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FLOK Society: Pro-commons in Ecuador (a conversation with Michel Bauwens)

photo of Kevin Flanagan

Kevin Flanagan
29th June 2014


This article was written by Pilar Sáenz and Maria Juliana Soto. In collaboration with Carolina Botero of the Karisma Foundation - http://www.digitalrightslac.net/en/flok-society-procomun-en-ecuador-una-conversacion-con-michel-bauwens/

Last April, we received in Colombia the visit of Michel Bauwens, P2P Foundation founder and Research Director of the Ecuadorian FLOK Society project. Bauwens conducted a series of workshops and conferences in Medellin and Bogota, and in its way through Karisma Foundation, he talked about the FLOK project and what means opting for a pro-commons-based economic model in the Latin American context.

FLOK Society (Free/Libre and Open Knowledge) seeks to be “investigative process that will define and create policies and regulatory principles in order to guarantee the success of a productive model based on the open commons of knowledge.” In other words, it aims “to change the productive matrix towards creating a society based on common, free and open knowledge in Ecuador.”

It certainly is a political and economic interest by Ecuador. It is a project of the National Institute of Advanced Studies, in cooperation with the Coordinator Ministry of Knowledge and Human Resource and the National Secretary of Higher Education, Science, Technology and Innovation. It deals with a topic of interest for all pro-commons activists, who participated in an investigative and participatory design process that will result in a series of policy documents, to be discussed at the ‘Summit of the Good Living’ in late May, which will bring together activists and well-known national and international researchers.

Below you will find some passages from our conversation with Michel Bauwens, following his lecture at the Javeriana University on April 30, 2014.

Karisma Foundation (KF): What is next after the Summit of the Good Living in developing the FLOK project?

Michel Bauwens (MB): After the Summit, it should be a commitment by government institutions in 12 lines of actions, in which they agree to become part of the project. From my point of view, this is a breakthrough, good news, because never before had there been a government that would have proposed a transition project like this.

In this sense, I am cautiously optimistic about what will happen. The most important for me, as a global activist, is establishing a global minimum standard. It is no longer a thing of grassroots organizations, it has become a political fact and it is great news. It raises the impact of the pro-commons and P2P movements.

What I would like to see is that FLOK becomes a global, open political platform for participatory policy-making in this field. I would imagine, for instance, FLOK Medellin or FLOK Seoul. Having someone from the team saying “It was already done in Ecuador, why not now Medellin or Seoul or a province?” I think the process was good: gathering people, investing in wages so that people can make a living thinking about policies, open participation, formulating proposals; it is a good model of taking commitments from the authorities to move forward with it. For me, the ideas are as important as the results, going out to networks and having references. It does not mean being right, having done everything right, but at least there is a reference, something to which people can react and build on that.

K F: What does it take to make, for instance, a FLOK Medellin?

M B: In particular, political will, a mayor who wants to do it, gets funding, and makes agreements over the future for transforming them into laws. In other words, there are two models: a particular model and a more holistic one, the latter is in which we believe. For instance, we do not think we can say, “Let’s provide broadband”, if it is not accompanied by literacy and cooperative culture. Without that culture, then you have teachers who lock up the computers in a room and this will not work. If you work at the same time with teacher and student capacities, in addition to bringing more computers, video cameras, broadband, then, there are actually an infrastructure and is more likely to work. To change a country, we look at everything at the same time. A single person does not have to do all. We are talking about mobilizing a country, and, if there is political will, there is enough people within a country for achieving this.

K F: What do you consider is Ecuador’s political interest, or what is the place you want to fill in the region to do a project like FLOK Society?

M B: The problem is that I do not know how they think. What I know is what they say, but surely there are several answers. But I do think this gives Ecuador a distinctive identity and a way to reassert itself in regional policies. Brazil has its own way; Venezuela has its own way; and by implementing FLOK, Ecuador develops a very regional way of acquiring an identity with its neighbors and of gaining influence.

K F: How people are engaged in the FLOK project?

M B: We had a first phase in which participation was made; we have a methodology that we have applied with some success. We now have a second phase in which the documents are online, where people can leave comments and criticism. The third phase will be the Summit with government officials and international experts. So, the three phases are open to participation, but the response has not been massive.

K F: What the FLOK project means for the region?

MB: If we see it from the free software view, it is a first draft, open to scrutiny for development.

To learn more about FLOK Society, see the following links:

http://floksociety.org/wp-content/uploads/2014/01/presentacion_FLOK-Society.pdf

http://floksociety.org/

http://cumbredelbuenconocer.ec/

*Karisma Foundation is an organization of civil society to support and spread the good use of technology in digital environments, in social processes and public policies in Colombia and Latin America

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4 Responses to “FLOK Society: Pro-commons in Ecuador (a conversation with Michel Bauwens)”

  1. Quiliro Ordóñez Says:

    FLOK project was led by exclusion and censorship. It did not live by its own standards.

    Another problem is the perceived idea that outer solutions provide better fixes than local ones. It is true that sharing makes the best solutions. But only one knows better what is best for our own life and not people from outside.

  2. Michel Bauwens Says:

    Personally, I don’t agree with the outside / inside dichotomy. Cultures and countries have not been isolated for a very long time, and what matters is not where the solution comes, but whether it is autonomously and freely adopted. The locals know best what their problems are, but that they know all the solutions without learning from the outside, seems to me a dangerous proposition. But is a theoretical discussion, in practice, the isolated locals are extremely rare (I’m thinking of the isolated tribes in Ecuador, but most indigenous communities are very eager to learn from others, as I witnessed on numerous occasions).

  3. Quiliro Ordóñez Says:

    To accept external proposals is not a bad. What I refer to is that the decision about the route to take should be born inside the local community and not from externals. External solutions are very useful elements for this quest. But when those elements decide what to do instead of how to do what has been previously decided by the locals becomes conquest. The use of non-local expertise for achieving local decisions becomes a great collaborative partnership.

  4. Michel Bauwens Says:

    Agreed, but wasn’t that the case. We came because we were invited and funded by the elected governed ? And the idea was not to bring external solutions but to work together between global (which are often local, just somewhere else and local commoners. That it wasn’t entirely done as we expected is another issue. But there was never any intention for externals to dictate any proposals. In other words, while the reality felt short, the concept itself as participatory. It can happen the other way around to .. I heard from Vicente that a huge internal and local process took place for the Science plan, and it was just shelved ..

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