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A form of property.

In an open production environment, we may view commons as an organized pool of shared valuables.

In the OVN tradition we use a more restrictive definition of the commons: organized pool of shared valuables that are immaterial, and can be tangible or intangible (knowledge, social, cultural..). See distinction below between commons and pool of shareables.

All valuable things in the commons must have the property of being sharable, i.e. accessible to more than one individual, with access restrictions set by the community, not inherent to the thing itself. The commons is there to be utilized in economic processes.

an open value network is generally conceived as a commons-based peer production community.

From a governance perspective, commons is a class of assets that require a specific type of governance.


A commons is distinct from a pool of shareables, which contains tangible material resources (space, tools, infrastructure, material resources, ...) that can be depleted in use (consumed, resources, raw materials) or worn (like tools). Maintenance might be needed for shareables, their use has costs associated. Items from the commons cannot be depleted. Their consumption does not diminish the commons. The commons is generative, its use might have the effect of replenishing it, like knowledge for example. The tragedy of the commons was in fact a tragedy of shareables. Shareables is a pool of shared tangible resources that can be destroyed if not well managed. Commons, are assets that cannot be destroyed: software, knowledge, etc. The scientific knowledge shared across the planet is a commons. It can only grow. Using knowledge from this pool will not diminish the pool. The commons is also generative, in the sense that using it can increase it. Items of a commons usually do not require maintenance.

All valuable things in the commons must have the property of being shareable, i.e. accessible to more than one individuals, with access restrictions set by the community, not inherent to the thing itself. The commons is there to be utilized in value creation and value transformation processes, infrastructure and community development, including replenishing/maintaining the commons itself.

Commons are non-rival, elements of pools of shareables are rivalrous.

Distinction between commons and collectives: The commons are NOT collectives (as defined in communism). It doesn't involve collective ownership, but trusteeship. See video.

Distinction between open access and commons: Open access is about sharing a pool of unorganized and unclaimed resources The commons is not just a common pool of resources, it’s not just about access to a pool of shared resources. The commons are regulated by the community, and emphasis is put on sustainable use.

Key elements of commons

See Wikipedia definition

  • resources
    • depletable (material...) we call these shareables
    • replenishable (social, cultural, intellectual...)
  • community
    • producers
    • managers
    • providers
    • users
  • boundaries
    • extent of the resource
    • community membership
  • rules
    • preservation
    • access
    • use
    • governance
    • production
  • value
    • gifts of nature
    • capacities and culture of the past
    • collective capacity of today

An OVN focused on production and distributions of material goods needs a commons with at least one separation: a portion that can be shared with the entire world, and another portion with restrictions for non-(active) members.

Tacit (non-formalizable knowledge) group knowledge is naturally part of the inner-commons, and is a determinant factor in the all open innovation game.

The brand and logo of the OVN is part of the inner-commons, with access restricted ONLY to active members. The knowledge developed by the OVN can also be part of the general commons. Some of technical documents are not public, but access to them requires only a formal request (register as a member or at least an observer of the OVN - see Sensorica's organizational structure).

Using the commons doesn't incur use-costs.

Social capital, as a valuable, cannot be shared since it belongs to one particular individual, even though it can be transferred into tangible benefits for the entire network. But because it is not sharable it cannot be part of the commons. We can formulate a similar thought for reputation.

External links

A conversation on the commons

The Commons and why we need to Occupy them - James Quilligan

Commons category on p2pfoundation

Also shared by Helene Finidori on Next Edge, from one of her posts:

"The commons can be described in many different ways and along various dimension. It is at the same time object, process and result operating at various levels and scales, from the most global -the whole system, to various nested or fractal 'local' levels -the parts.

  • As objects, the commons embody the Common Wealth, the 'Assets' that are inherited or created, shared in common, and serve a livelihood (natural, social & cultural resources, genetic and biologic diversity, knowledge, etc), that people can take care of, nurture, replenish, grow.
  • As a process, the commons embody the Common Ethos, a Culture, the ways of being and doing in common that epitomizes in commoning (caring, sharing, nurturing, governing the assets in relationship with others with empathy, equity, justice, mindfulness...)
  • As a Result, the commons embody the Common Good, the outcome of the process (well being, quality of life, prosperity, abundance) which is the life blood of the process and a condition for the growth of the assets.

The commons is both an input to the dynamic interactions between people and their contexts, and an output thereof. All these dimensions need each other for the world to thrive. For progress to materialize, output must be greater than input. Commons in all their diversity and all the types of value they create must grow. And ideally each of our sustainability initiatives is actually would be geared to grow a part of it."