By Nicole Alix, Coop des Communs, France

Yesterday a subject for experts, commons are increasingly cited in the ecological and solidarity “transition”, referring to a jumble of third places, shared gardens, free software, online encyclopaedias, mutual benefit societies, digital platforms, short circuits…. Various political discourses refer to them, as well as public authorities. Learning to distinguish between common, common goods and global public goods, and specifying what falls under them, is essential for the credibility and sustainability of the action. The Coop des Communs strives to make people understand what we are talking about when we use the term “commons” and what are the factors favouring commons of solidarity, serving the general interest, solidarity at the same time as the emancipation of people.

In a context of a loss of confidence in institutions, including representative democracy, an explosion of inequalities, the rise of extremism and individualism and libertarian currents, individuals grouped together show their ability to take charge and decide collectively on what is collective. The commons are neither palliatives of the limits of capitalism, nor of the welfare state, nor in themselves bearers of democracy and social justice. But they are the ferment and instruments of a re-founded citizenship, made indispensable to the balance of our life in society, at least on an equal footing with other forms of coordination (market, state).

We must help to clarify the conditions of their feasibility. Drawing on the experience of mutuals, cooperative and associative organisations, it is important to start thinking today about the “connection” and cooperation between commons.

Our work is carried out in stakeholder/researcher groups. Based on rigorous research in the line of Elinor Ostrom, and also of SSE researchers, they are moving towards a definition, in the service of collective action, of an “approach by the commons”, drawing on enlightening contributions (in particular not to consider the resource as “external” to the community, to speak of incompleteness to be filled, of value to be created, of negative commons to be compensated for).

The raison d’être of La Coop des communs is to enable the emergence and strengthening of initiatives and currents that are part of this dynamic of the commons, thanks to the support of the long and complex experience of the social and solidarity economy, in the hope of fostering the sustainability of the model of social, economic and cultural organisation that they represent together. This is done through the maintenance of a community of people, decompartmentalised, working on inter-relationships between actors and between actors and tools, and action-research projects and programmes involving practitioners and researchers.

In order to strengthen the capacity of local authorities to “make a system”, the association works through three registers of actions, in a French framework that is nourished by numerous international exchanges:

  • enlighten, theorise, map
  • maintain a decompartmentalized learning community, between commons and SSE
  • support the collective development of community members in action-research type working groups.

Our achievements 2017-2019 :

– Social protection, SSE and common,

– ACTIVITIES- Activating Local Authorities for Ecological and Solidarity Transition:

– Banking in common?

– Communs and democracy:

Groups in action :

Platforms in common: A learning community of cooperative platforms in opposition to the uberisation of the economy Organisation of the Cooperative Platforms Forum.
Agriculture, food and the future of the rural world: the commons as an added value for the development of initiatives in the agricultural and rural world
Local service communities: the conditions for the success of “shared” services in a context of market and public service transformation: health, food, digital, public spaces, fablabs…
Cooperatives, mutuals, data management companies: the specific features that cooperatives, mutuals and data management companies can bring to promote the collective exercise of our rights over our data.
Communs and accounting: collective work on the CARE accounting model to maintain a triple capital: financial, human, environmental.
Governance: community care, links with management tools, translation into practice.