The following Q/A was instigated by a survey conducted by the EU Intergroup of Common goods and Public Services. Dealing with the Circular Economy, Michel Bauwens answered on behalf of the P2P Foundation by highlighting the necessity of an Open Source ethos to any regenerative undertaking.
What is the circular economy going to change in your field of activity? What are the priorities of your company/organisation to contribute to the transition towards a circular economy?
The specific priority of the P2P Foundation is to focus on the ‘open source’ circular economy. This is a open source circular economy that is based on participatory and open supply chains that allow both for the mutualization and knowledge, and thus for a much more rapid transition than under conditions of proprietary and secret knowledge, but also the increased capacity for mutual coordination in supply and demand. We also focus on ‘subsidiarity in material production’, i.e. the capacity of new model which combines globally shared productive knowledge, with distributed manufacturing closer to the place of use and demand, a process which is also called sometimes ‘DGML’ (Design Global, Manufacture Local’) or ‘cosmo-localization’ (what is light is global, what is heavy is local)
Are you going to cooperate differently with your partners in this cycle?
The P2P Foundation is an observatory and research network, hence our activities in this field are about observing ‘best practices’ in this field, and to catalyze their use.
What should be the role of public authorities and at which level of intervention should they be involved? Should they coordinate the circularity or rather be “organising authorities”? Does an organising authority (a public local or regional player) have to intervene in this process?
Public authorities should be active at all levels by providing legal and regulatory frameworks but also practical facilitation. We recommend the institutionalization of this practice through ‘Sustainability Empowerment Platforms’, which are public-civic (public-commons, public-social) multi-stakeholder arrangements. Public authorities can also help by providing ‘circular financing’, i.e. encouraging those actors that save public resources by sharing the gains that they help provide. For example, if a community land trust provides land to farmers, which allow them to practice ecological and non-toxic farming at low rents, thereby providing substantial better health outcomes for the population and dramatically less polluted water and thus water purifications costs, then sharing the savings as investments, can create positive loops for the circular economy that also allow for the redirection of public funds to other purposes. The public authorities, knowing that any growth that is above 1% annually in raw material extraction, renders circularity inoperable, should also set limits that encourage this transition, so that it can be effective.
Is the circular economy creating new Services of General Interest (SGIs) and Services of General Economic Interest (SGEIs) (e.g. waste collection and management)?
These should and will exist for every provisioning system needed by humanity for its social reproduction, and should use public-civic, polycentric, multi-stakeholders institutional forms.
How can we guarantee that the externalisation of waste management is not made at the expense of one actor rather than another, especially concerning citizens/users?
The use of open accounting and open supply chains involving all actors, should make the material processes transparent, so that a dialogue between the stakeholders, especially the citizens/users, can discuss and organize more just distribution mechanisms.
How is it possible to include ensuing benefits, such as social and vocational integration, and to move away from an “all-market” position?
We believe this can be achieved through a commons-centric model, which puts open contributions to the productive knowledge commons at its centers, strives for mutualization of physical infrastructures, creates more generative entrepreneurial forms, and can be managed by polycentric for-benefit associations for their governance. This new mix of commons, market and institutional forms is geared towards the integration of negative social and environmental costs in the economic models of these new ecosystems. The role of public authorities is to make sure that such integration leads to rewards compared to those who fail to make such adaptations.
How is it possible to budget and apportion transition costs in a fair manner? How is it possible to socialise transition benefits?
We propose to transition towards a biophysical economy using the appropriate metrics for matter and energy usage. Gains in such thermo-dynamic efficiencies should be rewarded; and circuits for generative funding should be used to create virtuous cycles. The use of common assets based organizations can be used to reward those that generate value as compared to those who maintain extractive practices. This means the introduction of commons trust that can generate incomes for all members.
Which political priorities are you identifying for the next months and years?
The goal in the material economy is to create meta-economic circuits that generate a mode of production and exchange that combines shared knowledge that increases innovation in this field, the mutualisation of physical assets and objects to diminish its material footprint, and a just distribution of income and rewards. We believe this takes the form of open and contributory communities, ethical and generative entrepreneurs, and democratic institutions that maintain the infrastructure of cooperation. This requires more social and political representation of the forces that are engaged in such process, and enabling public services. This means that pubic officials and political movements need to be made aware of the potential of this model, so that appropriate public processes can be developed to encourage this transition.
Which investment and accompanying measures need to be implemented?
We propose the creation of more commons trust for the ownership and governance of material infrastructures, the creation of circular finance as explained above, and the development of integrative Commons Transition Plans by public authorities.