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Building commons
The concept of the commons or common goods is today emerging in various socio‑political contexts. Many of the ongoing battles for social and environmental justice, at both local and global level, are centred on defending the commons.There are a number of different definitions of commons that are not mutually exclusive. Here, commons are defined as all goods that are essential to a dignified life and not merely in the biological sense, goods that no one can claim they made themselves (no one produced water, air or forests), and goods that communities have received as gifts from nature or as gifts from preceding generations, such as the concrete expressions of collective thinking and acting (codes, languages, knowledge, and so on).
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We shall extend this concept to the resources made available to all by various types of communities in order to meet needs – which we shall term the “common pooling of resources” – in order to exploit the scope of this concept to capitalise on the many collective solutions formulated in response to the problems of poverty and financial insecurity. If we consider the number of conflicts and movements against the privatisation of water or land, and climate injustice, it is clear that the concept of commons is becoming a meaningful one, marking the existence of at least two strongly felt requirements:

  • the “de‑commodification” of what is essential to life, in terms of justice and universal access to fundamental goods and services (often together with the claiming of fundamental rights);
  • self‑management and self‑government of these goods and services in accordance with rules and methods agreed on and shared by the community (for example through forms of participatory democracy).


Pictures by Rodrigo Galindez, Greg Riegler and Fito Senabre

Below are some examples of type of actions (in orange) and policies (in green) that aim at building, protecting or reinforcing the common goods, the "Commons".

Relevant Links

Commonification of public services

“Commonification” of public services means first and foremost managing them in a not‑for‑profit‑oriented way, and therefore as commons to which each and every individual must be able to have equal access, regardless of his or her ability to pay. In other words, “commonifying” public services serve to satisfy essential needs and enable the full exercise of fundamental rights. But “commonification” also implies a process of democratising the management of commons.
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There is a need to create the right conditions that will enable the people concerned (regardless of social status) to take an active part in setting priorities and organising services. This gradual transformation process could be based on experimental models and should satisfy at least two requirements: first, that members of the public services’ board of directors include representatives of active citizens, people’s movements, NGOs and service staff; and second, that there are participatory forms of result evaluation.
Click Here For Examples

Civil Union for Energy Democracy - Bulgaria (CUED-BG)

Auteur : Maria Jeliazkova - Publié le : 2013-08-14 09:58 -

Creation of a common structure, through which to combine the potential of citizens and experts, as well as the inclusion of the structure in a global network, to help address and solve the problems of growing energy poverty in Bulgaria in the last decade.


Auteur : Anne-Iris Romens - Publié le : 2013-05-22 15:32 -

Societal progress towards well-being of all

Public Space as a Common good

Access to public space is by no means equally available to everyone. Numerous barriers prevent certain groups from making use of public or semi‑public space, whether it be physical (parks, stations, shopping centres, etc.) or less tangible (the Internet, forums for

discussing what policy measures are required, etc.).
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In urban areas, numerous local ordinances or by‑laws prevent any use of public space for non‑commercial purposes, by prohibiting, for example, sleeping rough, “loitering” or behaving in what is deemed to be a disorderly manner in shops and businesses. In some cases these restrictions are compounded by other internal regulations that apply in semi‑public spaces such as stations or metro stations, where physical appearance alone can be a reason to keep certain persons out. Sometimes, too, there are private security guards present, or the areas themselves are fitted out in such a way as to deter people from lingering. In a social justice approach, new emphasis needs to be given to the notion of an individual and collective “right to the city”, so that the aspirations of all users are taken into account when designing and managing public space.
Click Here For Examples

Allotment gardens in the Park Vert de Maisons

Auteur : Malou WEIRICH - Publié le : 2013-10-21 07:59 -

A real “green lung” in the city 10 minutes from Paris: converting a polluted industrial wasteland and creating conviviality in a populous area, the Allotment gardens in the Park Vert de Maisons animate the public space of a town square.


Auteur : Claudia Coimbra - Publié le : 2013-10-10 13:51 -

Permaculture is a holistic method for planning, updating and maintaining systems on a human scale, environmentally sustainable, socially equitable and financially viable. Created by two Australian ecologists in the 70s it is based on the concept of the way of life of traditional Aboriginal Australia, this form of culture comes from the idea of ​​permanent culture. Ecological sustainability, which was the initial idea, is extending eventually to local sustainability of human settlements.

De Hoeve Allotment gardens

Auteur : Marieke De Boe - Publié le : 2013-10-02 14:46 -
Social reintegration

Belgium: The members of the allotment gardens and their efforts to help people get back on the job market.

Jogos de Rua (“Street Games”)

Auteur : Claudia Coimbra - Publié le : 2013-08-27 13:38 -

The Street Games project ("Jogos de Rua"), developed in Lisbon's Prodac neighbourhood, highlights the importance of urban space, large or small, as a source of unity among diverse cultures, social classes and generations.

Projecto A Linha

Auteur : Claudia Coimbra - Publié le : 2013-08-26 13:42 -

To revitalise and energise Alfama and its communities, the A Linha project aims to develop levels of understanding and interaction as well as to create gardens and cultivation, organising shows and cultural activities that promote gastronomy, commerce, sport and leisure.

Cozinha Popular da Mouraria

Auteur : Claudia Coimbra - Publié le : 2013-08-26 10:36 -

Cozinha Popular ("People's Kitchen") da Mouraria is a social project designed to revitalise the multicultural community of Mouraria in Lisbon, promoting the sharing of experiences, building community and providing employment and access to food for those in need.

Allotments and their support to young people

Auteur : Malou Weirich/Lorna Muddiman - Publié le : 2013-08-22 09:09 -

Cold Barn farm is a centre for youth activity, which is dedicated to children and young people and making a difference in their lives. The allotment project started in 2006 when a group of young people showed an interest in growing their own vegetables.

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The Pocket Parks Programme

Auteur : Lorna Muddiman - Publié le : 2013-06-10 09:46 -

Pocket parks are part of the Mayor of London’s 'Great Outdoors' - the programme to improve streets, squares, parks, and canal and riverside spaces across London. The Pocket Parks initiative aims to deliver 100 new or enhanced pocket parks throughout the city.

Cultivation and production on all terrain

Auteur : Anne-Iris Romens/ Lorna Muddiman - Publié le : 2013-05-15 08:06 -

Particularly in the context of the present economic climate, initiatives are emerging in communities across Europe that involve the planting of any suitable piece of land and sharing the produce grown. The benefits of these kinds of movements are multi-fold.

For more examples, please check the page Reimagine Public spaces

Sharing and the common pooling of resources

In various fields and regions there are many ways in which resources – human, social, material, financial and cognitive – are wasted (including misuse, over‑exploitation and under‑utilisation). Sharing appears as a way to better use resources and also to provide access to them to a larger number of persons.

Click Here For Examples

Sharing a place to stay

Auteur : Anne-Iris Romens - Publié le : 2013-05-27 09:16 -

Worldwide, a variety of on-line platforms have been developed to facilitate the hosting of persons.

Sharing means of transportation

Auteur : Anne-Iris Romens - Publié le : 2013-05-27 08:30 -

All over Europe, citizens practice different ways of sharing means of transportation (cars, bikes, etc.) that facilitate access to mobility for everyone.


Auteur : Lorna Muddiman - Publié le : 2013-05-23 15:36 -

Freeshops, Giveaway Shops, Umsonstladen, Weggeef Winkel etc. are stores where all goods are free. They propose new ways of accessing goods that are based on the sharing of resources and avoiding waste.

Community gardens

Auteur : Anne-Iris Romens - Publié le : 2013-05-14 13:27 -

Community gardens are those that are shared, cultivated and managed by a community of residents.

Cultivation and production on all terrain

Auteur : Anne-Iris Romens/ Lorna Muddiman - Publié le : 2013-05-15 08:06 -

Particularly in the context of the present economic climate, initiatives are emerging in communities across Europe that involve the planting of any suitable piece of land and sharing the produce grown. The benefits of these kinds of movements are multi-fold.


If we acknowledge that the Internet is crucial to the exercise of human rights and fosters the social and human development of our societies, then it is essential to ensure that it is accessible to all. This presupposes that infrastructure and the educational dimension are both taken into account. It is imperative, on the one hand, to encourage investment enabling broadband to reach every last corner of Europe and, on the other, to narrow the digital divide often affecting those at risk of poverty. This is a crucial point if the aim is for the Internet to become a real way of combating inequalities and promoting social mobility.

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Where knowledge is concerned, “open access” means access to content for everyone without charge. Universities and research centres should post their courses on their websites and allow these to be downloaded free of charge. For their part, governments should make it compulsory for publicly funded research to be freely accessible. The free availability of digital tools and equipment (from publicly accessible repositories to e‑books) could be useful to a much wider group than just students and researchers: it would be highly advantageous to anyone seeking to acquire personal or occupational skills. Public policies should therefore encourage the sharing of hardware, and more generally the emerging forms of knowledge‑sharing: if open access to the knowledge needed for material production is promoted, anyone can apply the “do‑it‑yourself” principle to create the tools for which he or she has a – sometimes vital – need. The sharing of plans and technical drawings may enable people to create for themselves a whole range of tools, from computer parts to a whole tractor.The prospect of creating things for themselves may hold out promise to those without resources, especially those lacking the means to acquire through the market the tools and machines they need. Information and communication technologies (ICTs) may also increase the transparency of the work done by institutions, thereby curbing the waste of public resources, by providing access to information about how they are used, misused or reused and, even more importantly, by encouraging democratic pressure and public reasoning.

Click Here For Examples

Examples on e-commons:

Other Dimensions

All Examples of Actions and Policies

Business centre for people with disabilities

Auteur : Maria Jeliazkova - Publié le : 2013-08-13 15:14 -

By working with and for people with disabilities, the project aims to provide equal opportunities and better life chances for them. The activities simultaneously increase the level of public awareness on issues of people with disabilities and lobby for their rights.

Padre Cruz Com Padrinhos

Auteur : Lorna Muddiman - Publié le : 2013-08-05 09:40 -

Facilitating an ongoing process of upgrading the oldest part of Padre Cruz, the largest municipal borough of Peni-Lisbon, which is helping at the same time to create greater social and territorial cohesion, while also taking into account the area's newer and multicultural populations.

Released Ex-colorificio /Project Rebeldia

Auteur : alessandra sciurba - Publié le : 2013-07-22 11:03 -

The Project Rebeldia, a social center which was for two years without a space to carry out its activities, together with the Municipality of the Commons (consisting of groups and citizens' associations that have always worked with the Project Rebeldia) occupied a former paint factory (Ex Colorificio), located in an industrial area of a multinational of about 14,000 metres, and which had been abandoned for 5 years. The main purpose of the occupation was to return it to the associations and citizen groups as a shared and common good; a place for the provision of many different activities and services to the city.

Favara Urban Network - F.U.N.

Auteur : alessandra sciurba - Publié le : 2013-07-16 13:44 -

The non-profit Association Favara Urban Network is the laboratory for development of the City of Favara (AG). F.U.N. has the task of supporting, from a scientific and cultural point of view, the transformation processes of Favara and the metropolitan area.


Auteur : Lorna Muddiman - Publié le : 2013-06-25 08:17 -

Project to promote cycling among all those visiting Berlin without the rental fees. "Two wheels good, free wheels better!"

Goteo Crowdfunding the Commons

Auteur : Louise Hain - Publié le : 2013-06-15 22:57 -

Goteo is a social network for crowdfunding and distributed collaboration (services, infrastructures, microtasks and other resources) for encouraging the independent development of creative and innovative initiatives that contribute to the common good, free knowledge, and open code.

Officine Zero

Auteur : alessandra sciurba - Publié le : 2013-06-12 13:33 -

Conversion of an abandoned factory into a space for sustainable production, co-housing and co-working.

MOOCS (Massive Open Online Courses)

Auteur : Louise Hain - Publié le : 2013-05-27 14:10 -

MOOCs (Massive Open Online Courses) are free non-degree online courses with open unlimited global enrollment to anyone who desires to learn, and regardless of their current educational level.

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Auteur : Anne-Iris Romens - Publié le : 2013-05-22 15:32 -

Societal progress towards well-being of all


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Page last modified on Monday 27 of May, 2013 09:59:29 UTC
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