feeling: Yes, I want to discuss this. But I don’t want to discuss everything (and specifically not the most burning points) publicly.
      How can we bild a second, more private workshop space for such conversations?
      Any ideas for the next three days?

      All the best from Austia

  8. February 16, 2012 at 10:23 am #

    Dan Nowman Niswander from Occupy Los Angeles, wrote:

    “Many of us will just be starting to get to know each other as we start this conference, a similar experience to what we go through in any new significant life experience. Many experienced that in the advent of the Occupy Movement in their specific encampments.”

    Those words about the value of getting to know each other are great reminders that occupiers are not only political or economic beings, but first of all human beings. At the end of the day, what determines the strength of the movement is the quality of our relationships, how curious and passionate we are about “creating new connections and new relationships [that] lead to new and surprising capacities.” (A Simpler Way, by Margaret Wheatley and Myron Kellner-Rogers)

    “Many of us cannot be there in person and must interact using the Internet tools which are available.”

    Yes, and currently we have Occupiers in this virtual forum not only attending in-person gathering, but also from Brussels, Chicago, Innsbruck, London, Los Angeles, Pittsburgh, and Seattle, people who cannot be in New York but have recognized that the OWS Forum on the Commons is too important to keep it within the constraints of a “same time / same place” meeting.

    What is important now it’s to find rich ways to connect the physical and virtual. Here are two examples. 1. Mary Beth, a fellow co-facilitator of the Occupy-Commons strategy conversation, who will also be on the ground at the OWS Forum, will bring a summary of our online conversations to attendees in NYC. 2. There’s a #makingworlds Twitter hashtag that I hope on-site attendees will use profusely to update the rest of us of what is happening there.

    We will try to put a Twitter feed on this page, which should collect tweets with that hashtag, but The Future of Occupy crew is lacking in-depth WordPress knowledge, and we could use a hand from WP-savvy geeks for that and other ways to enhance your experience in this virtual space. Please ask around and link us up if you find someone!

  9. February 16, 2012 at 12:08 pm #

    Dan also wrote:

    “How can we best engage our working ideas and our time as quickly as possible to make the most of the experience at this conference?”

    Here are three ideas:

      • Ask yourself, the furthering of the work on what specific question or issue would be personally the most inspiring and energizing for you, and say more about why.
      • Read about the other streams of inquiry of this workshop listed below and comment on any post resonates with or strikes you for whatever reasons,
      The Commons and Occupy
      Growing a Commons-inspired “Occupy theory” of collective action
      • Connect the dots. Help this learning community discovering the patterns that connect our disjoint ideas and questions into (elements of the) solutions that we are seeking.

    “In other words, what preparation, research, etc. can we do NOW with specific topics of interest before we engage ourselves in the workshops?”

    Well, you’re already engaged, for this thread of conversation is part of our online workshop! 🙂
    But you can get even more engaged by reading and contributing to any of the other threads mentioned above. Or if you consider writing not only comments, but a whole blogpost, then read the FoO publishing guidelines and if you think your writing meets any of those criteria, submit your text, preferably accompanied by a visual.

    “Do you have additional reading materials, websites, etc. besides and that you recommend?”

    Yes, tons of them! The Commons and Occupy movements have generated lots of high-quality written content. The challenge maybe how to select what would be the most helpful to your burning questions. Here are three sources worth considering to select materials from:

  10. February 16, 2012 at 12:31 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?


  11. February 16, 2012 at 12:49 pm #

    Jonni, thank you for vital and juicy questions! Would you mind to post them also in the The Commons and Occupy thread where that kind of important, practical questions have a chance to gain more attention and build momentum.

    Would you say a few words here, in this thread of introductions, about yourself and why and how are you involved with the movement.

  12. February 16, 2012 at 1:25 pm #

    No problem, thanks for facilitating these discussions.

    I’ve been involved on-the-ground and online at Occupy London a fair bit.

    I think Occupy is a process and a state of mind – a space for collaborative deconstruction of old ideas and synthesis of new ones – a manifestation of an awakening of the power of collective human intellect and compassion – a natural consequence of the ubiquity of many-to-many communication technologies – an algorithm for positive change… I’ll stop there for now 🙂

  13. February 16, 2012 at 1:54 pm #

    Wow, Jonni! Your heartfelt, wise, and beautiful expression of what Occupy is fills me with joy and gratitude. These are the kind of moments when I feel the effort that the FoO collective is making to sustain this platform for shared reflection about the movement, is really worth it.

    Your post could be a hard act to follow, yet it inspired this idea: What if each of us in this online workshop would say a few words about what Occupy really is for us, then Mary Beth collected them into a bouquet to deliver to our sisters and brothers who will come to our workshop in New York, at the OWS Forum on Saturday?

    I don’t mean necessarily something waxing poetic, just sensing and speaking from our heart about Occupy… Any taker?

  14. February 16, 2012 at 6:23 pm #

    Hello good folks, I’m Ed Lytwak, currently a radical homemaker and blogger from Arlington, VA. I’m active with Occupy DC in the library and learning collective. Since, I’m trying to get caught up on all the stimulating dialogue going on I’ll try to just touch on a few of the eclectic experiences that comprise my life. I studied philosophy at William and Mary and in lieu of a “career” have worked mostly in the underground, aka alternative economy, often in blue collar types of endeavors. Most of my activism has been of the grassroots variety with a small autonomous group defending forests in Western PA and West Virginia, working from the Earth First! and bioregional perspectives. Over the last two decades, I’ve worked in more conventional DC advocacy with the Grass Roots Environmental Effectiveness Network and Endangered Species Coalition. Ever since the “great recession” i’ve been more of an independent activist, of the anarchist persuasion (though I prefer the term “horizontalist” since it doesn’t carry so much connotative baggage.

  15. February 16, 2012 at 8:05 pm #

    Having just started to read and absorb all the material already posted on the workshop, I would say that the first 4 questions would be a good place to focus.

    1. What interaction between “thinking” and “doing” is needed?
    2. How can OWS foster a politics of the commons? Or a politics AS commons?
    3. What kind of organizational forms, actions, structures, etc. can help us to build the commons (or from the commons) in political work and action? How would, or do they look like?
    4. What does “political work”, “political action” and “political thought” mean from the standpoint of the commons?

    They are all related to that old question, which comes first in politics, theory or practice? but that is not quite my main question. That would be “how do we create a new horizontal politics in a world defined by vertical, aka hierarchical, politics?

    • February 17, 2012 at 7:36 pm #

      Reflecting on your question Ed, “how do we create a new horizontal politics?” As a start to opening that question up – through occupy prototyping participatory forms – it is beginning to happen. Furthermore through deliberative forms, facilitated by digital innovation and the demand for open politics e.g. German and Austrian cities (e.g. Linz), as commons and open politics. What do you think?

      • February 17, 2012 at 8:09 pm #

        Absolutely, it is not a matter of how but as this workshop asks, where do we go from here in building our new horizontal politics and recreating ourselves? Occupy has already changed the political equation here in the U.S., even though people don’t exactly know how. Its like the Occupy poster says, “Forget about taking it back, move it forward! Now is the time to embrace the uncertainty, trust the horizontal process and especially our shared values and core principles including nonviolence, world and natural peace, autonomy, egalitarianism, dignity, self-organization, direct democracy, self-management and social change. Trust in what the Argentines call “Politica afectiva,” the politics of affection – compassion, empathy and taking care of one another.

        For me its pretty clear that the politics of horizontalism is the same as the politics of the commons. I say this because, the current politics of patriarchal hierarchy began approximately 12,000 years ago when humans transitioned from hunter gatherers – the economy of the commons – to the economy of fixed agricultural settlement. The commons became the “property” of the kings, the nobles and priests and we all know where that has lead us to the verge of ecological, economic and social collapse.

        There is another aspect of the commons that is vitally important in the new politics that is the fundamental connection of humans to the land and by implications the planetary life support systems – Mother Earth. Above all the politics of the commons – horizontal politics – is biopolitics. In that regard our political choices are pretty clear. Either humans can self-manage ourselves to restore some ecological balance or we can politics for the benefit of the 1%, go extinct and tragically take much of evolution with us.

  16. February 16, 2012 at 10:39 pm #

    My name is Judith Kitty and I am a mediator, facilitator and nonprofit consultant based in Oakland, California.
    I am interested in helping to facilitate, harvest and actualize collective intelligence towards a more beautiful and inclusive future.
    I am the co-founder of the Connection Action Project, an initiative to give people skills and resources to integrate their natural-born desire for contribution and participation into word and action. Towards that end, we convene events, offer mediations, and organize trainings on spiritual, dialogic and empathic processes. We are influenced by the thinking of many who have come before us, in particular Rudolf Steiner, Marshall Rosenberg and Charles Eisenstein.

  17. February 16, 2012 at 11:00 pm #

    hello Judith,

    Thanks for joining us in this workshop. Do you have a question that about the Commons, Occupy, or their relationship, which you would want to gift us with?

    > I am interested in helping to facilitate, harvest and actualize collective intelligence towards a more beautiful and inclusive future.

    You’ve just turned up the at right spot ay the right time! Please consider facilitating, harvesting and actualizing with us the collective intelligence of this learning community.


  18. February 17, 2012 at 4:23 am #

    Hello, I’m Sarah van Gelder, co-founder and editor of YES! Magazine.

    We’ve been writing about the commons for many years

    And we’ve been writing about Occupy since it started .

    But we haven’t written about the intersection (yet).

    My burning questions are too many to list right at the moment, but here are two.

    1) The Occupy Movement has done something miraculous by creating the space for real conversation and real innovation about the sort of world we want. But like the commons, creating space has a passive side to it. OWS has been fierce about protecting the space, but how will we transform that into actual changes in our economy, in whether people have a roof over the heads, whether people treat each other with respect, whether we fry the planet, and whether corporations can claim “personhood” and keep on buying elections, …

    2) There are some amazing ways in which progressives have suddenly learned to play well together, and I think Occupy is one of the reasons. Can Occupy get involved in these things without getting co-opted or prickly? I’m thinking about things like , which has an extraordinary range of progressive groups involved.

    I have an ongoing burning question about the prospects of building a non-debt based economy, but that might have to wait…


    • February 18, 2012 at 5:30 pm #

      Sarah, I appreciate very much your inter-related questions that point in the same direction, at least for me, how will Occupy build the broad-based coalitions with other progressive movements (e.g. Commons, Transition Towns, , etc) which is a must if the 99% is ever to win.

      Btw, I’ve been a great fan of Yes! for many years, and have just re-visited your site. I’m delighted to see that the Commons and Occupy are just as central to your work as they are to ours, at FoO. Have you seen the recent issue of The Future of Occupy newsletter, “Focus on Working Groups“? I’m wondering whether you’d be interested to explore some form of collaboration between our sites/publications. If so, pls drop me a line at george(at)thefutureofoccupy(dot)org.

  19. February 17, 2012 at 9:15 am #

    Hi All,
    My background in psychotherapy informs my burning questions:
    In the camps we were able to build the new while living in the old. With the camps disappearing we are falling back on traditional ways of protest. I see this protest as arising out of a victim mentality. We feel the impotency of what we are doing, but nevertheless have to continue doing it. How can we use the energy of our ANGER in a positive and constructive way to benefit ourselves and the planet, and linked with that – how can we reclaim our power to act from a place of authenticity rather than helplessness?


  20. February 17, 2012 at 11:32 am #

    Dear Anna,

    For everyones benefit, my background is in health an social care. I am also a founding member of the School of Commoning.

    I think protest has its place to draw attention to what is painful and needs healing but not really for building something new, new structures, new values ….. and a new way of being with each other. The camps have only been there for a relatively short time and thus provided a limited time for developing new ways of living, working and being together. Freeing ourselves from internalised old structures while building something new needs patience and time, patience with ourselves and with others. Patience mixed with clear focus and strengths and not in a passive way.

    Once we move from being angry to feeling joy, delight, beauty and love and inquire what is really going on, we can then move to resolve and tend to what needs tending to. We need to reach out again and again and again for connections with other movements, groups, individuals, ….. and thus amplify possibility and healing of our pain and their pain through reaching out, growing connectivity, outreach work, – we tap into others possibilities, increase their possibilities and inspire collaboration.
    When we become attractors through showing unconditional love, integrity and when we act out of inner strength, from a strong centre and our true power it is then that we become shifters in the larger sense.

    Camps seem to me like a laboratory, a womb where all sorts of new ideas are welcomed, talked about with sincerity and openness, tried out collaboratively and mature to the next level of possibility. They seem like the embryonic stage of many possibilities. Anger is a useful emotion and like all emotions provides the doorway into understanding what really is going on with us. How can we use this ‘righteous’ anger for our learning. I guess it is not that different than when I experience anger personally.

    The questions to me are: How can we together find ways to stand in our strength and power and grow clarity about the stuff we are angry about? What does it take to develop the ‘inner strength of the movement’? How can we grow as many meaningful connections as possible and what would they look like?

  21. February 17, 2012 at 7:09 pm #

    Hello fellow commoners and occupiers! Thank You for your introductions it is really heartwarming to have read these and I feel so humbled to be here. I am the managing editor of the FoO site and it has been a real pleasure to co-create with the team such a space for reflection and strategic theory-action making. It is my first chance to be a part of intentionally co-creating a social theory of collective action and I am very excited to be able to see the way we can interweave the interactions taking place online and onsite as the workshop and conference unfold.

    I am an evolutionary thinker-doer and co-founder of the School of Commoning, where we began our reflections and engagement with the winds of change back in June 2011 as the Spanish and Greek Revolutions were in full swing. I am deeply interested in the consciousness and cultural elements of occupy as a commons. I have a particular yet early interest in the design and co-planning of urban-space as distributed connected commons.

    • February 17, 2012 at 7:35 pm #

      At the risk of sounding like a broken record, the Argentine revolution celebrated its 10th anniversary in December 2011. We would be remiss to not only acknowledge but especially learn from what happened and what is happening today in Argentina. The spontaneous generation of neighborhood assemblies, the recuperation of workplaces, the creation of a new language, the evolution of tactics and strategy, the relationships between various autonomous movements all have vital relevance to the future of Occupy. We now have the experience of 10 years of growth and change in the horizontalidad process there to draw on as we in Occupy look to move forward. Fortunately, there is an incredible resource to draw on: “Horizontalism: Voices of Popular Power in Argentina” edited by Marina Sitrin.

      • February 17, 2012 at 8:03 pm #

        Awesome! Thanks Ed, yep I have been reading around on Argentina and the way they self-organised in desperate times, co-ops and peoples assemblies seemed to be absolutely vital to them climbing out of the mess they were in. Here in the UK I don’t think it has got anywhere near bad enough for the reserved British to start self-organising like the Argentinians or following the radical events in Iceland.

        I am uneasy when self-organising doesn’t go beyond the existing models we already have to create a system which facilitates the evolution of cultures to increasing co-governance and co-production. If we don’t do that then the old problems will emerge again as capitalism has for hundreds of years created crises after crises fuelling its own evolution through the cycles of boom and bust. A bottom up system based on the commons sees the people becoming self-governing and creators of value to the point where we no longer align with this cycle and is superseded by spirals of value creation within local but regional and globally connected commons. Thats how I see it, so although we should look to Argentina and Iceland we are envisioning a model that has the potential to take us beyond that.

  22. February 17, 2012 at 7:12 pm #

    One question, Anna Harris said “the challenge is for people to relate to humanity as one family. We have a long way to go.” Which generated the question: what will it take to co-create that (oneness) perspective in the relational everyday of occupy life so that we may become the attractors to the rest of the 100% (that Anna B said we must become)?

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