How about 'Growing the Commons' as a meta-narrative for a paradigm shift?
Ann Pendleton-Jullian in her Power and Ecosystems of Change talk suggests that a new type of metanarrative is much needed to change the world. Something strategically ambiguous towards which to head despite our differences, and that would aggregate coherence from a variety of disparate micro narratives that shape events and build trust at the grassroots level. She talks about networks and how network architectures change power structures, and describes ecosystems of change as scaffold to aggregate different kinds of powers and mecanisms that are out there, and support the emergence of the new until it becomes strong enough.
The idea of growing or expanding the commons as meta-narrative and the type of ecosystem of change that could support it are worth looking into. An idea I developed in 'Common-Sense Commons' as a guiding vision for a Self-Caring System & Thrivable World. A vision with a transitive verb attached to it conveys an idea of 'movement', 'action', 'agency' and potential engagement. It can draw people in from beyond the intentional commons circles and traditional 'supporters' of the commons.
The growth imperative, as we have experienced, is a great generator of engagement and action! It got [almost] everyone these last decades rolling up their sleeves to do it best -and not only for self enrichment-. Unfortunately not applied with discernment, nor to the right things, and with the result that we know: the consumption of our host and part of our social fabric! Much would change if, rather than applied indiscriminately to GDP and profits at all cost, to means that lose tracks of ends, or to extraction, consumption, addictions, and other toxic, enclosing or exploitative behaviors and practices, growth was directed at (re)generating, and expanding a variety of enabling resources and outcomes (capabilities, abundance, health, well being, thrivability, resilience, creativity, knowledge...), and all types of ways of doing things right, with an eye on how it impacts the whole as well. An outlet for our intentions, attention and cognitive surplus!
The commons in its widest definition is 'fuzzy' and ambiguous enough to encompass many forms: objects (resources, biological commons, knowledge & digital commons...), processes (manners in which, commoning, nurturing, regenerating...) and outcomes (consequences such as well-being, prosperity, capability...) that connect people together and to their contexts and/or place. Commons convey an idea of togetherness and mutuality, of care and responsibilities. It holds an ethical dimension. Commons are at the same time whole and parts, input and output, medium and outcome... As a living system commons accomodates complexity. Yet at the same time there is a potential to make the language of the commons simple and relevant.
Much of the initiatives around sustainability, resilience, thrivability, or social innovation strive to maintain the integrity and grow or nurture a piece of the commons, and could be thought and expressed in terms of their impact on the commons even if not organized as intentional commons. These initiatives would gain from a commons discourse that would help forward their own activity and the commons as a whole at the same time.
individual or group has a different definition of the commons and a
'prefered' commons to focus his/her attention and efforts towards. Each has a
different story to tell. A convergence generating meta-narrative such as growth of the commons would ensure a variety of solutions necessary to make the system resilient, without having to chose or prioritize; enabling small or large steps to add up in meaningful ways, consistent with the values that each wish to see in the world, from which ever place they wish to start from, the impact thereof being greater than the sum of the parts!
Several approaches are based on a wide multidimensional view of the commons and on a transition that springs partly from the current paradigm:
- Benni Bärmann: Commons as a strategic perspective for social movements
- Tom Atlee's Wholesome Capitalism
- David Ronfeldt's Speculations on assurance commons
- My Commons at the core of our next economic model
We should multiply opportunities to formulate this meta-narrative and examine how various micro-narratives could be expressed in relation to the commons, which mecanisms could empower engagement and how networks could enable it. This would generate discussions on the basic principles for the integrity of the commons and how they would be best 'grown', providing some feedback on the modalities and boundaries of 'growth', transforming in the process the definition of growth itself. It would give the commons a voice, and set a framework to prevent or limit further enclosure, cooptation and corruption of the commons and the commons vocabulary. It would provide a basis for viral communication.
So what type of commons does your activity grow or replenish, and how? To what extend does your activity deplete the commons and what could you do about it?
Let's share stories and make the shift happen...