The P2P Foundation

The P2P Foundation is the promoting organization behind the Commons Transition Platform. The following text is extracted from the P2P Foundation’s Website

We monitor and promote all things peer to peer, and aim for a transition towards a commons-based society.

We are a global network of researchers and activists who believe in peer production, meaning that peers, as equals, are creating commons together. We study how this works: we look at governance, we look at ownership, at participatory aspects…and we see it not only as a new way of making things, but as a seed for a renewed society.


Our Story

P2PF blackThe P2P Foundation (officially, The Foundation for P2P Alternatives) is a non-profit organization and global network dedicated to advocacy and research of commons oriented peer to peer (P2P) dynamics in society.

P2P can be characterized by the presence of open, participatory processes of production and governance for the creation of common goods, whose universal access is guaranteed by licenses such as Creative Commons or the GPL (GNU General Public License). P2P dynamics are most visible today in the many communities and movements self-organising around the co-creation of culture and knowledge. Some of the most well known examples are: Free/Open Source Software, Free Culture, Open Hardware, and Open Access in education and science.
These communities, values and practices are now also increasingly present
in the world of physical production through open design, the sharing economy and co-working in hacker/makerspaces and Fab labs. These movements represent a cultural shift towards new kinds of democratic and economic participation that we believe are sowing the seeds for a more sustainable, egalitarian future.

The P2P Foundation monitors the emergence of P2P dynamics in every field of human activity. We document these projects on our open access wiki and report and critique current events on our daily blog. Our Commons Transition website combines a platform for policy proposals with a web magazine featuring specially curated stories and interviews, with and for commoners worldwide. Our research network, led by the P2P Lab, empirically explores and expands the theoretical work produced on commons-oriented peer production, governance and property to ascertain its viability in real-world applications.

Our wider network consists of independent researchers and academics active in grassroots social movements and in public and private sector institutions, working for the transition to a P2P future.

P2P Foundation members are active all over the world, with representatives in Europe, Asia, Oceania, Africa, South America, and North America.

We are always looking to expand our coverage and welcome new members to our community.

Our Mission

The P2P Foundation was conceived to help people, organizations and governments transition towards commons-based approaches to society through co-creating an open knowledge commons and a resilient, sustainable human network.

Between the paradigms of the network and the organization, the P2P Foundation exists as an ‘organized network’ which can facilitate the creation of networks, yet without directing them. Our primary aim is to be an incubator and catalyst for the emerging ecosystem, focusing on the ‘missing pieces’, and the interconnectedness that can lead to a wider movement.

P2P, in practice, is often invisible to those involved, for a variety of cultural reasons. We want to reveal its presence in discrete movements in order to unite them in their common ethos. To do this, a common initiative is required which:

  • gathers information
  • connects and mutually informs people
  • strives for integrative insights contributed by many sub-fields
  • organizes events for reflection and action
  • educates people about critical and creative tools for “world-making”

We produce two blogs and several wikis, and organize activities so that people can connect and strengthen each other, and discuss topics of common interest. We are also creating alliances with other organizations to broaden our scope and abilities, and forging relationships with key people and public officers to extend our policy recommendations to those in the position to effect change within governments.

P2P Foundation Founder, Michel Bauwens, speaking on OuishareFest 2014

The image by Stefano Borghi shows Michel Bauwens presenting the Four Future Scenarios for a Collaborative Economy at OuishareFest 2013.

Strategic Priorities

Our aim is to be a pluralist network, actively documenting, researching, and promoting peer to peer alternatives. Our political aims may be summarized under the following maxims:

  • Ending biosphere destruction by abandoning dangerous conceptions of pseudo-abundance in the natural world (based on the assumption that natural resources are infinite)
  • Promoting free cultural exchange by abandoning innovation-inhibiting conceptions of pseudo-scarcity in the cultural world (based on the assumption that the free flow of culture must be restricted through excessive copyrights, etc.)

The following broad “streams” have been identified in order to best channel our efforts and resources:

  • Stream 1: Open Coops & Sustainable Livelihoods. Co-creating and catalyzing the alternative eco-system for open and cooperative peer production, to enable reconstruction of economic and social power around the commons. This includes work on our Commons-Based Reciprocity License (or Copyfair License), Open Cooperativism and Phyles, to create ethical entrepreneurial coalitions that co-produce commons.
  • Stream 2: P2P Cultures and Politics. Reclaiming political voice and power via bottom-up Assemblies of the Commons and Chamber of the Commons putting forward social charters, in conjunction with “top-down” progressive coalitions through existing political parties. These coalitions around the commons, or ‘the politics and policies of the commons’, will further our efforts to implement Commons Transition Plans.
  • Stream 3: Building the Open Source Circular Economy. Creating synergies between cooperative peer production and sustainability, i.e. showing how a transition to the new modes of production, governance and ownership can solve the ecological and climate crises.
P2P Foundation members and friends at the Open Everything Convergence, Cloughjordan, Ireland.

P2P Foundation members and friends at the 2014 Open Everything Convergence, Cloughjordan, Ireland.

Our Guiding Principles

The P2P Foundation proposes to be a meeting place for those who broadly agree with the following guiding ideas, principles and propositions, which are also argued in the essay P2P and Human Evolution:

  • That peer-to-peer based technology reflects and holds the potential for a consciousness shift towards individual and networked participation, and in turn strengthens it.
  • That the “distributed network” format, expressed in the specific manner of peer-to-peer relations, is a new form of organizing and subjectivity, and an alternative for many systems within the current socio-economic and cultural-political order. Though this does not offer solutions per se, it points the way to a variety of dialogical and self-organizing formats. It represents different processes for arriving at such solutions; it ushers in an era of ‘non-representational democracy’, where an increasing number of people are able to manage their social and productive lives using a variety of autonomous, interdependent networks and peer circles.
  • That global governance and the global market will be, and will have to be, more influenced by modes of governance involving multi-stakeholdership.
  • That it creates a new public domain – an information commons – which should be protected and extended, especially in the domain of common knowledge creation; and that this domain, where the cost of reproducing knowledge is near zero, requires fundamental changes in the intellectual property regime as reflected by new forms such as the free software movement; that universal common property regimes, i.e. modes of peer property, such as the General Public License and the Creative Commons licenses and the CopyFair License (or Commons-Based Reciprocity License) should be promoted and extended.
  • That the principles developed by the free software movement, in particular the General Public License, and the general principles behind the open source and open access movements, provides for models that could be used in other areas of social and productive life.
  • That it reconnects with the older traditions and attempts for a more cooperative social order, but this time obviates the need for authoritarianism and centralization; it has the potential of showing that the new more egalitarian digital culture is connected to the older traditions of cooperation of the workers and peasants, and to the search for an engaged and meaningful life as expressed in one’s work, which becomes an expression of individual and collective creativity rather than a salaried means of survival.
  • That it offers not only youth but people of all ages a vision of renewal and hope to create a world that is more in tune with their values; that it creates a new language and discourse in tune with the new historical phase of ‘cognitive capitalism’. P2P is a language which every digital literate can understand. However, ‘peer-to-peer theory’ addresses itself not only to knowledge workers and the network-enabled but to the whole of civil society, and to whoever agrees that the core of decision-making should be located in civil society, not in the market or in the state, and that the latters should be the servants of civil society.

It combines subjectivity (new values), inter-subjectivity (new relations), objectivity (an enabling technology) and inter-objectivity (new forms of organization) to mutually strengthen one another in a positive feedback loop; it is clearly growing, but as yet lacking in ‘political self-consciousness’. It is this form of awareness that the P2P Foundation wants to promote.

Image by our friends at POC21, an international innovation community started at the innovation camp shown above.

Image by our friends at POC21, an international innovation community started at the innovation camp shown above.

The P2P Foundation Ecosystem

The P2P Foundation infrastructure of production and governance currently consists of three different aspects:

  • A formal foundation registered in the Netherlands with 3 operational hubs dedicated to organizing, advocacy, research and the facilitation of a knowledge commons.
  • An expanding network of activists and researchers working at different levels of engagement, a small core team handling strategy and sustainability, and countless members engaging with and contributing to our information commons, including our blog, public Wiki and Loomio group.
  • An ecosystem producing and sharing knowledge on the commons and P2P dynamics emerging throughout society. Our widely viewed and shared research wiki and blog are updated daily by our community.

Organizational Structure

As of 2016, the P2P Foundation’s structure has been reorganized around three interdependent operational hubs: the Foundation itself, Commons Transition and the P2P Lab.

The P2P Foundation is the umbrella organization for Commons Transition and the P2P Lab, and the wider network. As itself one of the hubs, the P2P Foundation commons observes, interconnects, stimulates and theorizes on knowledge production around the emergence of a commons economy and society. This work is led by Michel Bauwens through outreach, lecturing, writing, publishing and online documentation. The P2P Foundation also participates in group projects, including the P2Pvalue project focused on supporting commons-based peer production through research, policy recommendations and development of a platform. As support for the Foundation, the following individuals operate as stewards in key areas: James Burke as operations and finance steward, Vasilis Niaros as sustainability steward, Javier Arturo Rodríguez as tech support steward, Stacco Troncoso as strategic direction steward, and Ann Marie Utratel as communications steward.

Commons Transition is the main communication and advocacy hub of the P2P Foundation. Through the leadership of Stacco Troncoso and Ann Marie Utratel, Commons Transition produces accessible documentation to effectively spread our commons-based and -oriented ideas and experiences, appealing to civil society actors and policy makers. Commons Transition is also building a new transnational activist network identified with the Commons, in order to broaden these ideas into mainstream awareness.

The P2P Lab is the research hub of the P2P Foundation. The P2P Lab operates as a concrete lab in northern Greece and as a global research network. We also track academic peer-reviewed publications around p2p and the commons (including the works of our core collaborators), and obtain grants for research. Moreover, we coordinate and participate in research projects, such as P2Pvalue, which focus on free/open source technologies and commons-based practices. The work is led by Vasilis Kostakis and Vasilis Niaros with the collaboration of commons-oriented researchers, such as Penny Travlou and Rachel O’Dwyer.

Our network also includes the following noted contributors to this blog: David Bollier, Carmen Lozano Bright, Kevin Carson, Kevin Flanagan, Sepp Hasslberger, Øyvind Holmstad, Guy James, Vasilis Kostakis, Rajesh Makwana, Nathan Schneider, Penny Travlou, and the team from las Indias, among a great many others.

To know more about our recent achievements, read our 2015 review, or click here for more.

Find out more at P2PFoundation.net and the P2P Foundation blog.


Top Image by Palo