Building commons
The concept of the commons or common goods is today emerging in various socio‑political contexts. Many of the ongoing battles for social and environmental justice, at both local and global level, are centred on defending the commons.There are a number of different definitions of commons that are not mutually exclusive. Here, commons are defined as all goods that are essential to a dignified life and not merely in the biological sense, goods that no one can claim they made themselves (no one produced water, air or forests), and goods that communities have received as gifts from nature or as gifts from preceding generations, such as the concrete expressions of collective thinking and acting (codes, languages, knowledge, and so on).
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We shall extend this concept to the resources made available to all by various types of communities in order to meet needs – which we shall term the “common pooling of resources” – in order to exploit the scope of this concept to capitalise on the many collective solutions formulated in response to the problems of poverty and financial insecurity. If we consider the number of conflicts and movements against the privatisation of water or land, and climate injustice, it is clear that the concept of commons is becoming a meaningful one, marking the existence of at least two strongly felt requirements:

  • the “de‑commodification” of what is essential to life, in terms of justice and universal access to fundamental goods and services (often together with the claiming of fundamental rights);
  • self‑management and self‑government of these goods and services in accordance with rules and methods agreed on and shared by the community (for example through forms of participatory democracy).


Pictures by Rodrigo Galindez, Greg Riegler and Fito Senabre

Below are some examples of type of actions (in orange) and policies (in green) that aim at building, protecting or reinforcing the common goods, the "Commons".

Relevant Links

Commonification of public services

“Commonification” of public services means first and foremost managing them in a not‑for‑profit‑oriented way, and therefore as commons to which each and every individual must be able to have equal access, regardless of his or her ability to pay. In other words, “commonifying” public services serve to satisfy essential needs and enable the full exercise of fundamental rights. But “commonification” also implies a process of democratising the management of commons.
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There is a need to create the right conditions that will enable the people concerned (regardless of social status) to take an active part in setting priorities and organising services. This gradual transformation process could be based on experimental models and should satisfy at least two requirements: first, that members of the public services’ board of directors include representatives of active citizens, people’s movements, NGOs and service staff; and second, that there are participatory forms of result evaluation.
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Public Space as a Common good

Access to public space is by no means equally available to everyone. Numerous barriers prevent certain groups from making use of public or semi‑public space, whether it be physical (parks, stations, shopping centres, etc.) or less tangible (the Internet, forums for

discussing what policy measures are required, etc.).
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In urban areas, numerous local ordinances or by‑laws prevent any use of public space for non‑commercial purposes, by prohibiting, for example, sleeping rough, “loitering” or behaving in what is deemed to be a disorderly manner in shops and businesses. In some cases these restrictions are compounded by other internal regulations that apply in semi‑public spaces such as stations or metro stations, where physical appearance alone can be a reason to keep certain persons out. Sometimes, too, there are private security guards present, or the areas themselves are fitted out in such a way as to deter people from lingering. In a social justice approach, new emphasis needs to be given to the notion of an individual and collective “right to the city”, so that the aspirations of all users are taken into account when designing and managing public space.
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Allotments - a social and environmental amenity to towns

Auteur : Malou Weirich /Lorna Muddiman - Publié le : 2013-08-21 09:21 -

The Mazargues allotment gardens, situated on the Joseph Aiguier site, are part of the city of Marseille’s historical heritage. The Gardens and the allotments greatly contribute to community life - facilitating a healthier environment, social inclusion, access to food and more...

Revitalising Local Community

Auteur : Maria Jeliazkova - Publié le : 2013-08-16 12:23 -

We try to build and revitalise traditional, social and cultural activities of the local community, which today have either been forgotten or lost.

Padre Cruz Com Padrinhos

Auteur : Lorna Muddiman - Publié le : 2013-08-05 09:40 -

Facilitating an ongoing process of upgrading the oldest part of Padre Cruz, the largest municipal borough of Peni-Lisbon, which is helping at the same time to create greater social and territorial cohesion, while also taking into account the area's newer and multicultural populations.

Beautiful St. Petersburg / Красивый Петербург

Auteur : Andrei - Publié le : 2013-06-17 16:13 -

Beautiful Petersburg (BP) is a movement of active citizens for the improvement of the urban environment quality. We instruct citizens using effective methods of making their cities better, providing them with a simple web tool and organizing regular educational and research events.

Occupy Movements

Auteur : Anne-Iris Romens - Publié le : 2013-05-21 08:35 -

Citizens' protest movements against social and economic inequalities; demanding as well a "re-democratisation" of democracy.

Community gardens

Auteur : Anne-Iris Romens - Publié le : 2013-05-14 13:27 -

Community gardens are those that are shared, cultivated and managed by a community of residents.

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For more examples, please check the page Reimagine Public spaces

Sharing and the common pooling of resources

In various fields and regions there are many ways in which resources – human, social, material, financial and cognitive – are wasted (including misuse, over‑exploitation and under‑utilisation). Sharing appears as a way to better use resources and also to provide access to them to a larger number of persons.

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If we acknowledge that the Internet is crucial to the exercise of human rights and fosters the social and human development of our societies, then it is essential to ensure that it is accessible to all. This presupposes that infrastructure and the educational dimension are both taken into account. It is imperative, on the one hand, to encourage investment enabling broadband to reach every last corner of Europe and, on the other, to narrow the digital divide often affecting those at risk of poverty. This is a crucial point if the aim is for the Internet to become a real way of combating inequalities and promoting social mobility.

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Where knowledge is concerned, “open access” means access to content for everyone without charge. Universities and research centres should post their courses on their websites and allow these to be downloaded free of charge. For their part, governments should make it compulsory for publicly funded research to be freely accessible. The free availability of digital tools and equipment (from publicly accessible repositories to e‑books) could be useful to a much wider group than just students and researchers: it would be highly advantageous to anyone seeking to acquire personal or occupational skills. Public policies should therefore encourage the sharing of hardware, and more generally the emerging forms of knowledge‑sharing: if open access to the knowledge needed for material production is promoted, anyone can apply the “do‑it‑yourself” principle to create the tools for which he or she has a – sometimes vital – need. The sharing of plans and technical drawings may enable people to create for themselves a whole range of tools, from computer parts to a whole tractor.The prospect of creating things for themselves may hold out promise to those without resources, especially those lacking the means to acquire through the market the tools and machines they need. Information and communication technologies (ICTs) may also increase the transparency of the work done by institutions, thereby curbing the waste of public resources, by providing access to information about how they are used, misused or reused and, even more importantly, by encouraging democratic pressure and public reasoning.

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Examples on e-commons:

Other Dimensions

All Examples of Actions and Policies


Auteur : Lorna Muddiman - Publié le : 2013-05-23 15:36 -

Freeshops, Giveaway Shops, Umsonstladen, Weggeef Winkel etc. are stores where all goods are free. They propose new ways of accessing goods that are based on the sharing of resources and avoiding waste. ("give room now")

Auteur : Lorna Muddiman - Publié le : 2013-04-26 07:36 - is an organisation that works with user-driven urban development. Using extensive knowledge about citizen-participatory processes in the city, has among other things created life in empty buildings for a temporary period and created awareness-raising events where innovative ways (cultural, social, etc.) of developing cities are put on the agenda.

Taxi Stop

Auteur : Lorna Muddiman - Publié le : 2013-04-19 12:32 -
Taxistop Logo

Organisation enabling sharing since 1975: ride-sharing: Carpoolplaza, Eurostop, Eventpool. Car-Sharing: Cambio-car-sharing, Autopia P2P. Homelink, home-sitting. Social transport service for less mobile people, done by volunteers...

C.R.E.A. Solidarity fighting waste

Auteur : alessandra sciurba - Publié le : 2013-04-16 08:42 -

The project C.R.E.A. (Surplus Food Recovery Centre) aims to collect surplus food (i.e. goods that cannot be sold but that are still consumable), both fresh and packaged, from the small, medium and large retailers, for their redistribution to people living in conditions of poverty and social exclusion. The main actors involved in its organisation are people who live in the Community of St. Benedetto al Porto, who through this work implement their emancipation and autonomy. The project is partly implemented and partly remains to be implemented.

Community Land Trust Brussels

Auteur : Louise Hain - Publié le : 2013-04-11 15:26 -
CLT Brussels

The Brussels Community Land Trust is an integrated housing model allowing poor households in Brussels that are not longer able to access to decent housing or social housing to enter a long-term housing project and become owner of their own living. This not-for-profit model has been coined as one of the best housing models in the world by UNESCO in 2008.

Rivolta Social Centre

Auteur : alessandra sciurba - Publié le : 2013-04-03 10:20 -

A self-managed social center built in an occupied abandoned factory that has lead to several initiatives : new forms of welfare for Italian and migrant population, innovative types of co-production of renewable energy, collective solutions to produce income for young temporary workers, and new practices of democratic management of resources on the base of a common pool of knowledge and competences.

Urban Gardens in Rome 2 - The Eut-Orto Project

Auteur : alessandra sciurba - Publié le : 2013-04-03 07:42 -

In September 2010, some workers of the corporation Eutelia Information Technology in Rome, after having been made ​​redundant as a result of the crisis that hit the company, decided to create an urban garden community cultivating 3000 square meters of land owned by the Province of Rome, for consuming and selling agricultural products, thus continuing to work together and maintaining the visibility of their dispute for the workplace.

Urban gardens in Rome 1 - Common urban gardens in Garbatella

Auteur : alessandra sciurba - Publié le : 2013-04-03 07:08 -

In the last year in the city of Rome, different experiences of urban gardens have arisen as a form of opposition to unemployment and increasing poverty but also to overbuilding, cementation, and privatization of public territory. Here below are two of the main initiatives.

Some associations and social centers of the district of Garbatella in Rome, with the participation of many citizens, decided to occupy an abandoned area in order to create a common garden.

Repair Café Brussels

Auteur : Louise Hain - Publié le : 2013-03-14 18:02 -

Repairing all together and learning from others in a cocoon atmosphere. Once a month in Brussels, people can give a new life to broken items and learn how to repair them with enthusiastic skilled volunteers. Tools and Equipment are available for reparation as well as cakes and coffee.

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Dernière modification de la page : Lundi 27 mai 2013 09:59:29 UTC
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