Frequently Asked Questions

What is Commons Transition?

We use the phrase “Commons Transition” to describe a series of ideas and policy proposals that reflects both the needs and creative input of civil society. A Commons Transition implies developing policies that create common value and facilitate open, participatory input across society, prioritizing the needs of those people and environments affected by policy decisions over market or bureaucratic considerations.

What is the Commons?

A Commons, as described by author David Bollier, 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 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.

The protection and enablement of existing Commons, along with the creation of new ones, are at the core of our Commons Transition policy proposals.

What is P2P?

P2P can mean “peer to peer”,  “people to people”, or “person to person”. We use the expression P2P to describe non-coercive societal interactions where common value is created and circulated in the form of commons. We speak about the P2P/Commons movement specifically in order to be distinguished from other partially P2P platforms.

Click here for a video introduction to the P2P/Commons movement, or here for a more detailed definition of the term “P2P”.

Is a Commons Transition Utopian?

There are an estimated two billion people worldwide whose livelihoods depend on some form of commons. Despite this dependence, these commons are largely unprotected and in danger of being sold off or privatized to favor market interests. Historically, there have been many types of working commons; nowadays, we see a new type of digital commons developing through the emergence of the Internet. We feel that it’s time to foster the development of specific programs, including legislation, in order to reclaim, expand and defend the Commons, paving the way for a transition to a truly sustainable and just society. Our vision of a Commons-oriented society is based on the scaling up and cohesion of the current various P2P and Commons-oriented projects and practices.

What is the difference between Commons Transition and the FLOK Society project?

The FLOK Society project was commissioned and sponsored by three Ecuadorian State entities and, as such, it’s an Ecuadorian government project. The Commons Transition platform is an independent initiative that develops the proposals originally produced for FLOK but with a global commons orientation.

Who will benefit from Commons Transition?

The project has the potential to empower and transform local policy and decision-making processes through our open knowledge platform. Following the global responses we have received, we believe that the time is right for an expanded effort rooted in various locations, in order to refine locally-adapted policy models, validated by local input and experience. A truly open Internet doesn’t only depend on the interconnection of bottom-up open technologies, but also requires policy frameworks that are favourable to their adoption and maintenance. Cities, regions, nation-states and supra-national entities will be able to benefit from collaborative open policy-making, learning from each other’s experiences.

What progress have you made so far?

FLOK Society’s collaborative efforts produced 10 draft policy proposals toward an integrated transition program, the first effort of its kind. The original Ecuadorian policy proposals on Human Capabilities, Commons Oriented Productive Capacities, Social Infrastructure and Institutional Innovation, Open Technical Infrastructures, and Commons Infrastructure for Collective Life may be viewed on the Commons Transition Wiki.

These proposals were presented and discussed at a global-local summit in Quito at the end of May 2014.

The Commons Transition web platform is now opening this project to the global commons by creating a series of non-region specific policy documents. We share these in order to give an overview of the many precedents and possibilities pointing toward a fairer societal order, and inspire civil society collectives at the local, regional, national and global levels to adapt them to their particular contexts.

What would be a successful outcome for Commons Transition?

We’re working to make it possible to not only adopt but to adapt a policy-making platform where the emerging social needs and proposals of the sharing, P2P, commons, open data, free culture, and other ‘open’ movements can express their needs for policy support. Ideally, this platform will become a repository of policy proposals, offering a means of evaluation and cross-learning as well as mutual support in advancing the legal and policy infrastructures that would enable an open society based on open technological infrastructures. The platform welcomes officials, citizens, policy makers, advocacy movements, and hackers to easily find prior proposals and experiences and build upon them. Each year, a new locale will be sought to continue the work in locally embedded ways, with our team committed to anchoring this effort.

Who is on your team, and what are their relevant experiences or skills?

The core group of researchers are Michel Bauwens, Belgium-Thailand, (P2P/Commons Transition Policies); John Restakis, Canada-Italy (Institutional Innovation, Licenses, New Forms of Governance and Property); George Dafermos, Crete-Greece (Open and Distributed Energy, Manufacturing and Agriculture); Janice Figueiredo, Brazil (Commons for Collective Life, i.e. open food networks, open currencies, open urbanism).

Stacco Troncoso, Kevin Flanagan, Guy James, Ann Marie Utratel and James Burke of the P2P Foundation are responsible for the website design and the organizational work of the Commons Transition Project.

Our core team is supported by a much larger network of researchers, activists, and hackers associated with organizations including the P2P Foundation, Shareable, the Commons Strategies Group, ShareLex, Free Knowledge Institute, Faircoop, Enspiral, Share the World’s Resources, the Post Growth Alliance, the Sustainable Economies Law Center, and many others. We have legal assistance from a team of lawyers experienced in the ‘open’ and ‘sharing’ economy, and technical support from a network of hackers/open IT experts associated with civic movements, such as 15M in Spain.

Where are you located?

Our team members and network live and work in many different parts of the world. The project intends to be composed of both a global virtual platform and a team which will travel (at least three months a year) to locales and institutions interested adapting our policy proposals to local needs. Contact us to arrange a visit!

How do I get involved?

We like to say that this project is itself a commons, open to contributions and intended for the benefit of those who need it.  Feedback is welcome on any of the proposal documents found on our wiki. Other ways to get involved include suggesting related projects for consideration, or sharing and discussing these proposals with your local policymakers, media and communities.

Please visit our contact page for more information.