In his recent paper, Commoning as a Transformative Social Paradigm, author, activist and commons scholar David Bollier argues that the commons, which he describes as “at once a paradigm, a discourse, an ethic, and a set of social practices,” holds great promise in transcending the conundrum of imagining and building a “radically different system while living within the constraints of an incumbent system that aggressively resists transformational change.”

He writes:

More than a political philosophy or policy agenda, the commons is an active, living process. It is less a noun than a verb because it is primarily about the social practices of commoning—acts of mutual support, conflict, negotiation, communication and experimentation that are needed to create systems to manage shared resources. This process blends production (self provisioning), governance, culture, and personal interests into one integrated system.

Part of the Next System Project’s New Systems: Possibilities and Proposals series, the paper provides an overview and potential of the commons and commoning, explains the “theory of change that animates many commoners,” and looks speculatively at some implications of a commons-centric society for the market/state alliance that now constitutes “the system.”

The Next System Project drew from Bollier’s paper to create the following animation: How Does the Commons Work?, which illustrates some of the key features of Bollier’s vision.


Top photo: Masha Danilova (CC-0). Follow @CatJohnson on Twitter

Cat Johnson


Cat Johnson | |

Cat Johnson is a content strategist and teacher helping community builders create strong brands. A longtime writer, marketing pro and coworking leader, Cat is the founder of Coworking Convos and