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A Vision of a Commons Very simply, a commons is an open, inclusive shared space that is owned, governed and operated by its participants and partners.

To personalize this concept, think of how your human body functions as a commons. Individual cells organized into communities of organs, functions and systems. Each cell is interdependent upon each other, collectively working together for the purpose of being human.

A commons is the organic infrastructure that arises from participants and partnerships that organize to support a shared purpose. As human beings evolve we organically form communities, networks and systems (link to Sprials chart). Each human form (biological or organizational)develops a set of organzing principles and social codes that transcend and include earlier stages of development. Ultimately, evolving themselves with nature into smaller and larger commons. We have some idea of what this looks like in terms of different governmental forms, but what might a global commons, that truely serves all of humanity look like?

PhilCubeta describes the human nature of a commons in his recent Giving Space post (www.givingspace.org):

The commons is owned by all, rather than a few. Folklore as opposed to Disney, air as opposed to bottled water, the town green as opposed to a mall. My genes as opposed to the intellectual property of Monsanto. Theorists of the commons include, of course, Larry Lessig, and also David Bollier at http://www.bollier.org.

Some of us see civil society as carving out a space, an open space, for community, for giving, and for a commons, distinct from business. We see it as the most direct and rooted level of democracy and as the staging area for a more genuinely democratic America, one whose politicians of both parties are less enthrall to corporations and the wealthy. When business preempts the commons and privatizes it to create a branded surrogate it makes us nervous. (The Bill Gates Pacific Ocean LLC.)

At some point we have to ask about the limits of private ownership as a model for organizing society, community, government, and civic exchange. Your question is symptomatic of the way the discussion and legislation has been going - towards more ownership, fewer public goods. You see it on www.omydiar.net, not just in the set up, but in the vocabulary of the best posts. Many brilliant MBAs and entrepreneurs. No poets. Few if any theologians. The language of value, the language of love, has been reduced to the language of commerce, ownership. HeatherWoodIon? is an exception. LenoreEaly is trying valiantly to combine Hayek and the Bible. TedErnst talks from his experience as an organizer. But the bulk of posts are in the high dry style of the MBA, the manager, the venture.

To hold out for the commons is to hold out for traditions, including literary, philosophical, religious, and democratic traditions, of giving and "being in the world". We forget the commons at our peril. That amnesia is lethal. The soul (or what was meant by that) is what is lost. The holy spirit is owned by no one. May that wind rise. Let us say "we" and "ours" rather than mine and thine, and join as brothers and sisters, or as citizens, in spaces that are open and public, our shared patrimony.

’’’The Purpose of a Universal Commons’’’, one that serves the good of all, might be rooted in the word philanthropy, which means “the love of humanity”. And, how we connect and govern as a Commons might be related to how we use our generosity and contributions (time, intention, resources) around what gives life to being human.

The Chaordic Commons (www.chaordic.org) identifies 6 organizing principles needed to successfully organize individual parts into a larger commons:

  1. /DevelopAStatementOfPurpose
  2. /DefineASetOfPrinciples?
  3. /IdentifyParticipants?
  4. /CreateANewOrganizationalConcept?
  5. /WriteAConstitution?
  6. /FosterInnovativePractices?

The Chaordic Commons further recommends that ‘’the process is iterative. Each step sheds new light on all of the preceding steps and highlights where modifications or refinements need to be made. In effect, the process continually folds back on itself, more fully clarifying the previous steps even as each new dimension is explored. Over time, the elements become deeply integrated. None is truly finished until all are finished.’’

''Two risks are frequently encountered - moving onto the next stage too quickly and allowing the striving for perfection to bog down the process. The first risk is common when working on purpose and principles, where agreement on "platitudes" can often be reached even when underlying differences persist. In these situations, finding an easy answer that pleases everyone is not enough; digging deeper to find richer and more meaningful understanding and agreement is essential. This can be taken to an extreme, of course, which leads to the second risk. Perfection is not required and will never be attained. Getting a very good answer that is "good enough" to move on to the next step is the goal. Keep in mind that what is done at each stage will be subsequently refined.’’

''The most difficult parts of the process are releasing preconceived notions about the nature and structure of organizations and understanding their origins in our own minds. We often catalyze this process by asking the question: If anything imaginable were possible, if there were no constraints whatever, what would be the nature of an ideal institution to accomplish our purpose?

The Giving Center is an individual and center of resources that supports and links to other individuals, organizations and networks committed to increasing the quality and quantity of donor investments by engaging community members of all ages in the act of generosity, giving and contributions.

Philanthropy: A love of human-kind; Contributions: Commitments of intention, time, resources, space, tools, funding; A Giving Center: A person, a physical place and connecting space(s).

Our vision is to engage, nurture and support local people, at all levels of scale in wisdom-based philanthropy, leadership development and community organizing, networking and giving. We envision a powerful network of individuals, sectors, and centers that unite around principles of “giving for the love of human-kind”. Our friends and partners work for and with local people for a just and inclusive society of children, youth, adults and families, who work together for vibrant communities, effective institutions, and a healthy democracy.


A Larger Commons (i.e.: The Catholic Church; The United States; NYCFund-Beacon Schools) is made up of smaller organizing centers (i.e.: church affilitations, 50 states, 40 schools). It's a reasonable assumption that a Global Commons will ultimately be made up of nested communities and networks each organizing as their own smaller commons.

Let's pretend, based on what we know about self-organizing systems, that one way to connect, link, grow and sustain a commons would be to start with the smallest most replicable design built to go to scale at the same time. Let's say the human being is the smallest most replicacable /GivingCenter?. And, that a small group(a team of no more than 10)organize themselfs around the /PrinciplesOfGiving?. They work together, holding each other accountable to living in these principles (take


FPMT (http://www.fpmt.org), founded on Buddist principles has self-organized over 130 centers worldwide. In 1983, Lama Yeshe, their spiritual leader stated, Now, the way we have evolved is not through you or me having said we want to do these things but through a natural process of development. Our organization has grown naturally, organically. It is not "Lama Yeshe wanted to do it." I've never said that I want centers all over the world. Rather, I came into contact with students, who then wanted to do something, who expressed the wish to share their experience with others, and who then put together groups in various countries to share and grow with others.

Personally, I think that's fine. We should work for that.

When we started establishing centers there was no overall plan – they just popped up randomly all over the world like mushrooms, because of the evolutionary process I've just mentioned and the cooperative conditions. Now that all these centers do exist, we have to facilitate their development in a constructive, clean-clear way; otherwise, everything will just get confused. We have to develop properly both internally and in accordance with our twentieth-century environment.

While they had no overall plan, each center and the individuals organizing centers (while individually organizing)were all working for one common purpose (insert Ashley's blog/HHDL quote)and operating with the same set of guiding principles known as the 6 Perfections:

  1. Generosity
  2. Ethical Disapline
  3. Patience
  4. Joyful Commitment
  5. Concentration
  6. Wisdom

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