Controls: show

Blog post


[log in] or [register] to leave a comment for this blog post.

Go to: posts for this blog

Options: show



[home] [about] [help] [policies] [legal disclaimer]


[profiles] [forum]

Browsing Blog Marina's Blog (currently on 03-May-1212)
< previous post (03-May-1212)
Park Uses and Features: Branding and Community Participation
(03-May-1212) next post >
Social responsibility activism
Blog Post

The Commons

03-May-2012 [1162]

Here is a rich source of information. Jay Walljasper draws on the work of Elinor Ostrom, and states The Commons is no longer seen as a tragedy because of her work in Economics.

Walljasper, has a book out called All That We Share: A Field Guide to the Commons(Jay Walljasper. The New Press, 2010, 288 pages, $19) --


Edited by award-winning journalist Jay Walljasper, All That We Share is an indispensable introduction to fresh ideas that touch all of us. Filled with practical solutions for today's economic, political, and cultural issues, it's a much-needed and thoroughly accessible field guide to the new world of the commons. Including success stories from communities across the country and around the world, this book is for anyone seeking new ways of thinking about our shared values.

Here is a summary of Jay Walljasper's article "12 Reasons You'll Be Hearing More About the Commons in 2012". here

According to Walljasper the commons is not just abstract, but the future. You may notice the information comes from Ostrum but here is what he says in his article that seems related to our conservancy:

At the heart of the commons are four simple principles, which have been practiced by humans for millenia: 1) serving the common good; 2) ensuring equitable use of what belongs to us all; 3) promoting sustainable stewardship so that coming generations are not cheated and imperiled; 4) creating practical ways for people to participate in decisions shaping their future.

Walljasper then gives examples of the commons and its ability to shape positive change:

One longstanding commons-based solution is the North Dakota State Bank, which supports worthy projects and saves taxpayer money. It’s one reason the state is enduring the current economic crisis better than any other.

I looked up the bank to find more and found

Here is a summary of that site:

North Dakota's farmers launched the Nonpartisan League in 1915: consisting of progressives, reformers, and radicals wanting control of the state's economy to be in the hands of citizens. Out-of-state grain milling companies, national railroads, and Minneapolis banks, which had made profit by charging exorbitant prices and farmers wanted alternatives. In the 1918 elections, the Non Partisan League founded by North Dakota farmers won both houses of the legislature and started a publicly owned grain mill, the North Dakota Mill] and Elevator, and a publicly owned bank, the Bank of North Dakota (BND). BND governance structure consists of elected officials: the governor, attorney general and the commissioner of agriculture, who serve on the Industrial Commission: the bank's board of directors. The Governor appoints banka seven-member advisory board of people, including representatives of community banks. In effect the Bank of North Dakota is a like a conservancy or trust of a sort run by the people's elected public servants, and allows small local banks and trust companies to flourish whose interest is the local economy. It is one of the only banks that did not suffer from the recession, but recorded profits. It focuses on community development.

Walljasper points out that though The Commons face problems people collaborate to confront issues when common interest is concerned, such as when

Bolivians poured into the streets to successfully demand that deals leasing their water supply to foreign companies be scrapped. Facebook users quashed the company’s sneaky plan to claim copyright on everything posted to the site.

The Commons offers practical definitions and is essential to health, security and survival.

According to this article Walljasper defines a shift in thinking when people think

Everyone’s net worth includes a number of valuable jointly-owned assets that enrich our lives as much as what we own privately. Public services like libraries, recreation centers and public transportation are there for us when we can no longer afford new books, health clubs or another car.

The Commons is a not synonym for Communism or Government Control, but is in Walljasper’s view any gathering of people for the common good and happiness. He also quotes Enrique Peñalosa, who as mayor of Bogotá, Colombia provided public place because he thought it “The least a democratic society should do,”

Public spaces are not a frivolity. They are just as important as hospitals and schools. They create a sense of belonging. This creates a different type of society—a society where people of all income levels meet in public space is a more integrated, socially healthier one.”

Commoning is what he calls it when people get together to share.

At a neighborhood meeting in Boston—one of many discussions held around the U.S. to find ways people can help each other get along in these insecure economic times—someone raised the idea of a tool exchange. Neighbors could take inventory of who owns a snow blower, wheelbarrow, extension ladder, hedge shearers, shop vacuum, drills, shovels, rakes and other stiff that folks could share.

Practical advice he offers is people should

Start by noticing the commons all around you. This includes valuable assets we all need like ambulance service and the protection of watersheds. It also means recognizing the way people work together for the common good, such as Wikipedia or volunteer community groups.

The next step is to start talking about all that we share and how we share it. From there, it becomes natural to claim the commons, challenging threats to the common good in your community and around the world. After that you’re ready to strengthen and expand the commons in many capacities as a neighbor, citizen, activist, voter, parent, artist or social entrepreneur.

As an organization, On the Commons is involved in launching animateur work and connects African and European “commons” activity with Elinor Ostrum’s work, as well as by redefining the commons not just as rivers or land but all resources including software and knowledge.

In Guelph, Ontario citizens get to help decide how money is spent in their neighbourhoods through the Neighborhood Support Coalition(NSC)

The NSC consists of grassroots neighborhood groups and representatives of public agencies, foundations, and the municipality, who redistribute resources for local projects, such as recreation. In 2007 the NSC controlled 0.1% of the $137 million municipal operating budget of Guelph and they use a unique process called participatory budgeting to decide how a small portion of public tax money is spent. However for every $1 given by the municipality, NSC receives $5 in in-kind donations or cash from other sources. So, in 2007, the NSC’s cash budget was $320,000 from the municipality plus $650,000 in in-kind contributions from community partners, such as office space.

The History of Participatory Budgeting in Guelph

In 2000, the NSC, 12 groups from around the City, which had been consulting with city staff on spending in their communities formalized their budgeting process in a written agreement and began making the transition to naming it “participatory budgeting.”

How does this work?

Neighborhood groups elect their representatives to the NSC's committees from local residents. Participatory budgeting decisions are finalized by the NSC Finance Committee, which is made up of elected representatives from the 12 neighborhood groups. Agency partners participate, while municipal staff facilitate, however only neighbourhood representatives vote. The Committee draws budget plans, allocates money, and advocates for funding to sustain and expand programs and meets monthly to share information and make recommendations and decisions.


The NSC budget deliberations start in December and allocations are decided by April, but it is another year to implement project funding.

1) The NSC gathers to talk about citywide priorities for the next year and review the budgeting process. NSC members contribute to the pot of money for the year's budget by engaging partner organizations and sponsors.

2) Residents get together in their local groups to understand citywide and local spending priorities. Based on these get togethers, each group plans what they envision in their community, along with a "needs" budget and a "wants" budget for its vision. The residents elect two delegates to represent their group in the NSC Finance Committee.

3) The neighborhood delegates elected from the 12 neighbourhood groups meet in the Finance Committee to present their budget needs and wants to each other. NSC partners and City staff outline the budget funds that are available. After the meeting, neighborhood delegates return to their groups to re-evaluate their needs and wants, based on the information from other groups and sponsors.

4) The Finance Committee meets again to decide on budget allocations. The delegates negotiate and make compromises on the proposed activities, until they can agree by consensus on a budget.

5) Neighborhood groups implement and monitor their projects through a yearlong funding cycle. They also raise funds from partner organizations and sponsors, to build the pot of money for the next year.

How does the money get distributed? This is slightly different than the model from Brazil for participatory budgeting where residents make choices, and monitor spending. The Brazil model sounds very much like Elinor Ostrom's theory on administering the commons successfully.

1) Guelph residents use consensus rather than a majority vote to decide how to distribute funds.

2) Citizen groups themselves directly spend the budget allocations, rather than monitoring spending by public officials.

3) NSC groups spend most of the money on community services, such as after school programs, parenting programs, anti drug campaigns, clothing closets and community-building activities such as neighborhood picnics and barbecues. Many participating residents are from low-income or ethnic minority neighborhoods.

However, the classic model looks more like this: Diagnosis,

1. Generally, the process starts with residents identifying local needs,

2 generating ideas to respond to these needs, Deliberation,

3. electing delegates to represent each neighborhood or community.

4.These delegates then discuss the local priorities and collective decision-making,

5. Develop concrete projects that address them, together with public employees.

6. Residents vote for or negotiate which of these projects to fund,

7. The delegates and public officials to piece together a final budget. Execution

8 The institution implements the chosen projects, Monitoring.

9. Residents monitor this implementation.

The core principles: democracy, equity, access, community participation, fairness, education, and transparency. Participatory budgeting creates democratic and engaged cities in ways that token polls or consultations do not by actually having citizens spend money on projects that serve their needs.

Participatory Budgeting traces its roots to Brazil

1. Participants in Porto Alegre identify priority projects and choose how money is allocated

2. Municipal staff give technical information but only the participating citizens are allowed to vote

3. Staff are accountable for carrying out the decisions of citizens

The article I looked at also mentioned Sherry Arnstein’s ladder of citizen participation and this model of civic engagement, which it identified as corresponding with the top three "citizen power" rungs.