Constructing a Commons-Based Policy Platform - Introduction and Objectives

October 27, 2010

After the "economic crisis" of October 2008, it is clear that an epoch in modern history has ended. It is no longer credible to propose that privatisation, deregulation, lower taxes and reductions of social services will usher in a progressive future. It is also evident that the growth imperatives of market capitalism are endangering the planet's ecosystems, aggravating social inequality and failing to meet the needs of substantial numbers of people. Yet confidence in government as a capable and conscientious steward of the people's interests, in the face of concentrated corporate power, has also been shaken by the crisis, remember the „results“ of the Climate Conference in Copenhagen in December 2009. 

A new path forward is coming into focus: An increasing number of activists, thinkers and academics see the commons as a powerful framework for reconstructing human societies and saving the planet's ecosystems. Particularly at a time when the Internet is showing the power of decentralized collective action as an intelligent, generative force in its own right. The commons has many manifestations and definitions, but in essence it is about reclaiming and sharing resources that belong to everyone and defending traditional or building new social and institutional systems for managing those resources in equitable, sustainable ways. It is about fighting corporate or even parliamentary enclosures of water, air, genes, culture, land and much else. The breadth of commons-based policy innovation, research and activism can be seen in the Nobel Prize in Economics given to Professor Elinor Ostrom; the continued growth of free/open source software, Wikipedia and all sorts of digital commons; the interest in the commons among indigenous peoples, NGOs, media and universities, the World Social Forum and many European institutions; and the embrace of the commons paradigm by activists and scientists fighting countless enclosures. These commoners see the commons as a practical means for re-inventing society in ways that markets and governments are unable or unwilling to entertain. 

Seizing this moment of opportunity, our proposal to move towards the CONSTRUCTION OF A COMMONS-BASED POLICY PLATFORM will bring together about 150 leading figures in commons-based studies and activism for a multidisciplinary, international conference. The participants will share their understandings of the commons, explore the range of commons-based policy and social approaches that now exist and forge a new network of commoners who will collaborate on commons-based initiatives in the future. The gathering will also serve to incubate entirely new ideas and strategies that the participants will bring to the conference, including new communication strategies, prototype commons, funding models and research needs. And, last but not least: it will draw attention of some media and the blogosphere to the issue.


The general objective is to emerge at the end of the conference with a set of principles and long-term goals that can foster the planning and development of commons based organisations and policy as well as their networking capacity. 

The conference is designed to contribute to the following: 

  • Assess the range of existing and potential commons-based policy approaches and their respective strengths, limitations and potential for wider application in future policy making.

  • Develop the fundamentals of a policy framework that supports the commons, both as a variety of alternative ways in reproducing our livelihoods and as an alternative analytical perspective for policy making and political practice.

  • Identify and explore specific strategic opportunities to advance commons-based approaches in coherent policy making to meet interlinked political, economic, ecological and social challenges on the national and international levels, including a multiplying communication strategy.

  • Provide excellent opportunities for the community of international commoners to expand their networks, share ideas and strengthen common ground.


Steering Committee:

  • Silke Helfrich (Germany) / Beatriz Busaniche (Argentina)
  • Michel Bauwens (Thailand) / Heike Löschmann (Germany)
  • David Bollier (USA) / Julio Lambing (Germany) 

Support Team:

Stefan Meretz, Brigitte Kratzwald, Franz Nahrada, Felix Stein, Stefan Tuschen, Mayo Fuster, Martin Pedersen, Marco Berlinguer, Gudrun Merkle, Benedikt Aretz, Lena Kunze


  • Silke Helfrich,,  phone: ++49 +3641 509536, cellphone: 01577 3980187 
  • Heike Löschmann,,  phone: ++49 +30 28534-318, cellphone: 0151 54443410
  • Tsewang Norbu,,  phone: ++49 +30 28 534-306 (logistics / admin) 



The commons is about reclaiming, sharing and self-governing resources that belong to everyone. As a form of governance it is defending traditional or building new systems for managing our resources, based on the principles of equity and sustainability. The commons is a practical means for re-inventing society in ways that markets and governments are unable or unwilling to entertain. » Dossier