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Issue 3 – Occupying the Commons

“Occupy will never die; Evict us, we multiply!”

Welcome to the Spring Issue of The FoO Magazine!


Table of Contents


Introduction to the Issue

Section 1: Reports from #OWS’s “Making Worlds: A Forum on the Commons” - blogs, videos and interviews reporting back on all the action from a seminal meeting between the International Occupy and Commons Movements.

Section 2: Essays on the Commons - from dedicated commons activists and occupiers trailblazing new connections in the commons and between occupy and the commons.

Section 3: Commoning in Europe - we take a tour around Europe to discover initiatives that give voice to the unheard 99% and educational initiatives for making radical, systemic change.

Section 4: Voices of the Movement - In this section we explore the creative side of the commons in poetry and song.

Section 5: Activist News - News from Occupy London and Vancouver, International survey of Commons Activism, reflections on an emerging open source civilisation, and reports on an exciting commons game and the potential of serious games for occupiers.



In the kindergarten there were colorful building blocks and putting them on each other in various combinations fascinated some of us. Until, it didn’t. At that point, we withdrew legitimacy from it holding a steady sway on our attention. Ok, we didn’t know the fancy word “legitimacy,” but now that we have your attention, why not look into what it takes to withdraw together the legitimacy from systems of governance and ownership that don’t serve us anymore.

This issue of The Future of Occupy is an invitation to look into that question, together. Assuming that the “how-to” of that collective withdrawal interests you as much as it does us, we invite you to use this issue as a ticket for a passionate learning journey. As you read the reports, blogs, poems, and interviews, as you watch the interviews, hold in the back of your mind the question, to what extent can they help us to switch allegiance together from modes of organizing, thinking, and working, which are not life-affirming and inspiring the best in us to those, which are.

Two growing forces that are the drivers of the Big Switch are the Commons and Occupy movements.  In this issue we celebrate their beautiful relationship. The concept of the Commons and the horizontal structure of the Occupy movement are two aspects of the same idea: as human beings, we share common resources (this planet, its air, water, soil and genetic diversity; our heritage of cultural creations—art, technology, ideas), and we share a common future. Put another way, focusing on the Commons is a way of articulating what the Occupy movement actually stands for: an open, horizontal, equitable, sharing of our social, economic, and ecological resources.

The Occupy movement has, from its opening ambit, been calling for a new commons—a new agora upon which we can all express and address our commonness—as well as trying to embody and practice commoning (the people’s library, free food, free medical attention, etc.). Occupy recognizes that what it opposes is a continuing—even an amped-up—enclosure of the commons, as well as the fact that the solutions to this enclosure are to be found in the commonality of “the 99%.”

The Commons is also an ideal focal point for a web-magazine with the title The Future of Occupy, as the future is, in many respects, the ultimate Commons. It is a space of possibility that is not enclosed, but which is always under threat by the Market and State intent on reckless growth and wreaking environmental havoc that threaten the life of future generations.

The Future of Occupy, which began as a simple website in October 2011 and launched the FoO newsletter in January of this year as a newsletter, has with this issue undergone a considerable transformation, evolving into a fully-fledged electronic magazine. But even more than that, as we attempt to create a more interactive—indeed, a more common space for the movement’s collaborative sense-making—we hope that with your active participation The Future of Occupy continues to evolve into an increasingly useful platform for our emergent, collective intelligence and wisdom.

We hope you enjoy reading and discussing the ideas shared in this issue as much as we enjoyed putting it together. Please spread the word and occupy the commons!

The FoO collective.


Section 1: Reports from #OWS’s “Making Worlds: A Forum on the Commons”

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Occupy + Commons: The Beginnings of a Beautiful Relationship

David Bollier reflects on OWS’s “Making Worlds” Forum and ponders whether “the commons paradigm” can take the Occupy movement “to higher ground.” Indeed, in Bollier’s reading the commons has answers to questions the Occupy movement has posed. Read MORE

Making New Worlds Possible

This report from Alexa Bradley, one of the OWS Forum’s presenters, provides both a glimpse into the event’s dynamics and an exploration of the wider implications for the Occupy movement of commoning as a “strategy for social transformation.” Read MORE

A Report on the OWS Forum on the Commons

The third in this opening series of first-hand accounts of the OWS Forum, Mayo Fuster Morell covers the proceedings in detail while also reflecting on its wider implications. The commons is one way of meeting “the need to move beyond protest organizing and create a space for strategic thinking towards building alternatives.” Read MORE

James Quilligan’s talk about why we have to Occupy the Commons

Video of noted commons thinker and activist James Quilligan’s talk from the OWS Forum, with summary and comments by Anna Betz. Quilligan offers a response to Hardin’s “tragedy of the commons,” and outlines the key differences between private, public, and common conceptions of “property.” Read James Quilligan’s talk about why we have to Occupy the Commons

This is accompanied by Quilligan’s slides for this presentation. View HERE




Embodying the Commons as a perspective

Silvia Federici shares in a heartfelt way the importance of beginning to embody the vision of the society that we want to create, in our everyday lives rather than a particular practice or a set of things. Watch HERE

The Commons and why we need to Occupy them

James Quilligan of “Global Commons Trust” introduces the Commons and some key distinctions that enhance clarity for commoners when navigating the field of the commons and when comparing it with the system that we have today. Watch HERE

International Developments of the Commons

David Bollier of the “Commons Strategies Group” gives an update to Occupy Wall Street on the zillions of International Commons developments taking place in the world right now and the values that the commons embodies. Watch HERE

How Commons are Made

George Caffentzis describes how commons are made. Commons aren’t some ancient residue, but many new commons are being made.. He gives an example of one of the largest commons on the planet, the Lobster traps along the coast of Maine and outlines 3 basic conditions for actual creation of a commons… Watch HERE

Transcending the Market-State & creating sustainable currency value

James Quilligan demonstrates the power of maps comparing the Keynsian influenced James Buchanan model on the commons with his more Hegelian’ model of commons, public and private goods. He reminds us that the private and public grew out of the Commons, how in the systems present form, the commons is in fact unconstitutional, and how to transform at the root our debt based money system, and lots more.. Watch Transcending the Market-State & creating sustainable currency value




Interview: Sara Burke interviewed by Stephen Collis on the OWS Forum on the Commons

In this interview, Sara Burke, one of the OWS Forum’s organizers, reflects on the move from activism-in-the-moment to planning for a long-term social movement. In doing so she places the evolution of the Forum, and the turn to the commons, in the broader narrative of the origins of the Occupy movement and her own participation in it. Read Interview: Sara Burke interviewed by Stephen Collis on the OWS Forum on the Commons

Occupy the World Social Forum, and the Commons

Comparing the Occupy movement, the commons, and the World Social Forum, Mary Beth Steisslinger offers critical perspectives on these converging movements and the OWS Forum as well. Read Occupy, the World Social Forum and the Commons… social movements learning from each other

What Leader in the US Social Forum are saying about Occupy

A companion piece to her comparison of the World Social Forum and the Occupy movement, Steisslinger here presents commentary from two US Social Forum organizers, Maureen Taylor and George Friday. Read MORE


Section 2: Essays on the Commons

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12 Reasons you’ll be hearing more about the commons in 2012

A convincing and urgent list from Jay Walljasper which notes the increasing threat to the commons and, simultaneously, our continuing dependence upon common resources. Wide-ranging, practical, and energizing—this is an excellent introduction to the question of where to go now, and why. Read 12 Reasons You’ll Be Hearing More About the Commons in 2012

Private, Public, or Common: Who Owns Space?

A report based on experiences from Occupy Vancouver, this essay by Stephen Collis, also sheds light on the experience of and struggle over our town squares throughout the Occupy movement. In line with James Quilligan’s analysis, the point here is that the commons breaks the deadlocked binary of private vs public. Read MORE

Sage Advice for Occupy? from Nobel winner Elinor Ostrom

Reflections on Nobel Prize winning economist Dr. Elinor Ostrom’s argument that the only “tragedy of the commons” is the tragedy of a mismanaged commons. Includes Ostrom’s excellent “8 design principles to govern commons.” Read MORE

Occupation in Philly, Day 20 (Oct 25): “Commons Not Capitalism”

This early blog post by Cindy Milstein, at Occupy Philly represents one of the earliest examples of occupiers using the term ‘commons’ and its activation through prototyping a network of commons within Occupy Philly and working on an urban renewal commons project for their city. Throughout this blog post Cindy lucidly underlines the significance of occupation to the commons and the commons to occupation. Read MORE

Commons not Capitalism

Following on from the above post, author Chris Taylor spotted the slogan “Commons not Capitalism at Occupy Philly, inspiring him to write this blog post. He responds to the slogan with some careful parsing of what sort of corrective, exactly, the commons can offer. Taylor reminds us of capitalism’s own investments in the concept of the commons, and guides us to a more critical engagement with the ideas associated with it. Read Occupation in Philly, Day 20 (Oct 25): “Commons Not Capitalism” | The Future of Occupy: [...] spurred Chris Taylor to write his reflection...

Occupy: A Path toward Economic Democracy Instead of Post-industrial Feudalism

What is “the chord” that the Occupy movement has struck with related movements around the world in the past few years? Wolfgang Hoeschele argues that this “chord” is in part the growing awareness that “feudalism” never did end and that the “99%” still have an unrealized claim on the public sphere and the commons. Read MORE

‘Occupy’ as a business model: the emerging open-source civilisation

Michel Bauwens founder of the P2P Foundation describes how through initiatives such as the provisioning system at Zucotti Park, The Occupy Wall Street movement is a model for a new economic paradigm. Highlighting the dynamics at play in the open source software community, Bauwens shares the very similar institutional ecology at work within Occupy, and pinpoints legal developments within software and organisations that support and embed this common value. Read MORE


Section 3: Commoning in Europe

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Rome Forum on Income, Commons, Democracy 

A week before the OWS forum on the Commons the Teatro Valle theatre in Rome held a forum on Income, Commons and Democracy. Emerging out of that conference was the launch of the campaign on basic income, the exploration into the theme of the Commons at the Teatro Valle occupation and in the wider May Transeuropa Festival. Furthermore there was a call for a wider inquiry into the creation of a federated European wide network, between groups resisting and providing alternatives to the current pervasive narrative of cuts and austerity. Read MORE

The European Charter of the Commons Campaign

Campaign announcement by initiating the campaign for a European Charter of the Commons under Lisbon Treaty Regulation No. 211/2011. In solidarity with those resisting the privatization of resources e.g., in Italy with the water referendum, the recent occupations of 2011 and 2012, we are provided a glimpse into their vision of an emerging Commons based future. Read MORE

European Charter of the Commons – Statutes

“A true commonwealth of Europe is possible only by means of constitutional safeguards of the commons through a direct participatory process.” ~ article 6 of the European Charter of the Commons, one part of a larger drafting of a European Charter of the Commons. This both a template and project worth supporting, for and by the people, commoners, and occupiers. Read MORE

Occupying the Commons - Project

The project “Occupying the Commons” began with an Occupation of the oldest theatre in Italy, the Teatro Valle in Rome. Watch the video featuring Teatro Valle occupiers, Commons theorists Ugo Mattei, Michael Hardt and an interview with Saki Bailey director of Bailey describes Occupy, its constant interaction through the General Assemblies and working groups as Commons in the process of Commoning and the production of ourselves (not only things) in the emergence of homo politicus. Read MORE

The Story of the School of Commoning

Charting a story about the beginnings of a journey that the School of Commoning is making as the need for a new narrative becomes increasingly compelling. Mark Jagdev explores how the purpose of the School of Commoning, as a Community Interest Company, benefits society by preparing each of us for an emerging commons based world. Find out more how the School of Commoning enhances individual and collective competences in the creation, protection, and governance of commons. Read The Story of the School of Commoning

The nascent story of the Escuela de los Commons in Catalonia

The Escuela de los Commons or School of the Commons is a project with a strong team of experienced commoners that came together to form the school in the Autumn months of 2011. Embracing horizontal, peer to peer (P2P) learning around knowledge commons in a wide array of subjects, this school is nomadic by nature and has been growing a wide network of likeminded groups over the last year. Read MORE


Section 4: Voices of the Movement

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In this section we explore the creative side of the commons in photos, poetry and song.

The Making Worlds OWS Forum on the Commons, a photo-anthology

A photo-anthology of the Making Worlds Commons Forum that took place in February this year. View The Making Worlds OWS Forum on the Commons, a photo-anthology

The Moors

John Clare’s classic nineteenth century poem decrying the enclosure of the commons near his village of Helpston. Timeless vitriol mixed with a celebration of fenceless wilds. Read HERE

Dear Common

Stephen Collis reflects, in verse, on his on-going engagement with the commons and the poem as a means of revolutionary resistance. Read HERE

Stanzas on Commoning

Poet and artist Robert Kocik’s extensive mediation on the commons: part essay, part prose poem, part artist’s statement—the commons here is both philosophy and collaborative practice. Read HERE

The Commons - as a means to achieve a society of justice and equality.

In this innovative animation, filmmaker Laura Hanna, writer Gavin Browning and video artists/animators Dana Schechter and Molly Schwartz examine the concept of “The Commons” as a means to achieve a society of justice and equality. Watch The Commons – as a means to achieve a society of justice and equality.

David Rovics – The Commons

Animation by set to the song “The Commons” by protest folksinger David Rovics. Originally released in conjunction with BioJustice 2007: a week long celebration of sustainable food and alternatives to corporate healthcare. Watch The Commons – by David Rovics

Occupy this City

Song by UK singer/songwriter Nathaniel James—an instant protest classic. Watch Occupying This City – Nathaniel James

We are the Many

Song by Hawaiian folk singer Makana, which he performed for world leaders at the APEC summit, repeatedly, for some 45 minutes. If the movement has a theme song this may be it. Watch We Are the Many – Makana

The Revolution is Love

In Ian MacKenzie’s short film, Charles Eisenstein, author of Sacred Economics, discusses the Occupy movement, the gift economy, and “love as the expansion of the self.” Watch The Revolution Is Love


Section 5: Activist News

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Occupy Calls for Creating Alternatives

The Commons, although not named as such, has been a central issue for Occupy almost since the movement began last year. Most recently Occupy London has begun moving into a new phase and is focusing on working for alternatives to the present system. It will hold a series of General Assemblies exploring the themes of community, commons and localism. This series starts on Saturday 16th June… Read Occupy calls for Creating Alternatives

Reclaiming May Day as a Commons Holiday

As the movement reflects, shifts, evolves, the Spring brought a series of May actions. It also brought a real desire to develop upon movement statements and connect across assemblies through broad inclusive formulations. The #12M GlobalMay Statement invited all occupiers to connect the dots between statements written and endorsed in assemblies around the world, encouraging our reflection and adaptation to local assemblies. With mention of the democratic control of the global commons and in light of the commons content in this magazine issue… does the statement go far enough? Does it go too far? What would you like to see included? Read MAY 12TH – #12M GlobalMay Statement

Surveying Commons Activism

David Bollier gives us a tour of commons initiatives around the world, from both the global South and North he gives a sense of the sheer number of initiatives that are framing the commons in areas of law, governance, production, and culture. Bollier maps kindred projects including occupy within the potential of a convergence of unique commons based solutions to our multiple crises. Read MORE

Occupy Vancouver Occupies Brookfield Properties

Stephen Collis tells of an Occupy Vancouver encampment that took place at one of the offices of Brookfield Asset Management – owner of Zucotti Park – and the ensuing events… Read Occupy Vancouver Occupiers Brookfield

Edgeryders Community Campaign  

Edgeryders is a social game aimed at building a nurturing environment where we get help, inspire one another and make sense of it all, sharing our experiences, ideas and know how to earn reputation points and complete missions. Read MORE

Summer is Coming… Occupy the Games! – Part 1

Following on from our reposting of the above campaign brief ‘Edgeryders Community Campaign’ on the Commons game, FoO editor Dan Niswander gives us insight into how. Read MORE