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Archive for 'Networks'

Robin Hood Coop funds 3 commons building projects

photo of Stacco Troncoso

Stacco Troncoso
6th October 2015

Great news from Robin Hood Coop. Needless to say, we’re very excited about continuing with our part of the CIC/Commons Transition project, and we’d like to thank the board at Robin Hood for having chosen it. This press release was originally published on the Robin Hood Coop blog. You can read the full text of our proposal here, or through the links below.

Robin Hood Coop is proud to announce its first round of funding for commons producing projects. The coop supports Casa Nuvem in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, with 5000 euros, the P2P Foundation’s project with the Catalan Integral Cooperative and Commons Transition in Spain with 4000 euros, and the Radio Schizoanalytique and the Steki in Northern Greece with 6000 euros.

Robin Hood Asset Management Coop was founded in 2012 as an investment bank for the precariat. The goal of the coop is to build new economic space by giving its members access to investment banking (just 60€ is enough) and by allocating a part of the profits to building the commons through sponsoring projects.

Casa Nuvem (see also here) is an autonomous self managed space in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, resulting from the convergence between art, activism, sound, audio-visual and new technologies experimentation. It was born early 2013 from the desire to think and build the future collectively, and to provide grounds for resilience and mobilization in the context of Rio’s wide social injustice and lack of basic rights, continuously intensified by the state policies related to the mega events such as the upcoming Olympics next year. Casa Nuvem is a place of work, research and production that hosts several independent collaborative projects focused on the creation of new exchanges between people and the public space, guided by a festive occupation of the city. Regular actions, workshops, seminars and other open activities are organized in the house, besides frequent interventions in outside target locations. It cooperates intensively with other groups and actors in a network of interactions that values above all the respect towards differences, respect for freedom of expression, freedom of the body, multiplicity of gender, the right to the city and alternative mobility.
(Project proposal)

The P2P Foundation in involved in a practical, grassroots effort to animate a Commons Transition strategy, in real time and real community. The foundation is working as a team with the Catalan Integral Cooperative (aka the CIC) to achieve a self-managed, post-capitalist society based on P2P principles and environmental and social realities. The ultimate goal is to realize a well-expressed, researched and tested set of plans and proposals, ultimately providing concrete examples in real time. In the project, CIC expands and implements the theoretical material proposed by the P2PF in the Commons Transition platform, and the P2PF produces an updated body of work to reflect the experience and shares it with other collectives.
(Project proposal)

Radio Schizonalaytique and the Steki are a project in the Skouries-­Kakkavos mountains in Northern Greece, where the Canadian “low-­cost” gold mining company Eldorado owns and operates mining sites. Local communities have been organized against the construction of an open pit mine and processing plant since 2006. After a house built to monitor the activities of the mine was destroyed, the main organizers transformed an empty storefront into a community action center for hosting workshops, lectures, screenings and cultural events, and as a social center to nurture the creation of a sustainable future for the region. One of the key features of the Steki is the online and FM radio project “Radio Schizoanalitique”, a collaborative project between the activists in Megali Panagia and artists in Berlin, designed to break the control the mining company and its proponents have on the local media.
(Project proposal)

Robin Hood Coop is an activist hedge fund with a twist. Individuals who buy shares become members and decide how the coop is run. One member, one vote. Per the Robin Hood principle, part of the profit generated by the fund is invested into projects building the commons. Third, the money put into the fund is placed in the stock exchange by a big data mining algorithm.

During its first two years of operation, 2012 – 2014, the coop’s portfolio was able to generate enough profit so that the coop decided to allocate 15 000 euros to projects that build and augment the commons. Members of the coop made proposals of projects to fund during March 2015. In total there were 49 proposals. The selection was done in two steps. First, a committee of three members was chosen by lottery out of volunteers. The committee went through all the proposals, discussed on criteria and negotiated, and came to an unanimous agreement of suggesting 3 projects to be funded. The committee’s proposal was then ratified by a general member’s meeting of the coop.

For more info, contact: projects@robinhoodcoop.org



Posted in Activism, Commons, Commons Transition, Cooperatives, Culture & Ideas, Ethical Economy, Guest Post, Networks, Open Content, Open Models, P2P Action Items, P2P Collaboration, P2P Development | No Comments »

Le Temps des Communs: Biggest Commons Festival Ever

photo of David Bollier

David Bollier
4th October 2015


Le Temps des Communes, surely the largest festival of the commons ever, is about to get underway! The festival is not just a single event in a single place, but a series of more than 250 self-organized events to be held over the course of fifteen days in France, Belgium, Switzerland, Canada (Quebec) and several Francophone countries in west Africa.

From October 5 to 18, there will be symposia, workshops, lectures and participatory events on all sorts of commons-related topics.  There will be events to showcase free and open source software, community gardens, participatory mapping projects, seed-sharing, open scientific knowledge, renewable energy co-operatives, land trusts and even a Creative Commons-licensed musical. The hundreds of festival events will help introduce the commons to the general public and demonstrate to current commoners just how large, diverse and exciting the world of collaborative provisioning truly is.

In Lyon, there will be a roundtable about making the city a commons.  In Brussels, there will be an Open Source Festival.  In Brest, a bike tour of shared gardens.  In Paris, nearly thirty different events are planned.

I wish that I could attend the “law and the commons” discussion that will feature Stefano Rodotà, the Italian law scholar, politician and human rights advocate who has pioneered new legal principles for the commons.  Paris will also host “A Day in the Commons” on Île-de-France, with workshop, a meal and planning for the future.

At the European Parliament, there will be a one-day gathering to discuss “The Internet as a Commons.”  Elsewhere, there will be tours of FabLabs….a forum on water as a commons…..and the French group Ouishare will host a discussion about collaborative consumption, crowdfunding and shared living and working spaces.

Quite an inspiring array of events!  I hope that the general public, mainstream media and political organizations will learn a lot from these events. Check out the festival website and the full program. (All webpages in French.) If you read French, check out the bibliography of French books on the commons!

Le Temps des Communes is likely to confirm the great appeal of open festivals for bringing together commoners of diverse stripes. It will also educate the public, media and political players about the many attractive but neglected alternatives available to us.


Posted in Collective Intelligence, Commons, Commons Transition, Conferences, Cooperatives, Copyright/IP, Culture & Ideas, Ethical Economy, Networks, Open Content, Open Innovation, Open Models, Original Content, P2P Art and Culture, P2P Business Models, P2P Collaboration, P2P Development, Sharing | No Comments »

Why we are not (yet) a phyle, and where those who form them will come from

photo of David de Ugarte

David de Ugarte
1st October 2015


First note: today, in Europe, no phyles exist. A phyle is a confederation—which is to say, a network with no higher structure—of conversational communities with their own companies, which share a series of common funds in a transnational space: basically, “social security” and mutual economic support systems.

So, it must be said clearly: las Indias is not, and will not be, a phyle by itself. Our work so far and our perspective is aimed towards the construction of one. And our role will be, if the world goes the way we think it will, a node within one, but we don’t try to substitute for it or present ourselves today as if we were a network of nodes, even though we have a network around us. For as many projects as we support today, they’re all things that belong to las Indias and our immediate surroundings, things within the Indiano node or around it and above it, within a very limited geographic space, even though we have regular activities in three countries on two continents, and allies across half the world. But that isn’t (yet) a phyle. The phyle is a transnational network of nodes, and the normal thing is to think that everyone will have different directions, values and ways of building commitments around them, all on a broad stage, in various countries, which is not the result of a “parent company” or a given ideology and its products.

No particular ideology

So, who would those other nodes of the phyle be? Normally, they won’t have any special ideology, but will simply be community companies, which is to say, small groups of people who share conversation and creation together, who don’t have to live in community and can be a cooperative, a corporation, or even a corporation that’s managed in a more-or-less egalitarian way among worker-members. Nor do they need to be “pure” in any sense: they can be “drawing” from public rents or even from intellectual property. They don’t have to be transnational in practice, but they would have to want to ultimately become transnational, the same way that if everyone was of the same gender, it would be strange not to want to overcome that anamoly.

Where would the border lie? To date (and I’ll explain later why I say that) the least that can be asked for a community project to be considered serious is:

  • that it is productive and can take care of—or at least wants to be able to do so in the near future—their members and provide social coverage to their families under normal living and working conditions in the surrounding area, and that it is “competitive” with the life of a salaried worker or small businessperson. That is, models based on degrowth or on the “social economy” are no good. The former simply don’t offer a better life, and renounce a goal of abundance for everyone, and the latter, because of its dependence, cannot create a solid base.
  • that it doesn’t use an imaginary “we” (of nation, gender, race or any other thing) or see itself in terms of them (localism, sexism, etc.)
  • that it has a sincere desire for autonomy: that it not intend to live off public money or State rents like intellectual property.

I said “to date” because over time, networks like this will have much greater diversity than at first, but the pioneers will have to lay the cultural foundation for what is to come. It would be one thing for that openness to diversity to happen in a productive space founded on the libertarian and egalitarian spirit of the hacker, oriented towards the market and beyond (abundance) in a space for social and transnational exchange. It would be a very different thing for networks to reflect, from their very origins and in their economic activity, the decomposed spirit of our time, where rents and excessive regulations are seen as good things, where anti-marketism is commonplace, and utopias of a better world seem to have been replaced by pastoral, messianic, and nationalist fantasies.

But yes, basically, the phyle is a place where “everyone” would fit… everyone who is serious about building a resilient economy for their surroundings. And what we’re seeing emerge now are not phyles, but some of their possible future nodes.

Translated by Steve Herrick from the original (in Spanish)


Posted in Commons, Commons Transition, Cooperatives, Culture & Ideas, Economy and Business, Ethical Economy, Networks, Open Models, Original Content, P2P Business Models, P2P Collaboration, P2P Development, P2P Movements, Peer Property, Sharing | No Comments »

Essay of the Day: Distributed Authorship and Creative Communities

photo of Stacco Troncoso

Stacco Troncoso
30th September 2015


We’re very happy to present this paper, featuring a contribution from our associate Penny Travlou.


Biggs, Simon and Travlou, Penny (2015) “Distributed Authorship and Creative Communities”, in Scott Retteberg, Patricia Tomaszek and Sandy Baldwin (eds) Electronic Literature Communities. Morgantown, WV: Computing Literature, The Center for Literacy Computing, pp. 29-44

In its requirement for both an author and reader art can be considered a participatory activity. Expanded concepts of agency allows us to question what or who can be an active participant, allowing us to revisit the debate on authorship from a new perspective. We can ask whether creativity might be regarded as a form of social interaction rather than an outcome. How might we understand creativity as interaction between people and things, as sets of discursive relations rather than outcomes?

Whilst creativity is often perceived as the product of the individual artist, or creative ensemble, it can also be considered an emergent phenomenon of communities, driving change and facilitating individual or ensemble creativity. Creativity can be a performative activity released when engaged through and by a community and understood as a process of interaction.

In this context, the model of the solitary artist who produces artefacts which embody creativity is questioned as an ideal for achieving creative outcomes. Instead, creativity is proposed as an activity of exchange that enables (creates) people and communities. In Creative Land (Leach 2003) anthropologist James Leach describes cultural practices where the creation of new things, and the ritualised forms of exchange enacted around them, function to “create” individuals and bind them in social groups, “creating” the community they inhabit. Leach’s argument is an interesting take on the concept of the gift-economy and suggests it is possible to conceive of creativity as emergent from and innate to the interactions of people. Such an understanding might then function to combat an instrumentalist view of creativity that demands of artists that their creations have social (e.g.: “economic”) value. In the argument proposed here, creativity is not valued as arising from a perceived need, a particular solution or product, nor from a supply-side “blue skies” ideal, but as an emergent property of communities.

This chapter seeks to articulate these issues, identifying a set of core questions and describing the context within which they will be addressed, indicating how these questions are at the centre of the pan-European Electronic Literature as a Model of Creativity and Innovation in Practice (ELMCIP) collaborative research project, undertaken from 2010-2013 and funded through the Humanities in the European Research Area Joint Research Programme. The chapter examines a specific example of a creative community i.e. Furtherfield and outlines the research methods we intend to employ during our proposed fieldwork.

Click here for more details.


Posted in Activism, Collective Intelligence, Commons, Culture & Ideas, Featured Essay, Guest Post, Networks, Open Content, P2P Art and Culture, P2P Collaboration | No Comments »

Where’s the missing part, Naomi Klein? Ask Pope Francis and Mohammed Mesbahi

photo of Adam Parsons

Adam Parsons
29th September 2015


The latest book by Naomi Klein is essentially a call to share the world’s resources, but its thesis on social transformation is missing a crucial factor: a profound awareness of the reality of hunger and life-threatening deprivation. While Pope Francis’ recent encyclical calls on us to prioritise this global emergency in our efforts to combat global warming, Mohammed Mesbahi proposes a people’s strategy for how we can finally end the moral outrage of extreme poverty amidst plenty.

Climate change is an historic opportunity to not only heal the environment, but also to roll back the tide of injustice and ever-widening inequality that is an integral feature of our current economic system. It represents our greatest hope of solving multiple, overlapping crises at the same time; of spreading wealth, resources and political power from the few to the many; of unleashing our suppressed human values of empathy and solidarity on a global scale; and of creating a “People’s Shock” that reinvigorates democracy from the ground up. Rising to the climate challenge could also be the force – the “grand push” – that brings together all the living movements for justice and liberation, catalysing enormous levels of social mobilisation across the world and bringing about a major shift in the balance of economic power.

Such is the compelling message of Naomi Klein’s latest book, This Changes Everything, that deservedly hit the best-seller lists last year. The book is, essentially, an urgent call for sharing the world’s resources (including the atmosphere itself) on the basis of justice and equity, which Klein recognises is the only viable route to creating a stable climate while also building a fairer economy. The farsighted optimism that underpins her book has been predictably dismissed by right-leaning critics, many of who have mocked its framing of “capitalism vs. the climate”, or else argued against its radical policy proposals and the prospect of deep systemic change driven by an engaged citizenry. But even from the most sympathetic and progressive perspective, is it possible that Klein’s analysis is broadly right on the politics and right on the solutions, but incomplete in terms of an overarching strategy for how to get there? Is there something missing from the book’s thesis that calls into question its vision of how to engage the world’s people behind a program to ‘change everything’?

To briefly summarise Klein’s core argument further, it is premised on the understanding that to avoid a 2-degrees Celsius increase in global average temperature – the supposed “safe” limit of climate change according to the United Nations – revolutionary levels of transformation of the political and economic system are necessary. The challenge that faces humanity is momentous and daunting, requiring a dramatic decrease in fossil fuel combustion and our use of the earth’s resources, particularly in the richest countries with the highest levels of consumption. Yet the intensification of neoliberal globalisation since the 1980s has “systematically sabotaged our collective response to climate change”, which is a threat that came knocking just when the ideology of free trade and mass privatisation was reaching its zenith.

As a result, the changes needed to avoid catastrophic warming are now in conflict with the fundamental imperative at the heart of our current economic model – to “grow or die”. And the challenge isn’t just to spend more money on the problem and change a lot of policies; it’s to completely rethink our relationship to each other and the natural world, to go beyond our dominant “extractivist” worldview and neoliberal mindset, and to embrace a new global understanding of our common humanity.

Building a movement of movements

This is where Klein’s strategy for mass civic engagement comes into play, given the entrenched opposition to the necessary structural transformations from the established corporate and political class. The only way to overcome the prevailing ideology of market fundamentalism and bury the “corporate liberation project” of the past three and half decades for good, Klein basically argues, is through robust social movements unlike anything we have seen before. And climate change represents the “civilisational wake-up call” that can unleash our repressed human values for deep compassion, empathy and solidarity on a global scale, thus giving us a chance for a “mass jailbreak” from the house that the old free market ideology built.

The fourth chapter of the book explores the nature and purpose of this new wave of citizens’ movements in more detail, describing climate change as a frame and not an “issue”, one that can breathe new life into longstanding political goals and supercharge each one of them “with existential urgency”. Climate science, Klein writes, has handed progressive groups and activists the most powerful argument against unfettered capitalism since the very onset of industrialisation. Acknowledging that the call for “System change, not climate change” already exists within the environmental movement, Klein goes further by envisioning the climate crisis as a political game-changer and unifier of all disparate issues and movements – from the fight for a new economy, new energy system and new democracy, to the fight for human rights and dignity for all. In short, she argues that activists need to become ‘everyone’ if we are to stand a chance of dramatically reducing global carbon emissions, and doing so in a way that alleviates poverty and inequality at the same time.

This captivating theory of social change is backed up throughout the book by a fairly comprehensive overview of the policies that are needed to meet these twin challenges of tackling climate change and inequality. And implicit in all of these policy transformations, as Klein repeatedly articulates, is the need to integrate the principle of sharing into national and global governance through a redistribution of wealth and resources. The environment crisis is “telling us that we need an entirely new economic model and a new way of sharing this planet”, she writes, central to which is the matter of ‘global equity’ that is ever-present in climate negotiations. Drawing on the thinking of various civil society activists and scholars, the book therefore advocates for a “Marshall Plan for the Earth”, in which Western powers accept their fair share of the global carbon-cutting burden as well as their historical climate debt to the Global South.

In line with this proposed international agenda, Klein outlines the major policy and social changes that affluent nations need to commit to in order to reduce their use of material resources – what is described as “managed degrowth” – in ways that improve quality of life overall. Hence the need for a reinvigorated role for the public sector, shorter working hours, a basic income guarantee, the relocalisation of our economies, and the many tax and subsidy reforms that could “finance a Great Transition (and avoid a Great Depression)”. Klein even invokes the slogans of 1940s wartime rationing programs that were based on themes of equality and fairness, such as “Fair shares for all” and “Share and share alike”, arguing that a spirit of moderation and sacrifice for the greater good has a strong precedent in America’s past cultural values.

The problem, as Klein makes palpably clear throughout her book, is that these measures we must take to secure a just and sustainable transition away from fossil fuels clash with the reigning economic orthodoxy on every level. Such a shift breaks all the ideological rules of free market capitalism, requiring visionary long-term planning, tougher business regulations, higher levels of taxation on the affluent, many reversals of core privatizations, a decentralisation of power to communities, and so on.

Which all leads back to the original question: how to instigate the kind of counterpower that has a chance of changing society on anything close to the scale required. If “only mass social movements can save us now”, as Klein rightly suggests, then what can rouse ordinary people to fill the vacuum in political leadership – given that such a citizens movement of sufficient numbers is still missing on the world stage (as Klein also rightly acknowledges)? Is climate change the single, overarching issue that can bring about a profound shift in values and galvanise the world’s people towards a shared planetary cause?

The missing part in global activism

From the perspective of Share The World’s Resources (STWR), what’s missing from Klein’s analysis in her current work on climate change is a profound awareness of the reality of hunger and life-threatening deprivation across the world, and of the consequent moral imperative to prioritise this global emergency as a foremost priority for the world’s governments. Just as a massive mobilisation of ordinary citizens is necessary to persuade our political representatives to push through the policies that can limit global warming, exceptional levels of popular engagement are also necessary to influence governments to end the moral outrage of needless poverty-related deaths in a world of plenty. And that huge avoidable death toll continues as each day passes – to the extent that at least 17 million people die each year in mainly low- and middle-income countries from largely preventable causes (half of them children and often from diseases related to hunger).

As STWR and other civil society organisations have long pointed out, governments already have the institutions and mechanisms in place to safeguard these neglected human lives across the world, and providing social protection to all people living in extreme poverty could be achieved with a relatively small amount of global GDP. But there exists a stark lack of public debate about the extent of this ongoing crisis, and the urgency of ensuring that everyone has access to sufficient food, clean water, adequate shelter and medical care – the essential resources that most people in affluent countries take for granted. Climate change is indeed a planetary emergency; but needless poverty-related deaths constitute a global emergency too, one that will require an immense awakening of public concern if this longstanding crisis is to be addressed with the level of attention it has always deserved.

To be sure, Naomi Klein’s book is fundamentally concerned with how to bring about a more equal economic order, and her noble conviction that governments must equitably share the global carbon-cutting burden is entirely informed by the needs of poorer countries. In her own words, she writes that “poverty amidst plenty is unconscionable”, and “there is simply no credible way forward that does not involve redressing the real roots of poverty”. But nowhere in the book is there an impassioned plea for ordinary people to rise up and demand that governments irrevocably end hunger and life-threatening conditions of deprivation wherever it occurs it in the world, and as an international priority above all other priorities.

Without this heartfelt concern for the immediate needs of the very poorest people in mostly developing countries, Klein’s case for using the language of morality to build a global citizens movement for saving the planet – with everyone together speaking “of right and wrong, of love and indignation” – in the end rings hollow. For what does it mean to have “an unshakeable belief in the equal rights of all people and a capacity for deep compassion”, if there’s no focus on the preponderance of people in the world who lack the resources to even have an adequate standard of living? What does it mean to talk of “the need to assert the intrinsic value of life”, if there is no mentioning of the roughly 46,000 people who needlessly die each day from deprivation or deprivation–exacerbated disease?

So Klein may be right on all other counts: on the need to fight inequality on every front through multiple means as a central strategy in the battle against climate change. On the need to rebuild and reinvent “the very idea of the collective, the communal, the commons, the civil, and the civic after so many decades of attack and neglect”. And on the need to create a robust alliance of social movements who embrace a new worldview which is embedded in our shared values of interdependency, reciprocity and cooperation, as well as in our awareness and respect of nature’s limits.

But if this emerging movement is to “find its full moral voice on the world stage”, as Klein says it must, then is it enough for that movement to focus only on climate-related battles, new economic alternatives and the longer term structural changes required for building a fairer economy (with a definite bias towards the benefits of implementing such changes within North America and other high-income world regions)? Or should it also embrace the immediate needs of a vast number of impoverished humanity, many thousands of who are at risk of dying from hunger or deprivation-related causes at this very moment?

As we know, climate change already causes 400,000 deaths on average each year, mainly due to hunger and communicable diseases that affect above all children in developing countries. Addressing the underlying causes of these escalating climate and poverty crises will undoubtedly necessitate structural reforms on a scale never before attempted by the international community. On moral grounds alone, however, we cannot wait for these transformative changes to take place while millions of people are losing their lives and suffering in abject poverty, especially when everything needed to mitigate the worst impacts of this emergency already exists.

Pope Francis’ call for compassion and empathy

Remarkably, the Catholic Church is currently leading the way in presenting a powerful moral case for why we must combat both the climate and poverty emergencies at the same time. Pope Francis’ much-anticipated Encyclical Letter Laudato Si’ makes a direct appeal throughout its 246 paragraphs for us to give “preferential treatment” to the most deprived members of the human family, and to “hear both the cry of the earth and the cry of the poor”.

This is not to overlook the striking similarities between Laudato Si’ and Klein’s overall perspective on how climate change cannot be tackled without also tackling global inequality. As Klein alluded to in her speech delivered at the Vatican during the recent high-level meeting that explored the climate crisis, the Encyclical effectively calls for a more equitable international economy that respects planetary boundaries, while giving full support to all the radical policy measures that these changes imply. Indeed many of the policy positions outlined in the Encyclical are also advocated for in Klein’s book, from degrowth economics and limits on consumption and growth, to agroecology, fossil fuel divestment, technology transfers and the repayment of ecological debts, as well as the repudiation of false solutions like carbon trading.

What’s just as remarkable about the Pope’s treatise on the environment, however, is the fact that as much attention is given to the shameful reality of global poverty as to the politics or science of climate change. The real import of the Encyclical’s message is not to be found in its uncompromising policy perspectives or its scathing critique of market fundamentalism, but rather in its urgent appeal for humanity to protect the most vulnerable, who are the “majority of the planet’s population” and yet treated “as an afterthought” in international political and economic discussions, if not “treated merely as collateral damage”. The Pope fervently calls upon Catholics and non-believers alike to engage in a global conversation about how to create “a new and universal solidarity” in meeting our environmental challenges, in which our ecological concerns are “joined to a sincere love for our fellow human beings”.

Again and again the Encyclical returns to this theme of interdependency, variously arguing that we need comprehensive and joined-up solutions for tackling both social degradation and environmental degradation with equal urgency. But distinctly unlike Klein’s book, it contends that central to these efforts is the need to fill our conscious awareness with the suffering of the poorest and least included members of society. An entire chapter is dedicated to what the Church calls “integral ecology”, which eloquently outlines the need for a sustainable future that primarily respects the human and social dimensions. In decrying the rampant individualism and self-centred culture of modern times, it states: “…our inability to think seriously about future generations is linked to our inability to broaden the scope of our present interests and to give consideration to those who remain excluded from development. Let us not only keep the poor of the future in mind, but also today’s poor, whose life on this earth is brief and who cannot keep on waiting.”

Perhaps it’s only from this appeal to our compassion and empathy for others that we can fully appreciate the Encyclical’s wider political, economic and ecological perspectives. To try and condense it’s essential message in a few words, it could be interpreted as saying that we need a new collective understanding that “we are one single human family” and “one people living in a common home”, which in the end has to be translated into global solutions for our interconnected planetary crises – beginning with concerted international action to alleviate the suffering of the world’s majority poor. And it’s this very last proposition that represents, in essence, the missing part of Naomi Klein’s analysis.

The catalyst for world transformation

As the Encyclical Letter again states: “Whether believers or not, we are agreed today that the earth is essentially a shared inheritance, whose fruits are meant to benefit everyone. …Hence every ecological approach needs to incorporate a social perspective which takes into account the fundamental rights of the poor and the underprivileged.” But what would a people’s strategy for saving our planet look like that heeded this simple message to prioritise the needs of those who “are mired in desperate and degrading poverty, with no way out” – bearing in mind the Pope’s insistence that his Letter is a social teaching and not a political manifesto? How could Klein’s inspiring vision of an empowered global citizenry be infused with the right priorities for popular protest, wherein a massive outpouring of public goodwill towards the most deprived and marginalised people becomes the catalyst for world transformation? And what might instigate such an unprecedented show of global solidarity towards the needs of those less fortunate than ourselves, thereby uniting ordinary people in many different countries and creating a consensus about the necessary direction of change?

These neglected and yet urgent questions form the starting point of our analysis at STWR, and they lead to an uncommon theory of social change that is often outside the purview of well-known progressive thinkers. Rather than beginning with the question of how to reorganise society and implement a greener and fairer economic alternative (which is typically conceived within the context of rich industrialised nations), the question is how to completely reorder government priorities in order to provide the basics of life to everyone who subsists in a severe state of poverty – which should not be seen as an end in itself, but as a first major step towards world rescue and rehabilitation.

Anyone can see that the requisite money and resources are available in the world to realise an adequate standard of living for all people, as long enshrined in Article 25 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. But nowhere are these essential requirements for life and dignity fulfilled for every man, woman and child without exception, including in the richest countries where social protection guarantees are increasingly being reneged upon through welfare reforms and austerity measures. As a consequence, there is no doubt that Article 25 will never be fully guaranteed by governments in all countries – whatever is agreed upon in the Sustainable Development Goals – unless ordinary people unite in their millions and uphold these fundamental rights through huge, continuous and worldwide protests.

STWR’s founder Mohammed Mesbahi has comprehensively investigated these above premises in a recent publication, setting out a visionary strategy for world transformation that calls on people of goodwill to herald Article 25 as their foremost concern in the immediate time ahead. In contradistinction to Naomi Klein’s call to mobilise public opinion around a systemic approach to tackling climate change, Mesbahi argues that securing the modest provisions outlined in Article 25 – for adequate food, housing, healthcare and social security for all – ultimately holds the key to resolving our complex interrelated crises. He posits that we can never tackle the climate emergency without first of all remedying the injustice of poverty amidst plenty, because resolving the human emergency of life-threatening deprivation is where the solution to our wider ecological problems initially begins. Drawing on moral and spiritual perspectives that often resonate with Pope Francis’ social teaching in Laudato Si’, Mesbahi goes on to explore at some length why “it doesn’t make any sense to fight for the rights of Mother Earth, if in the meantime we overlook the basic rights of a vast number of impoverished humanity”.

International protests for an end to poverty

Such a simple call to action for the world’s people may seem at odds with the vision outlined in Naomi Klein’s latest book, although Mesbahi also makes plain that it’s not an ‘either/or’ proposition in terms of prioritising the poverty emergency above everything else. On solely moral grounds, he writes that “there is no reason why we cannot save the hungry at the same time as we act to save our world”. If we can mobilise ourselves globally to try and persuade our governments to halt environmental destruction or even to stop an illegal war, then why can’t we organise huge international protests that are united in the cause of implementing Article 25? The reason why we don’t do so should be a question that preoccupies all of us, not least considering the interconnections between our social and environmental crises that make it compulsory to tackle both of these emergencies simultaneously.

This uncomfortable issue is an underlying theme of Mesbahi’s investigation into the possibility of creating a better world: our combined complacency or indifference that leads us to care more for our own children’s future than the daily suffering of thousands of impoverished children who needlessly die each day. He writes: “Maybe we should sit back and ask ourselves why the climate issue has become so important in our households, while around 17 million people dying from poverty-related causes each year is of no real concern to our everyday lives. Is it more important for us to breathe clean air tomorrow than it is for the desperately poor person to eat a piece of bread today – notwithstanding that hunger was a daily reality for millions of people even before Greenpeace was born? We have possibly 10 or 15 years left to prevent catastrophic climate change, but how many years or even days remain for the destitute child who is slowly dying from undernutrition?”

To join vast numbers of people in the streets calling for the abolition of hunger and extreme poverty is very different from demanding government action on climate change, says Mesbahi, because the former venture would represent “the beginning of a transformation in our conscious awareness that is based on our compassion for those less fortunate than ourselves”. Yet the prospect of initiating global demonstrations on this basis is not just a matter of straightforward morality, as it may also pose the only viable strategy for creating a global movement of massed goodwill that is stronger than any vested interest or repressive government. From a purely tactical perspective, another important question for every engaged citizen to ponder is whether our fear of future environmental breakdown is a sufficient motivating factor for bringing together many millions if not billions of people in different continents for the same cause.

After all, an astonishing 4.3 billion people presently subsist on less than $5-a-day, the threshold that the UN body UNCTAD consider the minimum daily income which could reasonably be regarded as fulfilling Article 25. And among this multitude of ‘have-nots’, the true number of people suffering from hunger and vitamin deficiencies in developing countries could be upwards of 2 billion. In contrast, only 7% of the world population lives on a ‘high’ income level of more than $50 per day, most of who live in North America and Western Europe. Such statistics need only be brought to life in our imaginations to realise the stark discrepancies in living standards between the richest and poorest regions of the world. Thus without first prioritising every person’s established right to access the essential resources required for their health and wellbeing, there is little hope that the struggling poor majority will join forces with far more privileged climate activists in high-income countries in a cooperative bid to protect the planet.

The surest route to transforming the world

Herein lies the beauty and promise of heralding Article 25, as Mesbahi explores from psychological and spiritual as well as broader economic and political perspectives. The surest route to transforming the world is not to fight against ‘capitalism’ or ‘the system’, he reasons, but to jointly speak out in defence of our most disadvantaged and hungry brethren. And heralding Article 25 holds the potential to unite millions of people across every continent without the energy of being ‘against’ any enemy or ideology, which could create a new wave of social movements that bring “such inspiration and joy to onlookers that millions of more people will soon join in”.

Very quickly, word would spread around the world of these extraordinary protest actions that are motivated by the public’s determination to end all forms of extreme human deprivation as an overriding international priority. There is no doubt that the majority poor in distant countries would soon hear the call and get involved themselves, which Mesbahi proposes is the fastest way to build a colossal worldwide movement of ordinary engaged citizens. It is therefore the “path of least resistance”, he writes, one that may “quickly lead to many positive results and a new social settlement that we cannot currently anticipate”.

Of course, this doesn’t mean that rapidly meeting the basic needs of the poorer two thirds of humanity will in itself create an alternative to globalised hyper-capitalism, or somehow miraculously reverse the world’s currently disastrous environmental trends. But if governments are seriously compelled by the people’s will to prioritise the modest prescriptions contained in Article 25, then there is no gainsaying the positive ramifications for international relations and global economic arrangements. In a short period of time, concerted action to guarantee Article 25 everywhere would necessitate extensive state interventions and regulations that could hold in check the overriding influence within society of profit, greed and unbridled market forces. It would intrinsically call “for redistribution of a breadth and scale unlike anything we have seen or known before”, thus incorporating the principle of sharing into world affairs through an emergency programme to end hunger and absolute poverty once and for all, no matter what the cost.

Furthermore, it would mean that the United Nations must be significantly democratised and re-empowered in order to fulfil its original mandate, while its member states would be obligated to reformulate the entire nature and purpose of development. There is no possibility of securing the socio-economic rights of all people until new global rules and institutions are established that can bring us closer to a more equal world. For example, the international community would need to abolish the unjust debts owed by developing countries, close down tax havens, roll back the tide of secretive free trade agreements, and put an end to structural adjustment programmes that enable rich countries to control the fates of less powerful nations. And in the process of fulfilling this unparalleled objective, governments may soon realise in practice the benefits of genuine international cooperation, which in turn may engender the trust and goodwill that is vital for resolving the other looming threats to human civilisation: namely, the continued drive for war and unchecked atmospheric pollution.

In other words, heralding Article 25 as the public’s self-appointed decree is a direct approach to overcoming the prevailing ideology of market fundamentalism and neoliberal globalisation, which Klein has also consummately identified as the basic underlying cause of runaway climate change. More than this, however, it may be the only route to rallying masses of people, both rich and poor, behind an informed and shared aspiration for a fairer distribution of global resources. There is no question that the poorer two thirds of humanity, those crying out for help and succour and a better way of life, will embrace such an altruistic and inclusive demand. The real question is whether a critical mass of people in more affluent countries – the comparative minority of the global population who over-consume and waste the majority of global resources – will uphold and champion the principle of sharing in response to world need.

Perhaps only then can we foresee the implementation of a sustainable development pathway for the world, regardless of the opposition of powerful elites and the myopia of global decision-makers. And perhaps this is the only way to bring about the shift in cultural values that Klein stirringly articulates, in which we start to believe, once again, that “humanity is not hopelessly selfish and greedy” and our planet is worth saving. Through a worldwide popular movement that demands an end to poverty as its all-embracing cause, it would soon become obvious that we can never live peacefully or ‘well’ so long as the greater proportion of humanity lives in penury and degradation. Then there is every hope of changing public attitudes in rich countries to accept reductions in material and non-renewable energy use, in line with the kind of global framework for equitably cutting carbon emissions that Klein outlines towards the end of her book.

Listening to the voice of our hearts

There is no shortage of analysis pointing out the basic premises for a more balanced society, whereby a new era of simplicity is inaugurated based on a revised understanding of what constitutes the ‘good life’, with reduced resource consumption and more frugal living commonly prized as the social ideal. Clearly, high-income nations must lead the way if more realistic standards of living are to become aspirational for the Global South. What remains unknown is how this collective shift in our worldview can be decisively brought about, one that really speaks the language of morality and willingly accepts the responsibility for shared sacrifice as we transition to a new economy. The answer, according to Mesbahi’s reasoning, is to “listen to the voice of our own hearts” and herald Article 25 with every ounce of energy we have. Or put another way, the entire process of world rehabilitation may only begin with a united people’s voice that speaks on behalf of the poorest and most disenfranchised, and gives the highest priority to the elimination of extreme deprivation and needless poverty-related deaths.

The above points are a highly condensed summary of Mesbahi’s rationale from his latest publication, which contains further instructions for global activism that deserve to be carefully read in full before we come to any conclusions about the immense potential of resurrecting Article 25 as our protest slogan, goal and vision. He urges that we all have a part to play in this great civilisational endeavour to urgently defend the human rights of our neediest brothers and sisters, while at the same time we must act to save our planet and urgently defend the rights of Mother Earth. In this regard, the key to understanding Mesbahi’s strategy for galvanising a vast transnational public opinion of sufficient magnitude to reorder government priorities is to study the fourth chapter of his discourse on “engaging the heart”, wherein he explains the crucial significance of this absent protagonist on the world stage. Can we foresee popular demonstrations that are infused with an awareness and heartfelt concern for the degrading poverty that is experienced by innumerable families and marginalised individuals, in the same way that our hearts are engaged to look after our children, protect our own families or indeed care for the natural world?

No matter how testing this may sound of our everyday sympathies and concerns, it assumes nothing more than redirecting public attention towards immediate human need, which is far from an attempt to satisfy some vague or idealistic theory of global revolution. Yet according to Mesbahi, this is the factor that most activists and progressive thinkers have failed to recognise as a prerequisite for planetary healing and transformation: the engagement of the hearts of millions of people in every country through peaceful mass protests that are concerned with a permanent end to avoidable human suffering. It may appear that there’s still a long way to go before we can realise a truly global citizens movement committed to sharing and conserving the world’s resources, with the primary consideration given to the least privileged among us. But perhaps the reason this countervailing ‘new superpower’ hasn’t fully emerged is because we have yet to collectively apply Mesbahi’s question to ourselves, let alone to our global leaders: where’s the missing part?

Photo credit: Panos images, all rights reserved

– See more at: http://www.sharing.org/information-centre/articles/wheres-missing-part-naomi-klein-ask-pope-francis-and-mohammed-mesbahi#sthash.hgDvTzln.dpuf


Posted in Activism, Commons, Culture & Ideas, Economy and Business, Ethical Economy, Food and Agriculture, Networks, Open Models, Original Content, P2P Action Items, P2P Collaboration, P2P Movements, P2P Public Policy, Peer Property, Politics, Sharing | No Comments »

What days should you choose to participate in at Somero 2015?

photo of David de Ugarte

David de Ugarte
23rd September 2015


Which days are meant for you at Somero 2015? Reserve them now!!

This year Somero offers between two and six days of activities. We know that few of you can come the whole time, so it’s organized into topics and conversations so you can choose the ones that interest you most, and you can get the most out of your visit to Gijón. Of course, we’ve done everything possible to make each day the most interesting, to make it hard for you. ?

Wednesday the 7th and Thursday the 8th are the “GNU social Camp” and the “Sharing Cities Seminar”

  • GNUSocialFollowersWidget1“GNU social Camp” will interest you if you want to discover the Swiss Army knife of the distributed web and learn to develop it. This is the most “techy” part of the event. You don’t have to develop software professionally to benefit from it, but it is recommended that you at least have a basic level of PHP.
  • The “Sharing Cities Seminar” is a work group of a dozen experts in the participatory transformation of cities. The idea is that they will work to give us a guide to transform cities based on the experiences of places like Seoul, New York, or Bologna. Initially, it will be a closed, by-invitation meeting, but if you’re very interested or believe that you can make a difference, please write us.

It’s safe to say that you’ll be interested in the official opening of the event Thursday the 8th at 8:00 PM. We’ll interview Mikael Nordfeldth, who will tell us the conclusions of GNU social Camp, we’ll discuss the results of the “Sharing Cities Seminar” with Neal Gorenflo, and, along with Juan Urrutia, we’ll give context to ShareableLab and make an important announcement about las Indias that will certainly interest you. We’ll conclude the opening with an espicha [informal talking over local drinks] in which you’ll be able to chat and exchange ideas personally with the speakers from all of Somero, and with other participants, in a relaxed and festive environment. While all of Somero is based on collaborative work and conversation, this will be our main “networking time.”

Friday the 9th, Saturday the 10th, and Sunday the 11th are days of “ShareableLab,” the days of the most daring proposals and most didactic seminars. They are the most like a summer university… the kind that could and would transform the world.

  • KanoFriday, we will dedicate the day to production. Alex Simon will tell us how to set up a company like Kano.me from crowdfunding to globalization in less than a year. He will be assisted in his seminar by Lucía García, the manager of Laboral and promoter of FabLab Asturias, who will show us how to use Fablabs and their prototyping systems to materialize our ideas within that process. In a parallel program, Natalia will propose an incubator of a new kind in which, for the first time, you’ll be able to reserve your place before public calls are made.
  • Saturday will be the day of resilience. With General Asarta, we’ll learn to design our cities and think of our projects in terms of the pure logic of resilience: thinking where we need to start from, in the case of disaster, to be able get back on our feet right away. With him, Gijsbert Huijink, creator of Som Energia and member of the directorate of ResCoop.eu, will teach us how to create an energy cooperative that produces clean, local energy for tens of thousands of people, with social objectives and without giving up being competitive with big electric companies. Meanwhile, in the parallel seminar, with the help of Neal Gorenflo and the leaders of GNU social Camp, we will co-design and develop a GNUbnb, a free (in both senses) hospitality service that is an alternative to big businesses like Airbnb, the first step towards a Sharing Economy, which is grassroots and based on sharing.
  • The End of BankingSunday is the day of the next revolutions. With Enrique Goñi and Jurg Müller, we will discuss the “end of banking” as a necessary intermediator.

During the seminar, Jurg Müller will design with us the application that is capable of replacing a bank that he presented in The End of Banking, and will then give us a seminar about how build it, and finance the development of a typical city with a system rather than with a formal institution.

In the last seminar, Paul Blundell, one of the most relevant figures in worldwide communitarianism, will tell us how people in the US are going from co-living to productive urban communities, and what we can learn from the experience accumulated by productive agrarian communitarianism.

And of course, we’ll have our evaluation and closing party starting at 6:00 PM. And the whole next day, Monday, for those who don’t want to go home Sunday, will be dedicated to get to know Gijón, Asturias, and the new ciders of the year a little better.

Have you chosen your favorite activity? Is it clear which days interest you most? Reserve them now!!

Translated by Steve Herrick from the original (in Spanish)


Posted in Collective Intelligence, Commons, Commons Transition, Conferences, Economy and Business, Ethical Economy, Food and Agriculture, Networks, Open Content, Open Innovation, Open Models, Original Content, P2P Action Items, P2P Business Models, P2P Collaboration, P2P Development | No Comments »

Pluriarchy, confederalism and abundance

photo of David de Ugarte

David de Ugarte
22nd September 2015

Pluriarchy and community confederalism are simultaneously the result of, and a guide to, the path towards abundance. They are forms of organizing that maximize the ability to evolve and survive of the social space opened by the new optimum of scale and the emergence of distributed networks. Both put the focus on the true center of this whole transformation: community.

NetocratsIn 2002, Alexander Bard and Jan Soderqvist published Netocracy: The New Power Elite and Life after Capitalism. The main thesis of the book has never had greater interest. Much like other attempts to give a “Marxist-style” foundation to anti-consumerism, it attempted to argue that social classes based on production were being overcome by new ones, founded on the relationship with consumption. Bourgeoisie and proletariat would mutate into netocracy and consumariat. The netocrats would be those capable of having an influence on the great consensus that defines lifestyles in the age of networks. The consumariat would be made up of the passive masses whose identity is defined by the netocrats.

However, in studying how conversational networks function to make their argument, Bard and Soderqvist made an important discovery. According to them, in these communities connected as distributed networks, “democracy collapses”:

Every actor individual decides for him/herself, but lacks the capacity and the opportunity to decide for any of the other actors, which makes it impossible to maintain the fundamental notion of democracy, where the majority decides for the minority when differences of opinion occur.

They call this system “pluriarchy.” The world of pluriarchy is a subtle one. First, because there’s no coercive power in conversational networks, even if the majority not only didn’t sympathize with a proposal, but was openly against it, it could not avoid it being carried out. Democracy is, in this sense, a system of scarcity: the collective has to choose between one thing and another, between one filter and another, between one representative and another, whereas pluriarchy inevitably produces diversity. But Bard and Soderqvist soon point out that even if this is possible, pluriarchy

…is not anarchy. You cannot do what you like, you have to adapt to the rules and laws of consensus.

This idea of consensus is the true key to understanding what pluriarchy means and the nuances between the different kinds of communities connected as distributed networks. Consensus defines identity, and identity defines belonging. Pluriarchy means total individual freedom within community, as long the individual acts within the basic consensus that makes up that identity. For example, we are in the paradoxical place that leads anarchist groups to establish the rule “it is forbidden to forbid.” Beyond the border of consensual identity and shared values, it is possible change conversational networks, or create a new one (“fork”).

What hurts Bard and Soderqvist is that identarian dissidence can mean the loss of the community belonging for the individual. And, in fact, this is fairly frequent. In practice, conversational communities, centered on creating a given set of knowledge or developing sets of coherent values, tend to have more precise and strict identarian criteria over time, which leads them to “be less to be more,” and ultimately leads to what Juan Urrutia has defined as the path of “individuation through belonging”: the development of individuality by successively belonging to different communities, which a person joins and later dissents from throughout their life.

But the interesting thing is that an individual dissenting from consensus also means the loss of members for the group. So, when communities incorporate productive activities–from developing software to producing objects–that trend begins to have a strong counterweight, because inclusiveness is a need imposed by survival. As we’ll see, when pluriarchy leads to production, it imposes a certain laxness on communities in the definition of that consensus, and therefore a opening to innovation and risk, which are completely new. And, in summary, two opposing tendencies define identity in pluriarchical networks: inclusion and dissidence, communitarization and individuation.

Therefore, where Bard and Sodeqvirst saw a symptom of the decomposition of democracy, we Indianos saw an emergent property that is characteristic of distributed networks, to which Juan Urrutia added a very important consequence: when a network configures itself as a pluriarchy, it becomes impossible to indefinitely maintain privileges or advantages for an individual or a group of individuals, because either consensus corrects the situation, or the disadvantaged will leave the network to join another one, or create a schism, a “fork.” And so, one way or another, rents dissipate. Pluriarchy is the form of organization characteristic of communities oriented to abundance, whether they are exclusively conversational communities or communities that also produce.

ConsensoAnd indeed, pluriarchy is not only in virtual conversations: it appears as a defining element in the new technological cooperativism, in networks of free software developers, in teams that design products for the Direct Economy, and we could even interpret the experience of the communitarian movement of the last thirty years as a transition from democratic mechanisms to consensus as a hegemonic form of decision-making.

But there’s still another important element. A real community organized under a pluriarchical system coincides with what Juan Urrutia defined as “identarian community,” its consensus, its identity, is “mutation-proof.”

If one of the individuals or nodes on a completely distributed network changes its nature or the community is infiltrated by a few individual agents from another community, these new individuals do not change the memes, but rather adapt themselves to them.

This is the feature that made that Bard and Sodervisq remind us that pluriarchy and anarchy are not the same thing. In pluriarchy, there is a characteristic identity of the network or community. And this analytical idea of “identarian community” is, as we’ve seen, key in the foundation of abundance, because it drastically reduces, if not eliminates, the better part of transaction costs.

From pluriarchy to confederalism

juan-ouisharefest-2015And this is relevant because when we increase the scale of the social network, a new logic appears in inter-community relationships: a re-reading of the confederal idea in the light of networks. Confederation has important parallels with pluriarchy. For example, the fundamental difference between confederation and federation, as Juan Urrutia pointed out, is that…

In a confederation there’s no ultimate authority, and it is better to accept this than try to forge one artificially.

The result therefore necessarily asymmetrical, an overlapping network of commitments, topical consensus, and traces of shared identity that make it possible to reduce transaction costs at different moments and in shifting situations with allies. It is, as we see in the world of free software or the direct economy, a world in which peers, always linked, occasionally ally in action, resulting in a kind of map that’s closer to a dynamic representation of brain activity than to the representation of a commercial bloc or the organizational chart of an industrial group. The community of social relationships is presented to us as a changing mix of diversity and multi-specialization.

evolucionAnd continuing with the well-known results of economic theory, Urrutia points out that

We know that it may be that this diversity will not make the optimum result attainable, but, as in many examples from biology, it maximizes the possibilities for survival of the whole.

That is, confederation reinterpreted from pluriarchy produces a “evolutionarily resistant” result where the fabric as a whole will have more possibilities for adaptation and survival than if it had opted for another form of organization that would homogenize the parts. In a new sense, we again accept an exchange of scale for reach.


Pluriarchy and community confederalism are simultaneously the result of, and a guide to, the path towards abundance. They are forms of organizing that maximize the ability to evolve and survive of the social space opened by the new optimum of scale and the emergence of distributed networks. Both put the focus on the true center of this whole transformation: community.

Translated by Steve Herrick from the original (in Spanish)


Posted in Collective Intelligence, Cooperatives, Networks, Original Content, P2P Development, P2P Movements, P2P Theory, Peer Property, Sharing | 3 Comments »

From consumers to communards

photo of David de Ugarte

David de Ugarte
20th September 2015


The disappearance of the “consumer” in the new productive models drives a growing social space of productive networks and egalitarian oriented to abundance.

Surely the most striking thing about the promise of the direct economy and P2P production for a generation that has been separated from production by crisis and precariousness is the end of the figure of the consumer.

Requiem for the consumer

consumerismThere’s not a lot to miss. The “consumer” is an alienated and alienating concept. All sovereignty attributed to the individual as consumer is reduced to choosing between the options on a menu created by others. The whole being of the consumer is located outside of the transformative capacity of the society in which s/he lives. Consumers choose, they don’t make or create. It’s so dehumanized as a concept that it’s not useful to better understand history and historical change. It’s as sterile a way understand the human experience as an industrial park is to describe urban life.

Once the core social concept is accepted, it’s no wonder that the proposed is equally inane and frustrating: the rejection of consumption itself and, therefore, the acceptance of various forms of voluntary poverty, artificial scarcity, and, at its root, a radical fear of the transformative capacity of knowledge. This is a narrative of “self-hate” on a scale of our whole species. Neither the concept of “consumer” nor anti-consumerism help us to understand our world or to give it shape and a future.

Consumption without consumers?

In the new world we see emerging, all those categories disappear. The idea is simple: at its limit, a world based on these productive models is a society where a normal person, seeing a new need, responds by looking for what to contribute to produce what’s needed. This new space of individual responsibility can take many forms: collaborating on a translation, documenting a product, developing code, creating designs, making blueprints and formulas, contributing improvements, or testing results; perhaps, collaborating on crowdfunding or helping publicize a project, perhaps creating results in a workshop or customizing them for others. Many times, it could mean starting to learn on the network itself what’s needed to be able to outline a proposal, looking for others who have enough knowledge to develop it, starting up a conversation with them, and creating a community around it.

maker faireAnyone who does any of these things is no longer a consumer, but a direct part–to different degrees–of the process of creation and production of the things they are going to use. They are part of a community in which personal, human relations are established to create new goods. What they make has meaning–they contribute and learn in a framework aimed at results. They are a producer who uses what they produce with others. And this relationship is new: they are an artisan whose workshop is globalized by the network and technology. This is as far as we could imagine from being a “consumer.”

The process in which a commons is formed in P2P production, the way a product emerges in the direct economy, creates an empowered form of conversational community, a community of knowledge oriented towards making, towards creating tangible products and tools.

Beer ActivistAll products, in all times and systems, “are carriers of worlds”–they create social meaning. What’s different now is that this meaning, the values that give it social content, are made obvious throughout the process to those who are part of it. The community that creates something new discusses “why” and “how” until everyone is satisfied. The community dimension of the new productive forms turns each new product in an act of transformation that is conscious of Nature and of the social surroundings.

This is the polar opposite of consumption oriented by the mass media and adherence to the recentralizers of the Internet. The passive expression of liking or disliking doesn’t work in this kind of relationship between individual and network. Identity is built through choices and learning in conversation on networks oriented towards making, not as the result of a series of buying patterns, or as a mold. Identity is no longer something that objects impose on people; they now discover themselves in the story that communities give to their creations.

From consumers to communards

encuentro entre comunidades miembro de KommujaThe small communities behind the large majority of products in the direct economy are basically identical in this regard to the ones who energize and sustain the large networks in which the commons of P2P production is being developed.

In the beginning is the conversation. It is spontaneously transnational: it happens within the borders of a large global language, not within the limits of a city, a State or group of States. In some cases, it’s directly oriented towards the creation of a commons (like free software) and around it, among the same ones who collaborate to create and spread it, small groups form to sell services and projects. In others, the process is the reverse: small businesses are created from communities born of conversations so as to be able to generate income from what they already enjoy as a lifestyle.

In both cases, the result is the same: large conversational networks are the birthplace of small, productive, transnational communities that contribute to the commons, in some cases maintaining large networks of learning and knowledge.

The new egalitarianism and the “forker”

entornos-procomun-Carla-BosermanAccustomed to equality in conversation and to working in networks as equals, these transnational groups will naturally tend to experience forms of economic democracy, from cooperativism to networks of freelancers.

And egalitarianism in our time is the direct result of the direct incorporation of knowledge into production. We are in a multispecialist setting where we are all peers by default, because the scale necessary to “fork,” to separate and create a clone, is so small that what really makes a given fork viable is little more than its creators’ personal skills. Including each person, giving him/her an objective and place as a peer, is the only way to grow. And this is all the more drastic the shorter the cycle of the product. Crowdsourcing platforms have more “forks” than free software projects, because objects and hardware have a shorter lifespan than software, for which people expect indefinite updates over time, which demands a certain community stability.

The real possibility of “forking,” which is practically nonexistent in Big Business, would seem to show a certain fragility in this kind of structure, but should really be seen as a source of diversity and innovation, as an evolutionary engine. “Really existing forks” are just mutations. There will be some that, with a change in the surroundings, will provide something different and will live on. But, on its face, a fork doesn’t imply a positive development.

In fact, the majority will disappear or bog down. But what’s important is not forks in themselves, but the way communities try to avoid producing them. There are two strategies that are the most relevant and common: getting rid of hierarchies, and the tendency of the community to accept higher levels of risk than usual in members’ proposals.

The consequences of those strategies represent a radical change. In the first place, they mean that the gigantic hierarchies of the old Big Business and its obsession with specialization (the source of so many inefficiencies of scale) are no longer necessary, but rather, counterproductive. Secondly, accepting greater levels of risk, provided that the projects retain or even attract new valuable members, means applying the opposite logic to what has always operated in the old, industrial cooperativism, which is conservative by nature and easily captured by managerial “vanguards.”


indianos venidSo, in the new productive models oriented towards abundance, not only does the idea of community regain an importance it has not had since preindustrial society, but with it, the practice of a certain egalitarian ideal, born of the importance of knowledge, also returns.

Therefore, it is no wonder that, with a certain frequency, some of communities we’re talking about go futher, and are oriented towards the everyday experience of abundance. Because, in the end, “sharing it all” turns out to be the most stable form of organization for a group of peers.

A new communitarianism is appearing, which keeps the traditional egalitarianism of the holding property, consumption and savings in common, but whose ultimate goal is somewhere else: experiencing the abundance of networks and the commons in everything that one day can offer.

Translated by Steve Herrick from the original (in Spanish)


Posted in Collective Intelligence, Commons, Cooperatives, Networks, Original Content, P2P Business Models, P2P Collaboration, P2P Development, P2P Lifestyles, P2P Subjectivity, P2P Theory, Peer Property, Sharing | No Comments »

Check out the Top 10 Sharing Events of the Season

photo of Stacco Troncoso

Stacco Troncoso
18th September 2015

life is sharing_0

Reposted from Shareable; Ambika Kandasamy takes us through some of the best sharing events happening this fall.

Are you deeply plugged into the sharing movement or simply curious about how the sharing economy works? Whether you’re a veteran of the movement or a newcomer, the sharing events happening around the world this fall are bound to spark ideas for new ways to engage in the collaborative economy.

We’ve pulled together our top 10 sharing events — both large and small (out of a very long list) — taking place this season. Interested in cooperatives, permaculture, skill sharing, free and open software, and/or the commons? We have something for you.

We’re proud to partner with terrific organizations and individuals globally to support the first four events on this list. We hope to see you at one or more of these exciting gatherings!

  1. Shareable Labs


Please join us at Shareable Labs from Oct. 7-12 in Gijon, Spain. Co-presented with Las Indias Cooperative, Free Software Foundation, the Spanish Department of Defence, and other groups, this innovative event begins with a seminar on sharing cities and a GNU social camp. This will be followed by a three-day conference focusing on restoring local production with P2P, sharing cities, creating community resiliency, and financing the future of P2P. Read about last year’s event here.

  1. IASC Urban Commons Conference


We hope you make it to the IASC Urban Commons Conference in Bologna, Italy. The two-day conference, which starts on Nov. 6, will offer thought-provoking discussions on the urban commons and urban governance.

  1. Mountain View Skillshare


Swing by the Mountain View Skillshare on Sept. 26 for an afternoon of hands-on workshops and stimulating conversations. Some of the classes offered at the event, which is hosted by linkAges TimeBank in partnership with the City of Mountain View, include urban beekeeping, drought-tolerant gardening, and time-baking.

  1. Platform Cooperativism: The Internet, Ownership, Democracy


On Nov. 13, check out Platform Cooperativism: The Internet, Ownership, Democracy in New York City for “a coming-out party for the cooperative Internet.” Learn about why owning is the new sharing here.

  1. Western Worker Cooperative Conference


Like cooperatives? Check out the Western Worker Cooperative Conference that runs from Sept. 20-23 in Berkeley, Calif. Learn how to launch a cooperative and how to enhance communication among coop members, among other key topic areas. RSVP here.

  1. Building Resilient Communities Convergence


From social permaculture and community organizing to local currencies and economic resilience, the Building Resilient Communities Convergence has an array of skills-building workshops. The four-day event, which kicks off on Oct. 8, will be held at the Solar Living Institute in Hopland, Calif.

  1. Call for a Chamber of Commons


Picture used with permission from Cooperation 2015 conference in February, 2015

If you’re in Chicago on Oct. 10, stop by The Institute of Cultural Affairs (USA) for a meeting on creating an outline for a Chamber of Commons in the city. More details here.

  1. Sharing Day Nijmegen


Live in the Netherlands? Consider attending Sharing Day Nijmegen on Oct. 24 for an exciting day of learning how to share food, transportation, skills, and housing.

  1. Neighborhood Economics Conference


The Neighborhood Economics Conference in Cincinnati, Ohio, centers on reimaging the current economic structures in place. The two-day conference kicks off on Nov. 17. Find more details and register for the conference here.

  1. OuiShare Fest Barcelona


The OuiShare Fest in Barcelona, Spain, focuses on the collaborative economy. Beginning, Nov. 19, the event will run for three days, and will provide a platform to discuss how companies and public institute can operate in the collaborative economy.

If you’re organizing or attending conferences, courses, or other events that focus on sharing in your city, please add it to our events calendar — we’ll help you spread the word!

Lead image courtesy of Flickr user Alan Levine.




Posted in Collective Intelligence, Commons, Conferences, Cooperatives, Culture & Ideas, Ethical Economy, Networks, P2P Business Models, P2P Collaboration, P2P Development, P2P Lifestyles, Sharing | No Comments »

Internet as a Commons

photo of Stacco Troncoso

Stacco Troncoso
17th September 2015


Don’t miss this event held at European Parliament on October 1st and organized by our friends (and Commons Transition partner project) in the Commons Network, along with the Green Group and the Heinrich Böll Foundation.

The Green Group, The Commons Network and the Heinrich Böll Foundation brings you the most relevant conference of the year: Internet as a Commons: Public Space in the Digital Age.

Here we will explore the need for a comprehensive new narrative for the Internet. A narrative that frames Internet as a common good, accessible by all, and managed by a plurality of actors in a way benefitting society at large. In other words: as a Commons.



The Internet has become an important part of our global public sphere. Internet provides access to a wealth of information and knowledge, and the possibility to participate, create and communicate. This public space made up of internet infrastructures is increasingly threatened from two sides; by the centralization and commercialization through the dominant positions held by giant telecom and Internet companies, as well as by an increasing trend in state regulation and censorship of the net. This poses important questions about how we choose to organize and regulate our digital societies, and how Internet governance models can be developed and implemented to ensure fair and democratic participation.

When it comes to the future of the Internet, a key discussion is one of infrastructures; who owns, runs and controls them. The question of regulation, and who oversees the regulators, is made complicated by the transnational nature of the net.
The debates around net neutrality, infrastructure neutrality and Internet monopolies reflect the important choices that are to be made. It is essential the EU formulates a comprehensive vision on the internet that addresses the protection of civil liberties such as free speech and privacy, but also the growing commercialization of our digital public spaces and the commodification of personal data with the effect of the market encroaching on all aspects of our daily lives. Only then can it make relevant interventions regarding the Internet and its governance.

Let´s discuss how to re-decentralize and reclaim the Internet for all.


Posted in Activism, Collective Intelligence, Commons, Commons Transition, Conferences, Copyright/IP, Culture & Ideas, Events, Free Software, Networks, Open Access, Open Content, Open Hardware and Design, Open Models, P2P Art and Culture, P2P Public Policy, Sharing | No Comments »