About the commons

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About the commons

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Commons refer to shared resources and social practices that are maintained by communities in a sustainable manner.

The logic of the commons does not sit within one ideological framework of Left or Right, yet it is a concept that is able to give clear guidance on policy. It does not pretend to be an answer to all our problems. Yet it offers a clear ethical perspective and helps us understand what happens when people collectively manage and take stewardship over resources without the dominant, centralised roles of either the state or the market.

The commons discourse considers people as actors who are deeply embedded in social relationships, communities and local ecosystems, instead of conceiving of society as merely a collection of atomised individuals principally living as consumers or entrepreneurs. Human motivation is more diverse than maximising self-interest alone: we are social beings and human cooperation and reciprocity are at least as important in driving our actions.

The commons use voluntary social collaboration and co-creation through open networks to generate social-environmental value in ways that large markets and exclusive private property rights do not and cannot. This value may not be able to be monetised. However, it constitutes a significant part of societal wellbeing in academic research, energy production, nature protection, health, creative sectors, drug development and digital innovation.

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