News of the Commons

The BIG news is that the commons got a lot of fresh attention in the 2012 RioDialogues, from the UN Commons Action Group site and its Facebook page, supporting proposals that Helene Finidori (1) and I submitted (2,3) for:

“New institutions.. for commons-based economic models”

a common trust and place to enjoy being at home

Helene’s proposal (1) won the voting for the“Sustainable Development as an Answer to the Economic and Financial Crises” topic in the RioDialogues vote, and good recognition!

The idea is to NOT use development, as the solution to the world economic crisis, but to create new institutions allowing develoment efforts to work together, to serve the whole.  It would create a sustainable world using “commons-based economic models”. The idea originates from the examples advocated by the Nobel laureate, Elinor Ostrum, as the collaborative framework that competitive interests need so the whole can thrive.

Helene’s proposal is found on the next page, or by following the links (1).  Her new (Aug 2012) collected thinking on it is in,


applying her insights gleaned from the further Systems Thinking World discussions on the UN Call for Action, she started, and her original proposal also came from.

– 1) Sustainable development requires new institutions … to adopt commons-based economic models, originally posted to the 2012 RioDialogues

– 2) Biomimicry for a self-regulating financial commons

– 3) Budgeting for “the commons” needs business “ecobalance” sheets

Helene currently lives in Barcelona. She devotes herself to “Connecting people & ideas across cultures, disciplines & sectors to shape a better future…”. Links to her other writing and visions for the commons are:  In my dreams… the Living WE… accelerating emergence… and  The Commons at the Core of our Next Economic Models?

Helene Finidori

Posted to Mon, May 28, 2012

Sustainable development requires new institutions to cooperatively steward and manage the global commons and adopt commons-based economic models

on Rio 2012 site:
on Posterous:


This recommendation calls for the development of a commons sector, alongside the private and public sectors, conferring rights and responsibilities to communities over resources on which they depend. This would ensure that the people who have a long-term stake in the preservation of these resources (natural, physical, intellectual, social, cultural; from local to global) would protect them while enabling the development of a flourishing commons-based economy around them. Commons are the shared resources that we inherit, create and use and transmit to future generations. Vital for our sustenance and livelihood, our individual expression and purpose, our social cohesion, quality of life and well-being, commons also embody the relationships between people, communities and these shared resources.


It seems the current definition of Sustainability as the ability to: “meet present needs without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their needs”(WECD, 1987) is not unifying enough to get the ‘forces for good’ to converge and create some action around a shared intention.

The Global Sustainability Panel of the UN which presented its Resilient People Resilient Planet: A future Worth Choosing report to the Secretary General last January suggested policy frameworks based on new indicators, means for innovation and entrepreneurship, for resilience and empowerment, incentives for long-term investments, adoption of some forms of externality accounting, institutions for increased civil society participation. It also quite clearly states in its vision outline that the answers revolve around choice, influence, participation and action, and calls for a process “able to summon both the arguments and the political will necessary to act for a sustainable future.”

So, how can political will be summoned?  How can a collective intention for sustainability be generated?

In this perspective, it is interesting to look more closely at sustainability in relation to the concept of commons dear to Nobel Price winning economist Elinor Ostrom and other economists such as James Quilligan who oppose the inevitability of the tragedy of the commons and show how commons can be co-governed through stakeholder and civil society based institutions in effective ways.

Quilligan defines the commons as the collective heritage of humanity, the shared — natural, genetic, material, intellectual, digital, social and cultural — resources that we inherit, create and use and transmit to future generations. Vital for our sustenance and livelihood, our individual expression and purpose, our social cohesion, quality of life and well-being, commons also embody the relationships between people, communities and these shared resources.

If we consider commons as assets that must and can be preserved and nurtured -just as private and public assets are currently meant to be-, then we give them some materiality and tangibility as socio-economic objects -even when they are intangible-. And if we adopt a patrimonial approach of replenishment and growth of the commons (whether material or immaterial) as the basic discourse for sustainable development and starting point for new economic models, we have a ground for creating new institutions for governing the commons and new kinds of metrics, accounting systems and economic instruments that would help the development of a sustainable economic and financial system and the reconstruction of the relationship between individuals, institutions and the commons. The UN could play a leading role in helping the constitution of civil society / stakeholder governed institutions to steward global commons (commons sector), in complementarity with the nation states (public sector) and the corporate world (private sector).

I am just back from London where I attended a series of seminars by James Quilligan on the emergence of a commons-based economy. Here are the video and transcript of the seminar he held at the Finance innovation Lab on May 10th: How would a commons approach shape the future of finance?
The article here lists the initiatives that are currently shaping a ‘new economy movement’ at the edges: most can be related to the concept of stewardship of the commons.


The Commons Action for the United Nations team at the UN has drafted recommended  Measures to Shift to a Sustainable Commons Based Global Economy as well as Measures to Finance that shift for Rio+20 and additional documents that are attached below that constitute the basis for this recommendation.

Adopting the principles of a commons based economy at the UN level would accelerate the emergence of new practices and behaviors by the mainstream.

To make this happen, the first step to be taken would be for the UN to establish a High Level Panel on the Commons. This would be a natural follow up on the vision of the Global Sustainability Panel, the orientation of which is much in the spirit of the commons.



#recommendationSustainable Developmentcommonsmetricscommons-based economyaccounting systemexternalities,governance institutions




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