One Fella’s Take on the Commons

By Chad Fuller, CSFC Member-Owner | Posted 4/25/2019

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I have been lucky to be an observer and participant of the commons for almost all of my life.

My experience with commoning includes founding the Sudbury Valley School with others and studies in Community and Organization Development through a graduate-level training for the application of General Systems Theory: Organization and Community. This involved working with people in a non-classroom setting, designing the “bricks’n mortar” of a program, and managing operations, finances, and building tools.

My intentional community living includes Board membership with the Fellowship of Intentional Community, joining with All Things Local soon after it. I currently work with Amherst Community Land Trust, Valley Community Land Trust (the first  Community Land Trust in MA), and Northampton & Amherst Neighbors. Amherst Neighbors is an exciting support system development for seniors in their own neighborhoods. I welcome to contact for this latter effort (contact info below).

Below are some references I’ve stumbled upon for all of our use.

The Common movement has a long history – even pre-industrial (when the 1% began it’s ‘scoop-up’ of wealth) and one I have followed lifelong – starting with forming a school (the Sudbury Valley School) in the late 1960s.

I thought rather than add my two cents I’d skim much of the topic by citing some links that cover much of the ground.  I’m available to post e-mails to each other through my public email at chrlsful@aol.com or by meeting at any of our Common Shares events.

The provided examples of the Commoning movement all have a common genesis. In terms of etymology, the root is com: “with”, shared, free, open, for all, public; the word originally evolving from the 1300’s and 1400’s. Of course, the Essenes–historically known as Jesus’ community, who were certainly co-operative to survive in that hostile land– and other first peoples lived cooperatively as do many today.

Article written by and resources compiled by Chad Fuller, a Common Share Food Co-op Member-Owner.

Let’s start with finances, how we exchange value together:

The New Economy Coalition (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/New_Economy_Coalition) formed out of the Center for New Economics (https://centerforneweconomics.org) and the Schumacher Center in Great Barrington who may have come up with the (public) Commons phrase in the 1970s & 80s. They hold the common’s money solutions.

Our own Terry Molliner (Pioneer Valley resident) involved in both the invention of Community Land Trusts (CLTs) and possibly the first socially conscious mutual fund continues to offer community-run alternatives to wealth and land management through the Stakeholders Capital.

On from our commerce to the land upon which we do these things and reside:

Lincoln Institute of Land Policy (https://www.lincolninst.edu) and the Community Land Trust (CLT) movement (https://www.lincolninst.edu) are great resources for how we can share land rather than sell it.

The Nacul Center for Ecological Architecture (https://tiaarchitects.com/nacul) in Amherst focuses on architecture projects that emphasize building and living in harmony with nature and one another.

The Commoning approach to food:

Permaculture offers a different model in food production that works in harmony with the natural surroundings and honors ancient growing and foraging traditions. Check out Eric Toensmeier and his forest farms approach to permaculture for food and society structures in Holyoke.

Share our efforts, labor and personal energy:

Local time banking such as the Valley Time Trade (https://valleytimetrade.wordpress.com) in Northampton is a great resource for energy exchanges, building community and meeting needs rather than profits. Time banking was formed by Edgar S. Cahn, (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Edgar_S._Cahn) the same man who helped get the Legal Aid benefit off the ground.

The Mondragon Coop should have a very deep place in our hearts & our theory base along with local organizations like Cabot Cheese, Our Family Farms, or the North Amherst Community Farm  who exchanged land for a Habitat House, built on Amherst Community Land Trust land has a CSA, a plot for neighbors to grow on, donates to the local Survival Center and sold at the former All Things Local market.

Thusly we co-mingle all community-based alternatives for our schools, housing, labor, finances, food, corporations, use of our planet or land and even way of thinking. Living in abundance rather than need or greed.  

Some final ways of commoning may be our self-governing and communication:  

Facilitated consensus (same store: “Building United Judgment: A Handbook for Consensus Decision Making) never use sociocracy or dynamic governance to build community; NVC. https://www.cnvc.org  and Sidney Simon (Amherst resident) who came up with the Values Clarification – http://partnersinperformance.us/wp-content/uploads/2015/06/Values-Clarification-by-Sydney-Simon.pdf

I’ve tried to cite as locally as I could so others could get involved if they are wishing to do so. What else is the Common for? It’s yours – shepherd it with care and love – just as you would yourself (because – it actually is yourself). You are not apart from your community, even if a hermit. Living out the above-cited obligations results in you expanding your understanding, joy, connection, and resources while creating a family of choice, and life-long local sustenance!

In Community,

Chad
Common Share Food Co-op Member-Owner

Contact Chad

I’m available to post e-mails to each other through my public email at chrlsful@aol.com or by meeting at any of our Common Shares events.

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