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Architecture of the Commons | Heinrich Boll Foundation

by Howard Silverman

The Heinrich Böll Foundation hosted an International Commons Conference, with a steering committe of: Michel Bauwens (Thailand), David Bollier (USA), Beatriz Busaniche (Argentina), Silke Helfrich (Germany), Julio Lambing (Germany), Heike Löschmann (Germany).

One piece that caught my eye was "The Architecture of the Commons" in the conference backgrounder "The Commons - Prosperity by Sharing" by Silke Helfrich, Rainer Kuhlen, Wolfgang Sachs, and Christian Siefkes:

The first building block is material.
It relates to the resources themselves. They can be physical, such as water, soil and the atmosphere, or intangible, such as genetic information, software code, algorithms and cultural techniques or even the time at our disposal. All these are common pool resources. We all have natural entitlements to use them.

The second building block is social.
It refers to people who make use of these resources. The idea of the commons is inconceivable without it being linked to people engaged with each other to manage a resource in specific social milieus. Knowledge can be used by people to make a diagnosis or find a cure. Cultural techniques can be used to create something new. Resources are converted into commons by the people who collectively use them.

The third building block is regulatory.
This encompasses the rules and norms governing the management of the commons. These vary greatly. Regulating the use of bytes and information is quite different from managing natural resources such as water and forests. What is common to all of them is that every community of users decide for itself how their resources are to be managed. This can succeed only if a group of people evolves a collective understanding of how a resource should be managed. The complex social process behind this is called “commoning” a term recovered from medieval times by the historian Peter Linebaugh. In this sense, the commons is a “verb,” not a “noun.” From this “commoning” there emerge rules and norms which are to be negotiated in processes that are often conflict-ridden.

Tags: cooperation



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