Commons FAQ

What does the term “commons” in your name refer to?

The Commons is a word meaning all kinds of shared (and jointly owned) public resources — things of which we all own a part. Some examples are simple: no one person nor any company can own the air or the oceans or public land or national forests. Abundant interlocking systems all give expression to the Commons. But neither can any one person or company own commons such as the Internet, our DNA, public parks/spaces, the airwaves (radio, TV, cellphone), public education, open-source software, or medical research.

In our minds, then, the Commons comprises at least two sectors, as well as an assurance of sustainability in their use. These include the material Commons of air, water, land, minerals, oil, and other natural resources, and the immaterial Commons of software, knowledge, arts and culture. These are the engines of generative economies.

The new generative economy looks to the just and sustainable management of this abundance for the common good.

Commons systems  include

Air, public land, water, and public mineral deposits The Internet and the airwaves
Public spaces: parks, libraries, streets, etc. Taxpayer funded medical/scientific research
Wildlife Public education, transportation
The food supply Open-source software
The oceans, Antarctica and outer space Arts and Culture

What kind of group is the Chamber of Commons U.S.?

We advocate and bring visibility to elements of the generative economy, partly to protect endangered areas of the Commons and partly to develop the expression of new forms and practices of Commons, such as the knowledge Commons.

Why is such a group needed now?

Many supporting voices will join ours once they understand that the foundation for the generative economy is care and sustainable use of the Commons for everyone’s benefit. While support for the current extractive economy is firmly in place, the foundation for the generative economy is just emerging. The existing system  degrades  natural resources and captures  public assets in a modern form of “enclosure,”  threatening sustainability.

Who else is speaking out about these issues and may join such a chamber?

Solidarity NYC The Sharing Cities Network
Shareable.<net Commons Transition
Next System Free Software Foundation
Le Temps des Communs Great Lakes Commons Initiative
Creative Commons Open Educational Resources (OER) Commons

At what stage is the Chamber of Commons USA, currently?

We are in the startup phase, planning for a launch event on October 10 in Chicago. Other internationally-based organizations, with whom our Chicago planning team is in touch, have events scheduled in the same time frame to consider their approaches to developing and preserving commons.

What’s happening with the Commons in other countries?

Several other organizations similar to ours are currently forming, and it is our hope that this activity will increase with the example that we provide in Chicago.  In October, Le Temps des Communs, a multi-faceted event across French-speaking locations, will be hosting a conversation about a similar concept, an Assembly of Commons.