30 October 2010

An Uncommon Conference on the Commons

Regular readers of this blog will know that the commons has been a major theme here for some years, since it offers an extremely fruitful way of looking at free software, open content and the other "opens". Recognition of the importance of the commons has been slow coming, but an important moment was when the doyenne of commons studies, Elinor Ostrom, won the Nobel Prize for Economics last year:

Elinor Ostrom has challenged the conventional wisdom that common property is poorly managed and should be either regulated by central authorities or privatized. Based on numerous studies of user-managed fish stocks, pastures, woods, lakes, and groundwater basins, Ostrom concludes that the outcomes are, more often than not, better than predicted by standard theories. She observes that resource users frequently develop sophisticated mechanisms for decision-making and rule enforcement to handle conflicts of interest, and she characterizes the rules that promote successful outcomes.

And now, building on that momentum, we have the Berlin Commons Conference:

The conference seeks to bring together a diverse group of about 150 international and Germany- and European-based commoners, intellectuals, activists and policy makers. It also aims to enhance participation and self-organization; stewardship, cooperation and networking; and open, non-linear ways to search for solutions.

Over the course of two days, the conference will assess the range of existing and potential commons-based policy approaches; develop the fundamentals of a policy framework that supports the commons; and identify and explore specific strategic opportunities to advance commons-based approaches.

The conference announcement elaborates: “The simple yet powerful and complex question to be explored throughout the conference is: What does a commons-based policy framework look like? What already exists and what do we still need to develop to nurture and protect diverse sorts of commons?”

As you can see from the list of participants, yours truly will also be attending. Apparently, there will be a live video stream of some of the sessions: not sure whether mine will be one of them. If it is, you can see me spouting my common commons nonsense around 11am CEST, 10am GMT.

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