Thursday, February 25, 2016

10 Commandments of Commons Economics

How Peer Production can create a future that’s free, fair & sustainable 

By Michel Bauwens

Photo by Lawrence OP under a Creative Commons license.
This is a synthesis of ten years of research by the P2P Foundation on the emerging practices of new productive communities and the ethical entrepreneurial coalitions that create livelihoods for shared resources. It was written for the Uncommons conference in Berlin last October by P2P  founder Michel Bauwens.

As we have tried to show elsewhere, the emergence of commons-oriented peer production has generated the emergence of a new logic of collaboration between open productive communities who created shared resources (commons) through contributions, and those market-oriented entities that created added value on top or along these shared commons.

This article addresses the emerging practices that should inspire these entities of the ‘ethical’ economy. The main aim it to create new forms that go beyond the traditional corporate form and its extractive profit-maximizing practices of value extraction. Instead of extractive forms of capital, we need generative forms, that co-create value with and for the commoners.

I am using the form of commandments to explain the new practices. All of them have already emerged in various forms, but need to be generalized and integrated.

What the world and humanity, and all those beings that are affected by our activities require is a mode of production, and relations of production, that are “free, fair and sustainable" at the same time.

1. Thou shalt practice open business models based on shared knowledge
Closed business models are based on artificial scarcity. Though knowledge is a non- or anti-rival good that gains in use value the more it is shared, and though it can be shared easily and at very low marginal cost when it is in digital form, many extractive firms still use artificial scarcity to extract rents from the creation or use of digitized knowledge. Through legal repression or technological sabotage, naturally shareable goods are made artificially scarce, so that extra profits can be generated. This is particularly galling in the context of life-saving or planet-regenerating technological knowledge. The first commandment is therefore the ethical commandment of sharing what can be shared, and of only creating market value from resources that are scarce and create added value on top or along these commons. Open business models are market strategies that are based on the recognition of natural abundance and the refusal to generate income and profits by making them artificially scarce.
Thou shalt find more information on this here 

2. Thou shalt practice open co-operativism
Many new more ethical and generative forms are being created, that have a higher level of harmony with the contributory commons. The key here is to choose post-corporate forms that are able to generate livelihoods for the contributing commoners.
Open cooperatives in particular would be cooperatives that share the following characteristics:
1) they are mission-oriented and have a social goal that is related to the creation of shared resources
2) they are multi-stakeholder governed, and include all those that are affected by or contributing to the particular activity
3) they constitutionally, in their own rules, commit to co-create commons with the productive communities
I often add the fourth condition that they should be global in organisational scope in order to create counter-power to extractive multinational corporations.
Cooperatives are one of the potential forms that commons-friendly market entitities could take. We see the emergence of more open forms such as neo-tribes (think of the workings of the Ouishare community), or more tightly organized neo-builds, such as, Las Indias or the Ethos Foundation. Yet more open is the network form chose by the Sensorica open scientific hardware community, which wants to more tightly couple contributions with generated income, by allowing all microtasked contributions in the reward system, through open value or contributory accounting (more below).
Thou shalt find more information on this here.

3. Thou shalt practice open value or contributory accounting
Peer production is based on distributed tasks, freely contributed by an open community-driven collaborative infrastructure. The tradition of salaries based on fixed job description may not be the most appropriate way to reward those that contribute to such processes. Hence, the emergence of open value accounting or contributory accounting. As practiced already by Sensorica, this means that any contributor may add contributions, log them according to project number, and after peer evaluation is assigned ‘karma points’. When income is generated, it flows into these weighted contributions, so that every contributor is fairly rewarded. Contributory accounting, or other similar solutions, are important to avoid that only a few contributors closely related to the market capture the value that has been co-created by a much larger community. Open book accounting ensure that the (re)distribution of value is transparent for all contributors.
Thou shalt find more information on this here.

4. Thou shalt insure fair distribution and benefit-sharing through Copyfair licensing
The copyleft licenses allow anyone to re-use the necessary knowledge commons on the condition that changes and improvements are added to that same commons. This is a great advance, but should not be abstracted from the need for fairness. When moving to physical production which involves finding resources for buildings, raw materials and payments to contributors, the unfettered commercial exploitation of such commons favours extractive models. Thus the need to maintain the knowledge sharing, but to ask reciprocity for the commercial exploitation of the commons, so that there is a level playing field for the ethical economic entities that do internalize social and environmental costs. This is achieved through copyfair licenses, which allow full sharing of the knowledge but ask for reciprocity in exchange for the right of commercialization.
Thou shalt find more information on this here

5. Thou shalt practice solidarity and mitigate the risks of work and life through Commonfare practices
One of the strong results of financial and neoliberal globalization is that the power of nation-states has gradually weakened, and there is now a strong and integrated effort to unwind the solidarity mechanisms that were embedded in the welfare state models. As long as we do not have the power to reverse this slide, it is imperative that we reconstruct solidarity mechanisms of distributed scope, a practice which we could call ‘commonfare’. Examples such as the Broodfonds (Netherlands), Friendsurance (Germany) and the health sharing ministries (U.S.), or cooperative entities such Coopaname in France, show us the new forms of distributed solidarity that can be developed to deal with the risks of life and work.
Thou shalt find more information on this here

6. Thou shalt use open and sustainable designs for an open source circular economy
Open productive communities insure maximum participation through modularity and granularity. Because they operate in a context of shared and abundant resources, the practice of planned obsolescence, which is a feature of profit-maximizing corporations, is alien to them. Ethical entrepreneurial entities will therefore use these open and sustainable designs and produce sustainable good and services.
Thou shalt find more information on this here.

7. Thou shalt move beyond an exclusive reliance on imperfect market price signals towards mutual coordination of production through open supply chains and open book accounting
What decision-making is for planning, and pricing is for the market, mutual coordination is for the commons!
We will never achieve a sustainable ‘circular economy’--in which the output of one production process is used as an input for another-- with closed value chains in which every cooperation has to be painfully negotiated under conditions of little transparency. But entrepreneurial coalitions that are already co-dependent on a collaborative commons can create eco-systems of collaboration through open supply chains, in which the production process becomes transparent, and through which every participant can adapt his behaviour based on the knowledge available in the network. There is no need for over-production when the production realities of the network become common knowledge.
Thou shalt find more information on this here

8. Thou shalt practice cosmo-localization
“What is light is global, and what is heavy is local”: this is the new principle animating commons-based peer production in which knowledge is globally shared, but production can take place on demand and based on real needs through a network of distributed coworking and microfactories. Certain studies have shown that up to two-thirds of matter and energy goes not to production, but to transport, which is clearly unsustainable. A return to re-localized production is a sine qua non for the transition towards sustainable production.
Thou shalt find more information on this here.  

9. Thou shalt mutualize physical infrastructures
Platform cooperatives, data cooperatives and fairshare forms of distributed ownership can be used to co-own our infrastructures of production.
The misnamed sharing economy from AirBnB and Uber shows the potential of matching idle resources. Co-working, skillsharing, ridesharing are examples of the many ways in which we can re-use and share resources to dramatically augment the thermo-dynamic efficiencies of our consumption.
In the right context of co-ownership and co-governance, a real sharing economy can achieve dramatic advances in reduced resource use. Our means of production --inclusive machines -- can be mutualized and self-owned by all those that create value.
Thou shalt find more information on this here.  

10. Thou shalt mutualize generative capital
Generative forms of capital cannot rely on an extractive money supply that is based on compound interest that is due to extractive banks. We have to abolish the 38% financial tax that is owed on all goods and services and transform our monetary system, and substantively augment the use of mutual credit systems.
Thou shalt find more information on this here


Wednesday, February 17, 2016

What If Schools Taught Kindness?

Walking to class one day, one of us (Laura) saw a young student crying and waiting for his mother to arrive—he had split his chin while playing. When Laura got to class, the other students were very upset and afraid for their friend, full of questions about what would happen to him. Laura decided to ask the class how they could help him.
“Caring practice!” exclaimed one of the children—and they all sat in a circle offering support and well wishes. The children immediately calmed and they continued with their lesson.
This is what’s possible when kids learn to be kind at school.
Various mindfulness programs have been developed for adults, but we and our colleagues at the Center for Healthy Minds at the University of Wisconsin, Madison, wanted to develop a curriculum for kids. Every school teaches math and reading, but what about mindfulness and kindness?
We ended up bringing a 12-week curriculum to six schools in the Midwest. Twice a week for 20 minutes, pre-kindergarten kids were introduced to stories and practices for paying attention, regulating their emotions, and cultivating kindness. It’s just the beginning, but the initial results of our research, coauthored with Professor Richard Davidson and graduate research assistant Simon Goldberg, suggest that this program can improve kids’ grades, cognitive abilities, and relationship skills.

Why teach kindness to kids?

The school environment can be very stressful; in addition to any issues they bring from home, many students struggle to make friends and perform well in class. Being excluded, ignored, or teased is very painful for a young child, and we thought it could be impactful to teach empathy and compassion.
When other kids are suffering—like that boy who split his chin—can we understand how they might be feeling? Kindness bridges those gaps and helps build a sense of connection among the students, the teachers, and even the parents. Learning to strengthen their attention and regulate their emotions are foundational skills that could benefit kids in school and throughout their whole lives.
On top of that, having classrooms full of mindful, kind kids completely changes the school environment. Imagine entire schools—entire districts—where kindness is emphasized. That would be truly powerful. Teaching kindness is a way to bubble up widespread transformation that doesn’t require big policy changes or extensive administrative involvement.

Running and studying a Kindness Curriculum

If you had visited one of our classrooms during the 12-week program, you might have seen a poster on the wall called “Kindness Garden.” When kids performed an act of kindness or benefitted from one, they added a sticker to the poster. The idea is that friendship is like a seed—it needs to be nurtured and taken care of in order to grow. Through that exercise, we got students talking about how kindness feels good and how we might grow more friendship in the classroom.
students create a kindness garden at school

Another day, you might have found students in pairs holding Peace Wands, one with a heart and one with a star. The child with the heart wand speaks (“from the heart”); the other child (the “star listener”) listens and then repeats back what was said. When there was a conflict between students, they used the wands to support the process of paying attention, expressing their feelings, and building empathy.
Our Kindness Curriculum combines creative activities like these, as well as books, songs, and movement, to communicate concepts in a way that is understandable to four year olds. Our instructors taught the curriculum with active participation by classroom teachers.
The Kindness Curriculum is designed around the ABCs—or, more specifically, A to G:
  • Attention. Students learn that what they focus on is a choice. Through focusing attention on a variety of external sensations (the sound of a bell, the look of a stone) and internal sensations (feeling happy or sad), children learn they can direct their attention and maintain focus.
  • Breath and Body. Students learn to use their breath to cultivate some peace and quiet. Instead of listening to a meditation, we played a song from Betsy Rose’s CD Calm Down Boogie, “Breathing In, Breathing Out,” while the children rested on their backs with a beanie baby on their belly. The beanie provided an object to “rock to sleep” with the natural in- and out-breath, while the breathing calmed the body.
  • Caring. Here, we teach kids to think about how others are feeling and cultivate kindness. We read the book Sumi’s First Day of School Ever, the story of a foreign student who struggles with English, and brainstorm ways to help a student like Sumi—as simple as offering a smile.
  • Depending on other people. We emphasize that everyone supports and is supported by others through the book Somewhere Today, which describes acts of kindness that are going on in the world right now. Students learn to see themselves as helpers and begin to develop gratitude for the kindness of others.
  • Emotions. What do emotions feel like and look like? How can you tell what you’re feeling? We play a game where the teacher and students take turns pretending to be angry, sad, happy, or surprised, guessing which emotion was expressed, and talking about what that emotion feels like in the body.
  • Forgiveness. Young kids can be particularly hard on themselves—and others—and we teach them that everyone makes mistakes. A book called Down the Road tells the story of a girl who breaks the eggs she bought for her parents, but they forgive her.
  • Gratitude. We want kids to recognize the kind acts that other people do for them, so we have them pretend to be various community workers like bus drivers and firefighters. Then, they talk about being thankful to those people for how they help us.
Sixty-eight students participated in the research, with about half going through the Kindness Curriculum and the other half measured as a comparison. To investigate the impact of the curriculum, we tested children before and after the training period.
“Students who went through the curriculum showed more empathy and kindness and a greater ability to calm themselves down when they felt upset, according to teachers’ ratings.”
The results of our study were promising. Students who went through the curriculum showed more empathy and kindness and a greater ability to calm themselves down when they felt upset, according to teachers’ ratings. In an exercise with stickers, they consistently shared about half of them, whereas students who hadn’t gone through the curriculum shared less over time. They earned higher grades at the end of the year in certain areas (notably for social and emotional development), and they showed improvement in the ability to think flexibly and delay gratification, skills that have been linked to health and success later in life.
This was a small study, and we’d love to see deeper investigations into our Kindness Curriculum in the future. For example, what happens over a longer time if we support students’ practice throughout the year and into the next school year and beyond? If parents got involved in the curriculum, they could provide powerful support as well.

“Kindfulness” in daily life

Mindfulness and kindness go hand in hand, so much so that the phrase “kindfulness” accidentally (but aptly) came out in one of our conversations and has stuck with us. While we administered a specific curriculum for the purposes of our study, any teacher or parent can bring the principles behind it to bear on their interactions with children.
The first key is simply to model mindfulness and kindness. For example, what quality of attention do we bring when we interact with our kids? Do we give them our full attention—eye contact, kneeling down to speak with them, asking questions—or are we distracted? Kids are extraordinarily observant, and they pick up on whether we are paying attention to them. By modeling behavior, and through our interactions, we show them what it’s like to be seen and heard and to be compassionate with others.
Another simple activity is to relax and feel the natural breath for a few moments during the day. Kids need to be active and run around, of course, but they can also benefit from cultivating a bit of stillness. For example, when Laura enters the classroom, she or one of her students rings a bell, which signals students to listen until the sound ends and then feel five in- and out-breaths together. This practice settles students and gathers their attention so they are more ready to learn.
We can also help kids reflect on their emotions, which sometimes feel overwhelming, and change their relationship to them. After a child calms down, we can sit with them and reflect on that feeling. Which part of the body felt angry, happy, or upset? All emotions are natural, so kids shouldn’t feel bad about experiencing them; we can teach them to cultivate a kinder attitude. For example, a parent might say, “When I feel sad or angry, it doesn’t feel good in my body. But all people have feelings. Feelings help us learn about ourselves and others. I can be kind to myself no matter what feelings come. I can get better and better at learning from my feelings.”
And, by the way, practices like these are equally useful for parents and teachers, who are struggling with stressful workplaces or busy classrooms. For teachers, brief practices with students many times during the school day allow everyone to pause and be fully present to themselves, each other, and what is happening, whether it is pleasant or unpleasant. For parents, mindfulness and self-kindness training allow them to be more present with their spouse and children at home and with their coworkers at work.
Finally, to combine the concepts of mindfulness and kindness, we can teach caring practice to our kids. These phrases work well for children: May I be safe, may I be happy, may I be healthy, may I be peaceful.
When the boy split his chin, the other four-year-olds got together to do this practice: May you be safe, may you be happy, may you be healthy, may you be peaceful.
And these wishes can be extended further: To my entire classroom, my school, my neighborhood, my whole community…May we all be safe, may we all be happy, may we all be healthy, may we all be peaceful.

In the midst of their distress, the children found comfort and support for themselves and their friend rather than feeling upset and worried. They later shared with him that they had offered him these wishes. It’s these small changes, spread across classrooms, that could make schools more kind—and educate a new generation of more compassionate and connected citizens.
This article originally appeared on Greater Good, the online magazine of UC Berkeley’s Greater Good Science Center, one of Mindful’s partners. View the original article.

Laura Pinger
Laura Pinger completed her M.S. in communication sciences and disorders and is currently a Senior Outreach Specialist at the Center for Healthy Minds (CHM) at the University of Wisconsin, Madison, at the Waisman Center. She develops and teaches research-related mindfulness-based curricula for educators, students, and parents.
Lisa Flook completed her PhD in clinical psychology at UCLA and is currently a scientist at CHM. CHM has been investigating the impact of mindfulness-based practices in educational settings with students, teachers, and parents.

Tuesday, February 16, 2016

Practical Green Infrastructure Solution to Alleviate Nation’s Water Woes


NRDC analysis illustrates the potential for billions of gallons of rainwater falling on eight U.S. cities to be harvested every year

As America’s expanding urban areas struggle with major water supply shortages and runoff pollution problems, capturing rainwater from rooftops provides a tremendous untapped opportunity to increase water supply and improve water quality, according to a recent analysis on “Capturing Rainwater from Rooftops” by the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC).

In its report, NRDC demonstrates the benefits and potential of rooftop rainwater capture, a “green infrastructure” practice that can be used to retain stormwater runoff on-site, by analyzing ways in which eight diverse U.S. cities could incorporate this simple water collection approach. By comparing annual rainfall totals to rooftop coverage, NRDC determined that opportunities exist in each city to capture hundreds of millions of gallons of rainfall every year for reuse. By doing so, residents of these communities would obtain inexpensive onsite water supplies for non-potable uses, such as yard watering and toilet flushing; reduce runoff pollution; and would lower energy costs associated with treating and delivering drinkable-quality water.
“Our analysis shows that solutions to one of America’s biggest urban challenges are right in front of us – in this case, literally falling from the sky,” said Noah Garrison, lead author of the report and NRDC water policy analyst. “The potential exists for cities throughout the U.S. to capture hundreds of millions or even billions of gallons of rainwater each year from urban rooftops. We encourage policymakers to look closely at the bottom-line benefits of rooftop rainwater harvesting, and consider implementing policies and incentives that generate more momentum for rainwater collection while making the practice more accessible as well.”
Specifically, NRDC’s report illustrates opportunities for capturing, treating and supplying harvested rainwater for non-potable purposes in Atlanta, Ga.; Austin, Texas; Chicago, Ill.; Denver, Colo.; Fort Myers, Fla.; Kansas City, Mo.; Madison, Wisc.; and Washington, D.C. Several success stories also demonstrate the effectiveness of rooftop rainwater capture for new construction in New York, N.Y., and redeveloped buildings in Santa Monica, Calif. The total annual volume of rainwater falling on rooftops in these cities alone, if captured in its entirety, would be enough to meet the water supply needs of at least 21 percent to as much as 75 percent of each city’s population.

The report comes as the Environmental Protection Agency is in the process of updating its national standards for controlling runoff pollution from new development and existing paved areas. NRDC encourages the agency to adopt national standards for on-site stormwater retention that will increase green infrastructure approaches such as rainwater harvesting. As a result, communities can effectively transform polluted runoff flowing to our waterways into captured rooftop rainwater used as an on-site water supply resource.
“Urban areas struggling with water supply issues and runoff pollution should look to this report for ideas and encouragement,” said Jon Devine, senior attorney in NRDC’s water program.
NRDC encourages cities and states to develop policy options and incentives to encourage more rainwater harvesting. These include:
  • Adopt storm water pollution control standards that require on-site volume retention.
  • Adopt standards that require or promote rainwater harvesting and/or water efficiency.
  • Review building, health and plumbing codes for barriers to reusing rainwater.
  • Provide incentives for decreasing storm water runoff and promoting water conservation.
  • Require use of rainwater harvesting on all public properties.
The complete NRDC report is available HERE.
For more information on rooftop rainwater capture, please see Noah Garrison’s blog.
Photo: Steve Crane