This is a truly heartening interview to see the depth of activity of urban commoners.
The interview with Marion Rousseaux was conducted by Michel Bauwens, with the assistance of Mélanie Gabard and Simon Sarazin who are active in the same projects.
* Michel Bauwens: First of all, tell us a bit about your personal backgrounds and the context of working in a city like Lille.
Marion Rousseaux: I come from the North of France. I studied law during 4 years and then, I decided to travel. I left during 4 years from 2010 to 2014 both in different parts of France and in different parts of the world. As an example, during my trip, I worked during 6 months in Mexico, in particular as intervenor in the Intercultural University of Chiapas (UNICH). I was also living in an indigenous community, making a research on the impact of an eco-touristic center within this same indigenous community.This was my internship just before I finished my Master degree in Law and Social and Solidarity Economy (SSE).
In June 2013 we created with 2 other persons a collective called Ôkarina. The mission of Ôkarina is to show that a fair and collective economical system does exists. We are organizing some workshops in different organizations (schools/social structures/international institution like the UN etc.) As an example, this summer we are working in Boulogne-Sur-Mer with 15 youth, accompanying them in the creation of a cooperative. This initiative comes from Québec and it’s called : CJS (coopérative jeunesse de service). The purpose of this cooperative is to :
* develop several services in the youth’s city
* look for customers
* join or create new contributive projects
Ôkarina is working a lot with theatre (a professional comedian is working with us) to put people in action. Our goal is to drop from reflexion to action. After participating to our workshops, some people actually start real projects which have been imagined during our workshops. We also give some e-learning formations : MOOCS, with the ILO (International Labour Organization) on several topics related to a fairest economy.
Ôkarina was first based in Poitiers and the team arrived in Lille in September 2014.
Going back to Lille after this 4 years experience was for me a big comeback because I discovered a Lille I didn’t know before. Indeed, I started to be really interested in the idea of a different form of economy during my journey. That’s why my interests were really different when I came back to Lille. Two weeks after I came back to Lille, I discovered La Coroutine and I met different persons deeply involved in the commons economy. Even if I was involved in social and solidarity economy (SSE) I still didn’t know that the common economy was existing. Meeting with Simon Sarazin and other members of La Coroutine opened my mind so much and answered so many questions I had those last years. Indeed I was focus on SSE and I started to feel that something was missing too often in this vision of the economy : the transmission of an economy based on freedom of implication, with a different perception of money and retribution.
* As I understand it, the projects in Lille are very much related to the existence of ‘open source third places’ which created over time a culture of collaboration that promoted the understanding of what commons are. Do you think that is true ? Are there other factors that played a role in promoting a commons culture. What about the regular ROUMICS conferences?
Indeed I think their are several places where the creation of a contributive economy based on commons is possible. La Couroutine, le Mutualab, two self managed coworking places are the heart of the creation or support of several commons projects as for example zero rent, Basic income lille, Alternatiba Lille, an open kitchen called “la cocotte”, etc. “Open source third place” is a name to say “common places”. And “commons places” are one of most important thing to develop commons. There are only few places in Lille with the openness and neutrality like La Coroutine or Mutualab. There is no property of anybody on the project, we don’t even really know who are the founders. It’s really easy to contribute and start a new project with other people.That’s key factors to allows the appropriation of these places by many persons. And with the time they are becoming really central for the development of commons. But that’s just a step, those places are open but not enough, we need places where all the persons can freely develop commons projects.
Commons culture also comes from an historical work on the impact of new technology in the society made by the ANIS association. Since 2005, this association organises the “Roumics” on this topic. Commons exists in Lille since a long time, with an alternative cinema, shared gardens, common artistic workshops, etc… But since few years, places like shared gardens are more connected to new commons as free software, open source third places and coworking, etc…
* Tell us a bit about encommuns.org, unissons, and ‘la fabrique de la mobilite. Regarding the encommuns project , how much beyond mapping is it ? What have been your ‘commons achievements’ so far ?
Encommuns.org is a project started during Alternatiba Lille in 2014; an event framework created to mobilize society to face the challenges of climate changes. During this event, some people decided to ask participants what commons they wanted to develop and to show what commons were actually existing in Lille. The idea is to help people joining them, or collectively start new ones. Here started the lille.encommuns.org platform, a first step before starting encommuns.org, a more global platform. That’s just the beginning and we need to go further.
Unisson is a “wiki” framework created to develop commons easily. That’s where we share good practices about commons and reference the best tools to develop them. For example, there are pages on Unisson about how to develop the contribution in a project, or how to get money and share it with others. Unisson give six “ingredients” to develop a common (finance, partners, contribution, sharing, governance, legal aspects)
Some really interesting ideas we need to improve are the ones on how we can develop business or public partnership around commons without having to take the risk to destroy the commons (as so often happens). Also the work done on how to share money in a community is important. We need to solve the problem that Benjamin Mako Hill explains well “It’s easier for a successful volunteer Free Software project to get money than it is to decide how to spend it “. Commons projects don’t know how to share money without creating frustrations that deteriorate commons. Unisson is a place to share ideas around that.
* Can you give a few examples of commons initiatives and commons oriented enterprises in your region ?
In Lille and in the Nord-Pas de Calais, there are different commons initiatives as for example :
* La Locomotive : which is a participative grocery based in Fives neighbourhood. Every 2 months, the members of the grocery order online some non-perishable food. Then, they come together in someone’s house to receive all the products. They package and distribute all the products which have been carefully chosen with local and organics producers. Of course, some products come from other countries (pasta for example come from Italy) but it’s a minority. The community pays a huge attention to the product’s provenance. The objective of this initiative is to be replicated in many neighbourhoods of Lille.
* Centre culturel libertaire, CCL. It is an activist common where a community of persons who organize themselves. Concerts, debates, meeting, free pricing restaurant twice a week are the everyday life of this initiative.
* Zero rent
* Formation on the commons : Several persons in Lille are interested in mutualising their knowledge on the commons topic. The idea is to create an open source formation where everybody can get involved and use the contents to give some courses and spread it with many people.
* Entre’coop : which is the CJS we are working on with the 15 youth in Boulogne Sur Mer. Indeed, this cooperative is open and it will initiate several collaborative projects as for example a coworking place, a participative kitchen/grocery and other services. We are working with different persons from Boulogne-Sur-Mer and our willingness is to prolong this project after the summer. Indeed if the current dynamism persists, this place could become a real third place.
* How is your relation to the public authorities, to various sectors of the business community; what are you proposing to them ?
Recently, we met with Christiane Bouchard, politician working at the City Hall in Lille. She comes from a political party called Europe Ecologie les Verts, focused on ecology. She is interested in the commons since a while and she wants to know how political actors can support the creation of commons in Lille without impulsing them or controlling them. Indeed in a common dynamic, the government’s role should be supportive and attentive to the citizens needs and initiatives. They shouldn’t be in a control stance.
* Are there any thoughts about creating a ‘assembly of the commons’ or a chamber of the commons in your city ?
With Christiane Bouchard, we started developing the idea of an assembly of the commons. We would like to firm a contract or a charter with politicians before the next elections. This charter would say that all decision must first be presented to the assembly of the commons to know what communities around commons think about a decision or if commons are not doing the work politicians are trying to do. This could improve the support of politicians to commons and not get closed or proprietary projects in competition with “commons” that citizen develop. That’s just a draft for the moment.
* How do you relate with the wider context, i.e. commoners in other cities and parts of the world
We are in relation with several communities in Brest, Toulouse, Montpellier, Grenoble, Paris etc.
We recently went to an event called “Open Château”. The objective of this event was to mutualise different initiatives existing in France. This was the occasion to organize ourselves in the objective of solving different problems.
During this event, we realized that we are now all facing the same kind of problems :
* The legal aspect
* The question of retribution within a collective
* The relation between the commons and the public institutions
* The mutualisation of the common initiatives emerging in different places
* The financial resources to develop platforms and online tools which will facilitate the communication and the visibility of the commons at a national and international level.
* What are your plans for the next five years and beyond ?
I have plenty of plans for the next five years. I’d like to find a way to put Ôkarina in a real contributing dynamic both in terms of an open pedagogy and an innovative monetary retribution based on several criteria inspired from Gratipay. Also, in September, I will start a school of Chinese Medicine. It will be a 5 years adventure which will allow me to understand better the interaction between the humans and their environment. My objective is to be able to connect the importance of getting closer from our bodies and mind to the economic global system. Indeed, everything is related and I agree with the fact that a global change starts with yourself. I would also like to participate in the creation of a participative grocery in my neighbourhood. Also, another project I have in mind since several years is to build an earth house called “ecodome” or ”superadobe”, in a contributive way. Indeed, I think that our living environment has a big impact on our creativity.”
It is intriguing to see, here, “common” and “commons” used semantically where, in US, typically we see the words “co-operate” and “co-operative” (loosely). Assuming this is relatively common usage in the European “movement,” this could explain some of the discomfort and confusion some of us have with the literature being produced there.
I am keen to get in touch with Marion Rousseaux. My e-mail: [email protected]
thanks a lot