The commons is….
- A social system for the long-term stewardship of resources that preserves shared values and community identity.
- A self-organized system by which communities manage resources (both depletable and and replenishable) with minimal or no reliance on the Market or State.
- The wealth that we inherit or create together and must pass on, undiminished or enhanced, to our children. Our collective wealth includes the gifts of nature, civic infrastructure, cultural works and traditions, and knowledge.
- A sector of the economy (and life!) that generates value in ways that are often taken for granted – and often jeopardized by the Market-State.
There is no master inventory of commons because a commons arises whenever a given community decides it wishes to manage a resource in a collective manner, with special regard for equitable access, use and sustainability.
The commons is not a resource. It is a resource plus a defined community and the protocols, values and norms devised by the community to manage its resources. Many resources urgently need to be managed as commons, such as the atmosphere, oceans, genetic knowledge and biodiversity.
There is no commons without commoning – the social practices and norms for managing a resource for collective benefit. Forms of commoning naturally vary from one commons to another because humanity itself is so varied. And so there is no “standard template” for commons; merely “fractal affinities” or shared patterns and principles among commons. The commons must be understood, then, as a verb as much as a noun. A commons must be animated by bottom-up participation, personal responsibility, transparency and self-policing accountability.
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