Posts Tagged ‘collaborative commons’

Building Communities of Commons in Greece

July 21, 2016

 Sarantaporo area, situated at the North of Greece, is an agricultural and husbandry region, also hit by the crisis. But even prior to the crisis, state’s attention to the area was poor. Youths were migrating to big cities or abroad. There was no Internet connection, and locals were isolated and deprived of basic services, e.g. medical aid.

At 2010 a group of people forms a community wireless network aiming to connect the villages among them and with the rest of the world. In time, and as the project matures, Sarantaporo.grcommunity aims even further. They want to be the catalyst so that the locals (re)organize cooperatives based on the wireless network, (re)enliven their economy, make it sustainable, more extrovert and independent of state and corporative control.

In doing so, they produce knowledge and build bridges between the hi-tech of a wireless network community and the real-life challenges of a rural community.

Other villages expressed an interest in having their own wireless network, and the villages form a network.

The networks gave been built by volunteers, with equipment donated by ….

In October 2015, the media arts collective Personal Cinema which produced the documentary, in collaboration with the Sarantaporo.gr team, launched a crowdfunding campaign at the Spanish crowdfunding platform goteo.org and succeeded to collect an amount of money that facilitated the realization of the documentary.

The soundtrack can be found on bandcamp.

What this points to is the future, building networks of social enterprises, open coops, all cooperating with each other,  contributing to the sharing economy, collaborative commons.

John McDonnell is talking of a post-Brexit future investing in green infrastructure, education, creation of investment banks. Some of this funding should go into establishing social enterprises.

Transition Community Cafe

June 29, 2014
food preparation at Transition Community Cafe

food preparation at Transition Community Cafe

It was whilst out scavenging for vegetables for her hens, and seeing the amount of food going to waste, the idea of Transition Community Cafe came to Ann Bushell. Why not set up a community business that turns waste into a resource, and in doing so supplies delicious meals to the local community at a reasonable price?

The local Coop provided an unused building, volunteers and local businesses helped get it kitted out and up and running.

For a householder, waste is something you put in your wheelie bin, and think no more about it. For a local business, there is a cost incurred in disposal. Anything that helps cut that waste, or will take it off your hands for free, is a cost saving, and is therefore welcome.

  • an empty shop put back into use
  • food waste turned into a resource
  • healthy meals at low cost
  • revitalisation of a town centre
  • meeting place
  • recycling money within the local economy

Due to the variable nature of the ingredients, there is no fixed menu at Transition Community Cafe, it depends on what is available that day.

I have seen the amount of waste generated by food businesses, they seem to be happy to throw it away, and incur a cost in doing so, rather than take steps to reduce the waste.

I have suggested to Harris + Hoole Guildford, that left over food that would otherwise be thrown away, goes to a needy charity. This now happens, but that with a very short shelf life, still gets thrown away. Need to have offers at the end of the day. Buy a coffee and get a free savoury.

A bakery, sadly no longer in Guildford High Street, used to have a queue last half hour. Why, loaves of bread were half price.

Baker in Godalming, does buy one get one free. Far better, half price.

I do not know if they still do, Food For Thought in Covent Garden, used to give their scones and flapjacks to late customers to take away.

A deprived area like Aldershot, empty boarded-up units and fast food joints, poor diet, obesity. It cries out for a community venture like Transition Community Cafe, which also recycles money within the local community.

There is a cost to local councils in waste. It is therefore in their interest to support community ventures such as Transition Community Cafe.

Transition Community Cafe opened June 2013. Between the beginning of June and the end of September 2013 the project achieved the following:

  • Surplus food acquired and kept from landfill – approx 100 kilos/week
  • Food cooked and sold in the cafe – approx 50 kilos/week
  • Food sent for composting, or to a bio-digester or to animal feed (when it has not entered the cafe nor come into contact with animal by-products) – approx 50 kilos/week

Transition Community Cafe is located in Fishguard in Wales. It was a Transition Bro Gwaun community initiative.

Transition Community Cafe is an excellent example of collaborative commons, sharing economy in action.

The case for collaborative consumption

May 10, 2014

Collaborative commons goes mainstream

May 8, 2014

Last year, following a very brief visit to The Anarchist Bookfair, I went to a squat in Hackney.

Quite an impressive squat, a crumbling Georgian mansion, a Grade II listed building.

In one corner clothes. I assumed something along the lines of a charity shop, donated clothes, people helped themselves, maybe left a donation. I was wrong.

I was there early. As the place started to fill up, groups of girls would come in. They headed straight to the clothes. They picked up clothes, sized them up, decided what they liked, then stripped off what they were wearing, and exchanged with the clothes they had fancied.

What I was witnessing was a clothes swap, slow fashion, collaborative commons.

Little notice is taken of the collaborative commons, it does not contribute to GDP, and yet it is fastest growing sector. Elsewhere the mainstream economy has stalled, austerity has caused many people to question how the economy works (or rather does not work).

Collaborative commons appears to have gone mainstream. Last week saw Jeremy Rifkin on the influential Start the Week, this evening collaborative commons and sharing was the topic of the influential In Business.

In Businesses was mainly, though not entirely, on businesses attempting to capitalize on the collaborative commons, yet another example of enclosure of the commons.

It did though highlight social commons, the need for trust, and that it is disruptive, it reduces value, not adds value.

If people share bedrooms, tools, cars, parking places, that is all money taken out of the money economy, and although someone sharing a room, may spend money in a local coffee shop, that is a fraction of what they would have paid for a hotel room.

How de we trust people. Trust ratings on the net are of little value as they can be gamed.

TripAdvisor is a classic example. Trolls posting malicious reviews, rivals dishing a rival, or a restaurant or hotel bribing customers for good reviews.

Steph Bradley encountered this in a time share group on her six moons walk around England, telling tales and collecting tales. They found there was an optimum size for a group, any larger and it failed to function. If more pople wished to join, they were urged to form a new group. The optimum size was similar to the number of people in an early agrarian community, where people knew each other face to face, where trust built up naturally.

There is also a dark side, job sharing sites like TaskRabbit and Mechanical Turk are a race to the bottom, force down wages, create a new class of serfs.

An Open Letter to Pope Francis on the Ethical Economy

April 21, 2014
unMonastery, Matera, Italy

unMonastery, Matera, Italy

Dear Pope Francis,

I write to you as a cultural Catholic moved by admiration for the Christian values and how they have been embodied by social change activists such as Ivan Illich, E.F. Schumacher, Paulo Freire, and profound and provocative thinkers such as Marshall McLuhan and Bruno Latour.

I write to you as someone who has been honoured twice by invitations from the Pontifical Academy of Social Sciences, where I learned about the beautiful and balanced set of ideas that are the Social Doctrine of the Catholic Church and could interact with many interesting Catholic-inspired thinkers, from different sides of the political spectrum, yet open to each other’s ideas in a spirit of brotherhood and sisterhood.

I write to you as well as an admirer of the cooperativism that is inspired by the social doctrine, such as the cooperative network of Mondragon, the ideas of Stefano Zamagni and many others.

I write to you as the founder of the Foundation for Peer to Peer Alternatives, and one of the founding partners of the Commons Strategies group, as someone who is deeply connected with emerging new productive practices based on peer to peer relationships, the creation of common pools of knowledge for the benefit of the whole of humanity, and of sharing economy practices that are based on the re-use of many idle resources that could benefit more citizens while lightening the load of humanity on our planet.

FLOK Society

FLOK Society

Finally, I write to you as the research coordinator of an ambitious transition project in Ecuador, FLOK Society, which is advising the public authorities on moving towards a society and economy that is fully based on shared knowledge.

In this context, I am of course very, very heartened by the recent statements of your Holiness about the need to care for the poor and weak, and to be mindful of the excesses of capitalism, but also from authoritarian collectivism.

I am aware of the key role that the Catholic Church has played in the moral economy of the Middle Ages, and how many Catholics, individually or collectively as members of Congregations and Catholic social movements, are engaged for the Common Good. I am inspired by historical examples such as the Banks of Piety of the Dominicans, which lend money without interest to the poor, and drove out usury-driven banking from their territories.

Yet, as many humans, I am also concerned about our human future. We presently live in a system which believes natural resources are infinite, and we are destroying the very eco-systems on which we depend; and the same system believes that knowledge that could benefit humanity should be restricted and kept artificially scarce, through Intellectual Property restrictions that slow down innovation, hide solutions until they are believed to be profitable, and sell vital medicines at inflated prices, amongst many other issues.

But I am also heartened by the emergence of new modes of creating and distributing value, and on the many peer-based and commons-oriented communities that are mutualizing knowledge, so that it can benefit all; and mutualizing physical infrastructures and resources, so that we may step lighter on the planet. These emergent movements and practices are vital for the future of our planet, and I strongly believe they need Your help! At the end of the era of the Roman Empire, it was the Catholic monks, who mutualized both material infrastructure and knowledge, and functioned as European-wide open design communities, and were crucial in reviving European societies.

The Catholic Church, despite the difficulties due to secularization in Western countries, still has many vital resources. Sometimes, these resources are sold to the marketplace, which may use these in inappropriate ways, such as for examples using abandoned Churches and Monasteries for commercial purposes, for hotels and entertainment venues, but also including sometimes directly related to real-estate speculation.

At the same time, the younger generations of people, and I believe we have a beautiful generation that is concerned and engaged with the Common Good, are willing to create a new type of community, where work and resources are mutualized, and where they use their personal skills and resources, to work for the Common Good, through projects associated with social entrepreneurship, fair trade, peer production and the creation of vital commons of knowledge, code and design which are made universally available for all who need them. There are already quite a number of makerspaces, hackerspaces, co-working spaces and open manufacturing centers for open and sustainable technologies, but we need many more of them, and the reality of real-estate speculation makes many projects unnecessarily difficult to realize.

Indeed, this vital movement of humanity’s young (and not so young) is in search of common places where they can engage in meaningful activities for the common good, yet, the reality of the current economy often means they are precarious, they cannot afford urban rents that are driven by real estate speculation, and often real estate prices make the mutualization of the workplace a very difficult endeavour.

Some of our friends want to go further and have already taken on monastery projects to revitalize our world with ecumenical projects such as the ‘unMonastery’ project in Matera, Italy.

Gorton Monastery, Manchester

Gorton Monastery, Manchester

The Gorton Monastery, previously a Franciscan church and friary, in a deprived neighbourhood of Manchester, England. Deconsecrated and left by the Church, it was abandoned and devastated by the weather, theft and vandalism. It has since been restored by the Monastery of St. Francis and Gorton Trust, and once again brings Franciscan values to its community. The recently established Monastery Foundation is leading in thought and action to support personal and organisational transition: the move from old ways of working and living to those required for today and tomorrow.”

Another one is the Uniting Church’s congregation known as the ‘Augustine Centre’, which has been active for many years in the personal development and creative expression fields; it is now known as the Habitat Centre for Spirituality and has hosted the Borderlands Cooperative for the last 12 years. Together they have created a holistic post-graduate course of education, called the ‘oases Graduate School’, offering a Master’s Degree in Sustainability and Social Change, based on the understanding that education needs to be integrative of many disciplines and that it needs to lead to the transformation of all our ways of living and being. An accompanying range of other events, short courses and activities have been created, the place now becoming known for its ecological and social engagement.

These new practices are recreating the moral economy of the future, and could learn from the moral economy of the past, when the Church played such a vital role. On the other hand, by engaging with these vital forces that are changing our society and civilization, the Church would also learn about the new spiritual needs that are co-emerging from these practices.

So the new movement would benefit from Your Assistance, and I am therefore making this proposal and appeal.

Why not think about the repurposing of unused Church property, for precisely the recreation of a moral and ethical economy? Why not create mechanisms for the creation of common hackerspaces, makerspaces, co-working spaces, where the common endeavours can take place in a meaningful and spiritualized space?

My hope is that the forces of the Catholic Church, may start thinking about using resources to assist the Great and necessary Transformation that is starting to take place today.

As my Catholic friend and ethical investor Dr. Johnny Spangenberg writes, warning of humanity’s mistaken admiration for false Gods:

We create catastrophic climate risk and trigger natural disaster by destroying the very ecosystems on which we depend — All in the name of the worldly Gods of GDP & EBITDA growth and with disregard for the needs or the poor or vulnerable ecosystems. KeyStone XL Pipeline is a recent example of such a controversial megaproject in which the long-run welfare of the human race is sacrificed for short-term economic interest. …

Dr. Spangenberg also mentions a way forward which is similar to the proposed approach of mutualized working spaces, but expanded to the scale of a village:

The Regen-Villages — an innovative collaboration between Stanford University, Danish Technical University and the University of Malaysia Pahang (amongst others) aim to rapidly create modern and comfortable integrated villages around the world that can feed and power themselves. As an urgent call to action to combat economic inequality, RV focus is on thriving rural and sub-urban villages that will run on renewable energy and high-yield organic food production, creating a surplus for thriving, self-sustaining communities. RV also brings curriculum into these villages, while fostering the export of innovation and ingenuity out of these villages.

Therefore, we believe that the transformation discussed above, which requires spaces for meaningful and sustainable work, is vital to save our planet and humanity, and vital for the future of the Church.

We are, of course, not in the position to demand anything, this is not our purpose, but we humbly suggest starting a dialogue on how the Church can support the forces for practical and moral regeneration of our failing economic system. One of our key concerns and proposals would be to find a proper purpose for the religious buildings that are presently unused, and we believe that creating meaning collective workplaces is one of these.”

We are very thankful for any attention that this letter may generate.

Michel Bauwens, Commons Strategies Group and P2P Foundation

The general idea and proposition in this letter are endorsed by the following groups and individuals:

  • David Bollier and Silke Helfrich, Commons Strategies Group, co-editors of ‘The Wealth of the Commons”
  • Hasnah Ismail — Senior Consultant Fellow, Putra Business School & Director, Might-Meteor Advanced Manufacturing, Kuala Lumpur: Malaysia.
  • James Ehrlich — Senior Technologist, Stanford University — Human Sciences Technologies Advanced Research Institute (H-STAR), Stanford: USA.
  • Giovanni Luchetti — Representative of Harvard Business Review — World Investment News, New York: USA.
  • Marco Fioretti — Founder of the Catholic free software / digital rights movt Eeleutheros *
  • Francois Houtart — Fundacion Indigena / IAEN — Quito, Ecuador.
  • Johnny Spangenberg — CEO & Founder, GeoSayang ClimateRiskBonds, New York: USA.

Published by P2P Foundation.


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