While there are many ways that academics now study commoning, few show the broad-minded enthusiasm, scholarly engagement, and political awareness that I encountered at the Sharing Society’s international conference in Bilbao, Spain.
The May 23-24 event brought together a wide variety of international scholars, practitioners and activists who care about cooperation in its many permutations – commons, open source software, care work, citizen-science, makerspaces, urban collaborations, and many other forms.
There was no privileged discourse or correct point of view at this conference – just a fantastic mix of explorers trying to understand “the characteristics, trajectory and impact of collaborative collective actions.” The focus was on social phenomena in Europe and North America, especially as affected by today’s political economy, but the event ventured into such unexpected zones as refugee resettlement, the circular economy in fashion, and participatory governance in a Cairo neighborhood. Wow!
The Sharing Society project has an impressive research team drawing from six Spanish universities and eight foreign academics institutions (Argentina, Canada, Chile, Italy, Mexico, Portugal, Turkey, and the UK). Directed by sociology professor Benjamín Tejerina, a scholar of collective identity, the project is based at the University of the Basque Country and funded by the Spanish Ministry of Economy and Competitiveness (!).