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Explaining The Commons Economy

What Is The Commons Economy? It’s an economy in which the essentials of life – housing, energy, land, food, water, transport, social care, the means of exchange etc. are owned in common, in communities, rather than by absentee landlords, corporations or the state. Commons have 3 parts: a) resources / assets, b) ‘commoners’ – local people who control and use them, and c) a set of rules, written by the commoners, so that they’re not lost, by being sold or used up. We’re not talking about ‘open access’ public goods like the oceans, atmosphere, sunlight or rainfall or ‘anything to do with building community’, but commons based on the principles laid out by Elinor Ostrom in Governing the Commons.

Commoning In The City

While Foster and Iaione start with the design principles identified by Elinor Ostrom, the great scholar of the commons,  they acknowledge "the limits of her framework and its applicability to the urban environment."  Unlike traditional commons of farmland, water, or fisheries, where uses have great latitude to devise their own governance rules, Foster and Iaione concluded that "Ostrom's framework needs to be adapted to the reality of urban environments that are often crowded, congested, socially diverse, economically complex, and heavily regulated." So our discussion focused on the varieties of ways that urban commons are built in very different urban settings, and the cross-currents of politics, personalities, and histories that require a larger conceptual approach.

Binna Choi Of The Casco Art Institute: Curating Art Through Commoning

Many years ago I was intrigued to learn of an art institute in the Netherlands, that formally declares its mission to be "working for the commons." That's how the Casco Art Institute in Utrecht presents itself to the world. Their tagline immediately raises questions about how exactly arts and commoning are related, and how an art institute might enter into the world of commoning. I decided to learn more by inviting Binna Choi, Director at the Casco Art Institute, to join me in a podcast conversation for Frontiers of Commoning (Episode #35). Binna, a native of South Korea who has led Casco since 2008, curates artistic work for major exhibitions and was a faculty member of the Dutch Art Institute. She has been a curator or artistic director for the Singapore Biennale 2022, the Gwangju Biennale 2016, and the upcoming Hawai'i Triennial 2025. Choi has brought the ethic and practices of commoning to the creation of art and its exhibition.

Commoning Our Way Through The Climate Crisis

In early 2020, the Covid-19 pandemic forced a retreat into our homes in a grand finale of our atomization and separation from nature — a separation that was exacerbated by enclosures. Yet physically distanced (and with the fragility of the economic system exposed) we remembered our interdependence. Many of us rediscovered ways of self-organizing and returned to the culture of commoning that has been overlooked as a vital way to address many issues, like climate change. Across countries, collective responses to the climate crisis have flourished at local levels, particularly where there were existing networks of support and democratic enterprise. Community energy organizations sent thousands of pounds to support neighborhood responders before governments had figured out how to reach people.
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