What the P2P Foundation did in 2015

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2015 was a year of groundbreaking work and whirlwind travel for the P2P Foundation. Here are some of last year’s highlights.

Our New Organizational Structure

We’re pleased to announce that the P2P Foundation’s structure has recently been reorganized around three distinct operational hubs. Given the nature of our work, the distinction between them may be porous. These three entities are as follows:

The P2P Foundation commons itself, which observes, interconnects, stimulates and theorizes on knowledge production around the emergence of a commons economy and society. This work is led by Michel Bauwens through outreach, lecturing, writing, publishing and online documentation. The P2P Foundation is the umbrella organization under which Commons Transition and the P2P Lab (and other projects) operate interdependently. The following individuals operate as stewards in key areas: James Burke as operations and finance steward, Vasilis Niaros as the sustainability steward, Stacco Troncoso as the strategic direction steward, and Ann Marie Utratel as communications steward.

Commons Transition is now the main communication and advocacy hub of the P2P Foundation. Through the leadership of Stacco Troncoso and Ann Marie Utratel, CT continues producing accessible documentation to effectively spread our commons-based and -oriented ideas and experiences, appealing to civil society actors and policy makers. CT is also building a new transnational activist network identified with the Commons to broaden these ideas into mainstream awareness.

The P2P Lab is now the research hub of the P2P Foundation. The P2P Lab operates as a concrete lab in northern Greece and as a global research network. They also track academic peer-reviewed publications around p2p and the commons (including the works of our core collaborators), and obtain grants for research. The work is led by Vasilis Kostakis and Vasilis Niaros with the collaboration of commons-oriented researchers, such as Penny Travlou and Rachel O’Dwyer.

Below are some of the achievements of these 3 hubs:


Michel Bauwens talks about the P2P Foundation at OuishareFest 2015

P2P Foundation

2015 was an extremely busy year for in-person outreach, through seven months of travelling on three continents for Michel Bauwens with the personal assistance of Kevin Flanagan. Notable highlights include two weeks in Madison, Wisconsin (USA) working with the Real Utopias project of Eric Olin Wright; one month in Cassis, France at the Fondation Camargo, working on the outreach of a French book on P2P; one month in Catalonia, Spain (see the CIC project below); participating on commons outreach in the Edge Funders network in Baltimore, Maryland (USA); and two weeks in South Africa with our colleague Irma Wilson of Futuresharp.

We worked on urban transitions, collaborating with Christian Iaione of LabGov, visiting and supporting the Bologna project and the City as a Commons conference of the IASC. We have also fostered relationships with individuals in Podemos and the citizen-led government coalitions in Barcelona and Madrid, and with the XES solidarity economy network. These relationships will be nurtured in 2016. We participated in the European Cultural Foundation’s Idea Camp in Stockholm, and at OuishareFest 2015 in Paris.

L-R: Kevin Flanagan, Stacco Troncoso, Ann Marie Utratel and Jaime Arredondo at OuishareFest 2015

L-R: Kevin Flanagan, Stacco Troncoso, Ann Marie Utratel and Jaime Arredondo at OuishareFest 2015

This year we have also diversified our public presentations by adding new voices to share the P2P Foundation’s core message. Kevin Flanagan represented the Foundation at the International summit on domestic affairs, the World Social Forum in Tunisia and the Reinforcing Local Participation for a Democratic Europe conference. Stacco Troncoso delivered keynote presentations on the need for a Commons Transition at the Economy, People and Planet conference in Copenhagen and the Degrowth Public Policies conference in Portugal, and attended events such as Smart CSOs: Re-imagining Activism in Berlin, joined by other members of the Commons Transition Network.

Our proposals to create an independent political and social voice for commoners gained traction in 2015. Chambers of the Commons and similar were created in Chicago (USA) and several cities in France, and a local Commons Transition Coalition in Australia was formed, all following Michel’s visits. We met with: the Green Party parliamentary group (Belgium); the chairman of the Flemish Christian-democratic party; the chairman of the Flemish socialist party; and local officials (including mayors, ministers) in New Zealand, Australia, and Switzerland, indicating an emerging interest in our approach. Reports of our work appeared in major articles in leading newspapers and magazines in several countries.

In the educational sphere, the team including Kevin Flanagan and John Restakis worked on several efforts. We spent a week of teaching on commons economics at Schumacher College in April. We also organized the very first P2P Foundation Summer School, on ‘the art of commoning’, at Cloughjordan Ecovillage in August.

The P2P Foundation also continued to diligently curate and nurture the knowledge commons through its two traditional outlets: The P2P Foundation Wiki and the P2P Foundation blog. Noted contributors to the blog have included: David Bollier, Carmen Lozano Bright, Kevin Carson, Kevin Flanagan, Sepp Hasslberger, Øyvind Holmstad, Guy James, Vasilis Kostakis, Rajesh Makwana, Nathan Schneider, Penny Travlou, and the team from las Indias, among a great many others.

L-R Kevin Flanagan, Michel Bauwens, Vivian Paulissen at IdeaCamp 2015. Image by Julio Albarrán

L-R Kevin Flanagan, Michel Bauwens, Vivian Paulissen at IdeaCamp 2015. Image by Julio Albarrán

Commons Transition

The Commons Transition project was initially conceived as a wiki to house modified policy proposals from the FLOK society project, adapted to be more generally useful (non-nation specific). The Commons Transition team rethought the project and developed a broader set of tools with an eye towards expansion in both communications and advocacy. Commons Transition has become an umbrella project and “brand”, with an outreach effort and nascent set of forward-thinking partnerships in addition to a group of social media-friendly websites showcasing the commons in action. The key elements are listed below.

Web Presence: The main Commons Transition website contains introductory and policy materials, a free e-book download, FAQ, etc. Commons Transition Stories is a web magazine section with inspiring content for commoners worldwide. Its various subsections include: News and Articles, Commoners in Transition and The 100 Women of P2P (both feature exclusive interviews with changemakers), and Video. The Special Reports section is indexed with links and augmented with diagrams and footnotes. Each report has a corresponding version in the Commons Transition Wiki, and PDF downloads. We expand our Wiki with sector-specific solutions and policy ideas, and feature a dedicated portal for Law for the Commons Wiki. We also created a policy-engagement platform, Commons Transition Consulting, for administrations seeking to learn more about Commons Transition. Our communications ecosystem is growing: The Commons Transition Facebook page has over 1,800 followers, and more than 80,000 visits. We are also present on Twitter, G+, and Minds, and have started a Commons Transition Loomio group for public discussion.

Commons Transition Networking and Projects: We’re developing alliances under the banner of the Commons Transition Network. Partners to date include the Center for Planetary Culture, Platform Cooperativism, the Rules and Share the World’s Resources. We are planning joint actions to build a new transnational activist network identified with the Commons to broaden into mainstream awareness.

We also continue working with communities wishing to adapt the Commons Transition approach to their prefigurative systems, including the Catalan Integral Coop (CIC). The P2PF spent a week with the CIC, studying their projects, giving lectures on P2P and building relationships. This sub-project was also awarded one of the first Robin Hood Coop collective grants, and our colleague George Dafermos will visit Catalonia in 2016 to continue our collaborative work developing their bio-regional, civil society-led Commons Transition plan. In Spain, we will be working more closely with our contacts in Podemos and the citizen-led government coalitions in Madrid and Barcelona in the coming year.

The P2P Lab

P2PLab doorwayThe P2P Lab, along with its network of fellows and collaborators from all over the world, has been mostly active in a theoretical basis in 2015, focusing primarily on transitional scenarios in various academic research fields as well as imagining visions for a commons-oriented economy and society.

Our full output for 2015 as well as other information, like our open call for new collaborators, may be found in the Lab’s webspace. In a nutshell, this past year the Lab has produced pieces of academic work that look into subjects like smart cities; open source technologies (such as 3d printing) in education; digital economies; the relationship between law and technological advancement; and most importantly the advent of a new production model called “design global – manufacture local”.

At the same time, we have designed large scale research projects and mapped out their materialization by securing research partners and exploring funding opportunities.

Summary: the 3 Strategic Priorities for the Peer to Peer Commons

Stream 1: Alternative Eco-system for Open and Cooperative Peer Production.

For Stream 1 we continued outreach on Open Cooperativism and presented our findings in numerous cooperative meetings, including the Platform Cooperativism conference in NYC. We also co-organized the Commons Strategy Group report on the subject. A highlight of this stream was our 10-day visit to New Zealand organized by Enspiral to study ethical enterprise coalitions. We examined finance for commons production with the CSG, and connected with RIPESS on a open solidarity economy. Progress on the Copyfair license has been limited, but the proposition was clarified through workshops in the Francophone sphere.

Stream 2: Cultural, political and policy transitions for a commons-centric society.

For Stream 2, Commons Transition continued to provide comprehensive, accessible overviews of the P2P/Commons movement through its various websites (see above). We also traveled extensively to discuss aspects of the Commons Transition with prefigurative communities and commons-oriented policymakers.

Stream 3: Sustainability Manufacturing and an Open Source Circular Economy.

For Stream 3, we functioned as an ambassador and mentor to the POC21.cc project on a sustainable circular economy and, with the P2P Lab, published two theoretical papers establishing the case for the thermodynamic efficiencies of the open source circular economy. (See “Design global, manufacture local: Exploring the contours of an emerging productive model” and “Towards a political ecology of the digital economy: Socio-environmental implications of two competing value models”).

L-R: Ann Marie Utratel, Stacco Troncoso, Michel Bauwens and James Burke. Image by Kevin Flanagan

L-R: Ann Marie Utratel, Stacco Troncoso, Michel Bauwens and James Burke. Image by Kevin Flanagan

Looking ahead to 2016

2016 will see a strong push in P2P Foundation publishing, mainly in general-reader level materials including synthetic summaries of our work and accumulated understandings, as a consolidation of our efforts of the last decade. Michel Bauwens and the P2P Foundation team will undertake a full schedule of intensive travel and speaking engagements, including a two-week intensive lecture tour in Belgium and the Netherlands on the occasion of the new second edition of the p2p book, “De Wereld Redden”. Other trips planned include an European trip in September, and an Australian tour in October.

Michel has also been invited by Erik Olin Wright to spend four months at the Havens Center at the University of Wisconsin, to write a ‘anchor essay’ for the Real Utopias series, (likely to be published by Verso along with commentary essays), which will be a rewrite of the 2005 P2P Manifesto.

Other publishing projects include a book on urban transitions (co-edited with Christian Iaione), and a mass-market book for the English-speaking market composed of interviews between Jean Lievens and Michel Bauwens, following the model of the French and Flemish best-sellers.

The P2PLab and the Blaqswans collective (Xavier Rizos, et al.), we will continue our progress on the sustainable manufacturing front through the study of the thermo-dynamic efficiencies of peer production (calculating them with added engineering and financial expertise). We will also collaborate in two Deep Dives with our colleagues at the Commons Strategies Group, one on ‘The Commons and the State’ and the other on ‘Value in a Commons Economy”, in the spring and fall of 2016.

Regarding Commons Transition, we will intensify our networking and outreach strategy by working to popularize the Commons as a unifying context for changemakers, and create an impact in popular culture. A key priority is the renewal of the P2P Foundation blog and landing page, plus project proposals regarding Open Cooperativism and new Commons Transition plans for policymakers, expanding our commons-oriented services portfolio.

The P2P Foundation’s role in the EU-funded P2Pvalue project will intensify in this final year, with additional research work planned in collaboration with the other project teams, outreach support for the open-source software created as part of the project, and a final event to close the project in September 2016.

Finally, the P2P Lab will attempt to further empirically explore and expand the theoretical work that has been produced in 2015. Through the various research projects, we will look into subjects like the aforementioned model of “design global – manufacture local”; open value networks; patents and technological development. More information may be found here. Further, as ever, the lab will be open to collaborate on projects that fit within the scope of our research interests and ethics, and we will gladly provide freely our assistance in work whose output is a commons.

In summary, the activities of the P2P Lab and Commons Transition will be melded into the P2P Foundation, establishing a common work output that functions in two interrelated levels. First, the research-oriented output of the Lab, influenced by the socio-political pursuits of Commons Transition; and second, the outreach efforts of Commons Transition that are informed and supported by the Lab’s work.


This review was collaboratively written by Michel Bauwens, Ann Marie Utratel, Vasilis Niaros, Vasilis Kostakis and Stacco Troncoso.

Lead image by Benh LIEU SONG.

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