Practicing the Commons: conference introduction

This week I’m attending the 16th biennial conference ‘Practicing the Commons’ of the International Association for the Study of the Commons (IASC) I announced earlier. Quite a mouthful, and it’s something that needs explaining. That’s why I’ll be blogging about the conference today and throughout the week.

It’s a conference of decent proportions: over 700 attendants of circa 70 different countries can choose from 120 academic sessions, 14 practitioners’ labs, 5 round tables, 3 clinics and 11 field excursions, all converging around the topic of collective action and the commons. resilience and longevity of common property regimes.

The attendance and participation of practitioners shows that commons are not just a craze of study room historians and ethnographers, but a lively and productive field of action and ideas. To cite the organizing committee: “A booming number of new citizens’ collectivities in a wide variety of sectors is being set up around the country, from energy, to care, infrastructure, and nature conservation: citizens are building new institutions through self-governance and cooperation.” By putting the attention on the practice of the commons, the conveners tap into the Zeitgeist of (tentative) civic energy and self-organization. I say tentative, because it’s felt that the commons “could offer models to deal with societal challenges, but their success is far from evident” (in the words of professor Bas van Bavel). So even despite the age-old evidence of successful collaboration between ordinary people, we struggle with defining the commons’ scope in present society, where much of the governance is done by public authorities and the effect the global economy. But that is exactly why such a large and mixed group of academics and practitioners convene this week – right under the shadow of the fabulous Dom tower.

Stay tuned for my day-to-day IASC Biennale report! (Update: you can navigate to successive posts using the arrow links, below the ‘Posted in…’ line.)

P.S. On Thursday me and my friends of De Meent, the Dutch commons assembly, will celebrate our own recent conception – together with you! In a concise program we open the stage for commoners from throughout the country and allow for plenty of networking and small talking. Be there or be square! ->