Commoning is about a group of people working together to create shared resources, and doing so through collective decision-making including how the resources will be used. The term connects to the history of common lands in this country which were designated for collective use and collective management to ensure its resources would continue to be available to the community in the future. Commons are everywhere, even though we might not recognise them. Wherever people are getting together to create, sustain or defend something in common, you can see commoning in practice, be it protecting a local patch of woodland so that everyone can have access to it, or building up a common knowledge resource like Wikipedia.
For many, the experience of commoning and the capacity to develop and maintain commons is uncomfortable/unknown, particularly as it runs counter to dominating norms of individualism and accumulation. Learning to think critically about collective ways of organising, developing networks of support, and practicing skills to support effective collaboration all accelerate people’s capacity and confidence to common.
That’s why inCommons is working to develop and launch a “Masters in Commons Administration,” a two-year, part-time, course of study of commons and commoning that will be joyful but challenging, collaborative and practical. It seeks to inspire, to engender imagination, to open up the possibilities of new worlds and how we can contribute to making them. The “MCA” sits entirely outside formal educational systems and accreditation and will be open to anyone with an open mind and a willingness to engage. It will provide a space, tools and intellectual resources that will enable learners to reflect on their own practice and experiences, to learn from those of others and to explore approaches they may not have previously considered.
Since coming together to form InCommons three years ago we have worked together through regular online meetings and face-to-face planning weekends. We held online workshops and focus groups, and then planned and delivered three ‘taster’ residential weekend workshops to test our approach, content, and plans. These weekends featured historical and present-day case studies delivered by experts in interactive sessions, a special international keynote, workshops, games, and opportunities to share and connect. Weekends included wrap-around facilitation, attention to accessibility, accommodation and meals, and all materials (no cost to learners). Over 60 people have participated in these ‘taster’ weekends, which have provided firm proof of concept as well as generating excellent critical feedback.
Our next steps are the launch of our new website incommons.uk and a 4-day development workshop at which the steering group will develop the specific structure and content for the programme, building on feedback and experience from the taster weekends. This will be followed by a summer programme of day-long outreach events to be held in 6-8 communities around the country that will provide an introduction to commoning and our programme and build relationships in communities.