The conversations that I encountered at the International Commons Conference in Berlin, Germany, three weeks ago are still reverberating through my mind. I’m not sure if any of us really knew what a group of 180 self-styled commoners from 34 countries would look like. But just experiencing the transnational tableau of commoners – each with different voices and passions, but united by a commitment to the idea of the commons – was energizing and inspiring.
The conference was sponsored by the Heinrich Böll Foundation in cooperation with the Commons Strategy Group (of which I am a part) after months of planning, primarily by Silke Helfrich. The event had an ambitious focus – “Constructing a Commons-Based Policy Platform” – that, in retrospect, was not entirely achieved. There were just too many commoners meeting each other for the first time, each coming from different intellectual and cultural traditions, with no lingua franca or shared agenda yet. We are still learning who were are, how we think and our aspirations for the commons. (It was quite obvious, however, how we feel.)
The conference's most significant achievement may have been the in-person convergence of so many committed commoners -- and the many new relationships and collaborations that have been spawned. And even if the framing of the conference was ambitious, it was precisely what we need to be talking about.