“The life and spirit of the Commons is already within us. We ARE the Commons, for we are part of this planet, part of Gaia. It’s now a matter of acknowledging that this is so and acting accordingly.” (Spangler, David)
From this beautiful spirit of the Commons, I would like to share some insights from the science of commoning – the practices of co-holding Commons that can be useful for Ecovillages (like Findhorn Ecovillage where I live) and Urban Habitats everywhere that are seeking guidance for Commoning well in Community.
Elinor Ostrom, a Nobel-prize winning economist was curious if there were characteristics in communities that were successful in their commoning practices. Her research determined that successful Commoning shared eight practices:
- Shared identity and purpose: everybody in the group feels as though they belong to the group, values its purpose and are willing to work towards the same goals.
How do we notice this principle in our community? To what extent do group members feel a sense of belonging and shared purpose with the group?
- Equitable distribution of contributions and benefits: everyone receives benefits proportionate to their contributions, achieving fairness through balance of effort (workload) and reward.
How do we notice this principle in our community? To what extent are the demands and benefits of participating in this group distributed equitably between its members? What would a win-win situation look like here?
- Fair and inclusive decision-making: when making decisions that affect group members how do we involve them, particularly agreements about how the group runs. The key planning question is “How will we decide in a way that involves those who need and want to be involved?”
How do we notice this principle in our community? To what extent do group members feel involved in making the decisions that affect them?
- Monitoring of agreed behaviours: how can we be aware of what each other are doing? How can our behaviours be transparent?
How do we notice this principle in our community? To what extent do group members know what others in the group are doing?
- Graduated responding to helpful and unhelpful behaviour: effective groups have in place responses to transgressions. The key planning question is “How should we respond to one another to encourage cooperation and discourage unhelpful behaviours?”
How do we notice this principle in our community? If someone behaves in a way that is unhelpful or disruptive in this group, to what extent do people respond appropriately to discourage that behaviour? If someone behaves in a way that is helpful or cooperative in this group, to what extent do people respond appropriately to encourage that behaviour?
- Fast and fair conflict resolution: conflict resolution skills use flexible authentic processes for conflict resolution, to resolve the inevitable conflicts and differences that will arise within and between groups.
How do we notice this principle in our community? To what extent does the group have fast and fair conflict resolution processes?
- Authority to self-govern (according to principles 1-6): we clearly articulate the purpose of the group and its associated authorities and accountabilities to affirm group autonomy to
take responsibility for managing our own affairs.
How do we notice this principle in our community? How should we lead and how should we protect ourselves from undue influence from outside the group?
- Collaborative relations with other groups (using principles 1-7): how are Core Design Principles 1 through 7 implemented between-groups?
How do we notice this principle here? Does the group have purposeful, fair, inclusive, transparent and effective relations with other groups? Does the group primarily serve its own interests, or those of its larger context?
Life and circumstances in our dynamic evolving Ecovillages and Urban Habitats, are giving us the opportunity not only to define our Commons, and who might steward them but also how might we do that in community, so we honour both the wisdom of Spirit and intelligences of Nature? Elinor Ostrom’s principles for Commoning might serve us well for both Placecaring and Placemaking.
Atkins P., Wilson D.S., Hayes S. 2019. Prosocial: Using Evolutionary Science to Build Productive, Equitable and Collaborative Groups. Context Press, Oakland, CA.
Facilitating Prosocial. Prosocial World, https://community.prosocial.world/