Written by: Thomas Mande
In an age of many overlapping crises–from ecological breakdown, to staggering inequality, to democratic collapse–the term “systems-change” has become ubiquitous. Among the many systems that we must reconsider, none are more important than our systems of resource governance. These systems set the rules for who controls every resource in our societies, including land, water, labor, knowledge, money, and more. Collectively, resource governance systems determine fundamental dynamics of our economy, including how we select our priorities, how we create value, and how we distribute it.
In our new WEAll briefing paper, Commons in a Wellbeing Economy, we examine the inadequacies of our two dominant systems of resource governance–the market and the state–and argue that a better model of resource governance lies in one of the oldest human systems: the commons.
The term commons has had many meanings, both now and in the past. In our paper, we examine the commons as a versatile, democratic, and equitable resource governance system, with the potential to restructure our broken economies and societies of today.
Our paper begins by discussing resource governance and describing the different types of systems our societies use, including the two most prevalent systems, the market and the state. We then provide a global array of examples of commons systems in practice, focusing on four main types: natural resource commons, digital commons, urban commons, and financial commons.
We analyze how commons governance is structurally different from other systems of resource governance, and how those differences create the possibility for a more democratic, equitable, and sustainable economy. We conclude our paper by providing recommendations for how people, communities, governments, and businesses can work to support the creation of new commons and protection of existing ones.
The commons is a rapidly expanding and evolving area of study, and any attempt to capture its essence in a ten page briefing paper will undoubtedly come up short. Our paper solely aims to provide an introduction to this exciting and important concept, and to encourage readers to seek to learn more.
If you want to hear from us directly, and engage with other experts and organizations working to support the growing commons movement, please join us for our upcoming event on 2 February.