So what might the commons actually achieve for you if you live in a city? How might you experience the joys of commoning? Check out Sharing Cities: Activating the Urban Commons, a fantastic new book that describes more than 100 case studies and model policies for urban commoning. Researched and published by Shareable, the book is an impressive survey of citizen-led innovations now underway in more than 80 cities in 35 countries.
We all know about conventional approaches to “development” championed by investors and real estate developers, usually with the support of a city’s political elites. Much less is known about the commons-based agenda for improving cities. Sharing Cities is an inspirational reference guide for creating such an agenda. It details a great variety of policies and projects that are empowering ordinary citizens to improve their own neighborhoods, reduce household costs, and make their cities fairer, cleaner and more liveable.
I was thrilled to learn about Kitchen Share, a kitchen tool-lending library for home cooks in Portland, Oregon; the consortium Local Energy Scotland that is orchestrating shared local ownership of renewal energy projects; and the “community science” project run by Riverkeeper that carefully collects data about the water quality of the Hudson River.
For urban residents who have to contend with unresponsive, high-priced broadband service, how exciting to learn about Freifunk, a noncommercial grassroots project in Münster, Germany, that has built a free Internet infrastructure for everyone. Like Guifi.net in Barcelona, the project converted routers into WiFi access points, creating a “mesh network” of over 2,000 nodes that has brought the Internet to places with no connectivity. Freifunk is now the largest mesh network in Germany.
Or what about the Nippon Active Life Club in a number of locations in Japan? This project is a timebanking system that helps people cooperate to provide eldercare. If you help an elderly person with yardwork, cleaning or general companionship, you earn time credits that you can either redeem for services or gift to older family members living in other cities. In 2016, the network of timebanks had nearly 18,000 members in 120 locations around Japan.
The book documents many other great projects and policies, all of them divided into thematic categories such as housing, energy, mobility, food, waste, land, etc. The book itself is the product of commoning among 18 Shareable staff and fellows as well as book production experts.
You can request a free download of Shareable Cities as a pdf file (the book is licensed under a Creative Commons license, Attribution-ShareAlike. But the printed version is so handsome and well-designed that you may well want to acquire the hard copy and make a donation to Shareable for all the great work it does.