Remembering Silke Helfrich

The calm restlessness of this tireless advocate of the common,

of free, fair and lively togetherness,

this great visionary, she will be missed,

as the sharp, courageous and compassionate thinker,

the inspiring speaker, the local and global network artist,

the courageous pioneer of new paths.

[from Abschied nehmen und in Verbindung bleiben, a tribute to Silke on the website of the Commons Institute]

Silke Helfrich, our friend, colleague, advisor and ally, passed away on Wednesday night. The Commons Network team is devastated.

Silke was one of the leading figures in the commons movement, where she inspired a generation of young activists to imagine a radically different world. She was awe-inspiringly knowledgeable and infectiously enthusiastic, spirited and energetic.

She wrote books that set the bar high for the rest of us, like Patterns of Commoning, Wealth of the Commons and most recently, the ‘magnum opus’ Free, Fair and Alive, that she all wrote with her long-term writing partner David Bollier. Her work will be read by many future generations of students, politicians and activists.

To us, on a more personal level, Silke was a friend. Her lectures and essays and presentations were an inspiration for Commons Network when it was founded. We were in touch from the very beginning, but more closely when she also joined us as an advisor. She was there when we organized the first European Commons Assembly, in Brussels in 2016 (exactly 5 years ago).

Through the years, she was always there when we needed her advise, and more importantly, her intellectual input. Her unstoppable brain made many of our projects better. Whenever we were in touch, we made more plans for the near future. We had so much more ideas for cool new projects to work on together. It is incredibly hard to realize that she is gone.

We want to send our deepest condolences to her family and to her many friends. Obituaries like these cannot do her justice, so we hope we will find better ways to honour Silke and her work. For now, we will try to do this by re-reading her work, by sharing our memories of her with our colleagues and partners, and by continuing to spread her ideas and wisdom.

Our heartfelt condolences also go out to her friends at the Heinrich Böll Stiftung, who worked with her during so many years. Their beautiful tribute is online now, here.

Our friend and advisor and Silke’s writing partner David Bollier wrote his own beautiful tribute to her, here. We are sending you all the strength and love in this difficult time, David.

Silke’s own insitute, the Commons Institue, just published an In Memoriam here. On that page, you can find the details of the new foundation that the family is starting in her honour.

On this page, you can find other tributes and condolences that the Commons Institute is collecting from all over the world.

The Network for Economic Transformation, that Silke co-founded, published this text.

The Argentinian organisation Funadación Vía Libre just published their memories to Silke. A quote: ‘Esta es la clase de texto que jamás querríamos escribir y que vamos a escribir mal porque lo hacemos entre lágrimas: despedir a una amiga a quien nunca vamos a olvidar. Fundación Vía Libre es hoy la organización que es gracias a Silke Helfrich. No hay una sóla letra de exageración en esa frase. Silke nos convocó cuando se le ocurrieron ideas locas, nos orientó para que pudieramos aprender a consolidarnos como organización, nos mostró que nuestra agenda no tenía sentido si no se articulaba con otras agendas, con otros movimientos, con otras perspectivas con las que, de no haber mediado Silke, jamás nos hubieramos cruzado.’ Read it here.

The German newspaper Die Tageszeitung, or ‘TAZ’, just published this nice obituary. A quote: ‘Die Welt der Gemeingüter war für sie auch eine versunkene, in der sie sich wie eine Archäologin bewegte. Gemeinschaftliches Arbeiten, Teilen und Leben praktizierte die Menschheit seit ihrer Entstehung, doch Geld, Eigentum und Individualisierung im Kapitalismus haben uns das alles vergessen lassen. Silke Helfrich war deshalb davon überzeugt, dass wir für die Commons eine neue Sprache, gar eine „neue Ontologie“ brauchen, eine andere Seinsweise.’ Read it here.