Visiting: municipality South-East Amsterdam

Last week, Commons Network was invited to a presentation and co-creation session in the South-East of the city, organised by the municipality of Amsterdam.

Civil servant Robertico Thomasa researched commons initiatives in the south-east of Amsterdam and this meeting was used to reflect on the outcomes of this research. Also, the attendees were invited to further discuss the ideas and possibilities regarding commons initiatives.
Among the invitees were commons initiatives, citizens, civil servants from the ‘team democratization’ and other organisations involved with commons.
One issue that was discussed was the use of Dutch words instead of English. In The Netherlands, we use the English word ‘commons’, not a Dutch translation (which would be ‘meent’). Wouldn’t people better relate to a language that lies closer to their hearts? The presentation made two suggestions: ‘gemeenschap’ instead of ‘community’ and ‘de meent’ instead of ‘commons’.
One of the attendees, a historian, reflected on the use of the word ‘meent’, claiming it might not be the most suitable word, due to the possible association which the medieval use of the word it could invite. Although, she added, this might just be because of her profession.

There was also a discussion about the role of the municipality and money. When the statement was made that commons ought to stand on their own feet, many objected. It should be carefully considered as to what that means. Does it mean that commons exist independently from help and support from ‘outside’? Is subsidies a good word for the financial support people might get?
Is talking about subsidies right, or should financial support be considered a basic and consistent resource? An important issue here is the extent of time. In a utopian future, financial support from parties external to the commons might become less urgent. However, in the current system and situation, helping commons by providing resources is important. Both because the tax system and governments such as municipalities should counter marketisation and support alternatives that create more than financial returns.

During the entire presentation, space was offered for people to react, add, nuance or disagree with what was being said. Additionally, as a final part of the meeting an explicit moment was provided for sharing and creation of ideas.
Big sheets of paper and pens are still great tools for sharing knowledge. Especially concerning commons. The way the crowd engaged with each other around those sheets of paper served as a small representation of the practice of commoning. Everyone had the immediate opportunity to write, discuss and contribute to what happened. This made it a a perfect example of micro-democracy. The collaborative vibe inspired people and it gave depth to the individual knowledge of the participants.