Re-imagine the Future: Exploring the Commons and System-Change

We hope the film Re-imagine the Future provoked your interest in exploring its themes more deeply. The quest to build attractive, functional alternatives to the world ordained by neoliberal economics is, in fact, growing.  A kaleidoscope of innovations around the world is showing that the market and state are not the only players.  A burgeoning Commons Sector is emerging and starting to flourish.

This webpage is a portal into the growing world of system-change activism, experimentation, legal and policy innovation, academic research and political analysis. Consider these links an invitation to enter into this world yourself.  After all, the answers are not going to come from somewhere else; they have to start with us, personally and locally, and expand outward.  We need to re-imagine the future. 


What is the Commons?

The Commons, Short and Sweet 

Introductory resources


Key Commons Websites

Commons Strategies Group

Commons Transition 

The Commoner (UK)

Digital Library of the Commons

International Association for the Study of Commons

International Journal of the Commons

Law for the Commons wiki

Maps in the Spirit of the Commons 

On the Commons

P2P Foundation

Remix the Commons 


Sustainable Economies Law Center


Activists/Thinkers Concerned about System Change

Global Network for the Study of Human Rights and the Environment

Schumacher Center for a New Economy

Next System Project 

Democracy Collaborative

New Economy Coalition 

Great Transition Initiative

P2P Foundation

The Corner House (UK)  

Stir magazine (UK)


Notable Movements (an incomplete list)


Transition Towns, USTransition Network 

Social and Solidarity Economy (in French) 


Peer Production  

La Via Campesina 

Indigenous Peoples / First Peoples Worldwide

Care Work

Climate Change / Climate Action Network  

Community Empowerment:  Democracy Collaborative / Institute for Local Self-Reliance / Community Environmental Legal Defense Fund / Movement Generation


25 Significant Commons Projects

Alaska Permanent Fund and other stakeholder trusts

Berkshares and alternative currencies

Bologna Regulation for the Care and Regeneration of Urban Commons

The city as a commons

Cecosesola (Colombia

Community land trusts 

Creative Commons licenses

Enspiral: social enterprise with shared vision and values

Farm Hack:  open source farm equipment

Free software (Spain): community wifi

HowlRound, a knowledge commons by and for the theater community

Customary land commons in Africa  

multistakeholder co-operatives

Museums as commons

Open access scholarly journals

Open design and open hardware

Open Educational Resources

Potato Park (Peru)  

System of Rice Intensification, open source agronomy for rice


….and countless other examples.  See Patterns of Commoning and the Digital Library on the Commons.


Books and Essays

Peter Barnes, Capitalism 3.0:  A Guide to Reclaiming the Commons

David Bollier: Think Like a Commoner:  A Short Introduction to the Commons  

    ---  “Commons as a Paradigm for Social Transformation” (Next System Project, April 2016).

  --  and Silke Helfrich, editors, The Wealth of the Commons:  A World Beyond Market and State   (Levellers Press, 2012).

Fritjof Capra and Ugo Mattei, The Ecology of Law:  Toward a Legal System in Tune with Nature and Community (Berrett-Koehler, 2015).

Commons Strategies Group, “State Power and Commoning:  Transcending a Problematic Relationship” (June 2016).  

Giacomo D’Alisa et al., Degrowth:  A Vocabulary for a New Era (Routledge, 2014).

Silvia Federici, Caliban and the Witch:  Women, the Body and Primitive Accumulation (Autonomedia, 2004).

Lewis Hyde, Common as Air: Revolution, Art and Ownership (Farrar Straus, 2011).

   ---- , The Gift: Creativity and the Artist in the Modern World (Vintage, 1983/2007)

Peter Linebaugh:  The Magna Carta Manifesto:  Liberty and Commons for All (University of California Press, 2008).

Mary Mellor, Debt or Democracy:  Public Money for Sustainability and Social Justice (Pluto Press, 2016).

Elinor Ostrom, Governing the Commons:  The Evolution of Institutions for Collective Action (Cambridge University Press, 1990).

Douglas Rushkoff, Throwing Rocks at the Google Bus:  How Growth Became the Enemy of Prosperity (Portfolio, 2016)

Derek Wall, The Sustainable Economics of Elinor Ostrom:  Commons, Contestation and Craft

Films & Videos

The Promise of the Commons (2013).  50 minutes.  Focuses on natural resources commons in the global South, with special attention to land grabbing and land rights in India, Nepal, Mexico.  20-minute version.

The Commons (2103). A left-libertarian-anarchist perspective on the commons that explains the logic of capitalism and the potential of the commons to meet needs beyond the state and market. 36 minutes.  Script for video narration

Peter Linebaugh:  Who Owns the Commons? on The Laura Flanders Show. An interview with historian and author Peter Linebaugh on the 800th anniversary of the Magna Carta and the significance of that legal document and the struggle behind it today.  2015. 18 minutes.

Better Not More:  Principles and Practices Towards the next Economy. This video provides an overview of activist movements to decomodify nature, re-imagine the character of work, liberate knowledge and democratize wealth.  5 minutes.  Produced by Kontent Film and Edge Funders Alliance.

Podcast, “The Deeper Magic of the Commons.”  Host James Lindenschmidt interviews a range of commons scholars and activists. 2016.