On my first Saturday (2/28/15) of transition as the new CEO of the Institute of Cultural Affairs (ICA)-USA, I had the opportunity to meet Michel Bauwens, founder of the P2P Foundation.

Michel Bauwens (L) & Ted Wysocki (R)

Michel Bauwens (L) & Ted Wysocki (R)

Michel is the global authority on peer-to-peer, social production and the new economic and social forms that are emerging around information and communication technologies. The P2P Foundation is an international organization focused on studying, researching, documenting and promoting peer to peer practices.

One of the great perks of my new job is the breadth of programming offered at ICA-USA’s headquarters, GreenRise Uptown Learning Laboratory. Michel was the invited “Keynote Listener” for Cooperation 2015: Connecting as Peers & Networks. This highly participatory “unconference” promoted:

Paradigm shifts in technology, economics, politics, local organizing, global movements and even spirituality pervade today’s world. Moving to a society that is peer-to-peer, where people can directly help one another, is the real “sharing economy.”

Michel Bauwens, born in Belgium, received his Master Degree (Licentiate) in Political Relations / International Relations from the Free University of Brussels in 1981. Most recently, in 2014, Michel was research director of the research group, which produced the first integrated Commons Transition Plan for the government of Ecuador. He currently lives in Chiang Mai, Thailand, where has taught at Payap University and Dhurakij Pandit University’s International College, as well as IBICT, Rio de Janeiro.

“Very rarely in history does a new mode of production to create value become prevalent,” Michel observed. “There is now an unprecedented capacity to scale up commons peer production.” Several of the practices, Michel shared from his international work, included:
• Open Value Accounting – acknowledging the value of contributions through peer review;
• Chamber of the Commons – promotion of services to be shared as a chamber of commerce does for small businesses;
• Assembly of the Commons – local community-driven planning for improvements; and
• Commons Festival – fairs to celebrate and encourage sharing as a market place.

Bauwens & LinaMichel recommended Marjorie Kelly’s Owning Our Future: The Emerging Ownership Revolution Journeys to a Generative Economy. Michel contrasted such “generative” capital for the common good to the “extractive” practice of platforms such as Facebook which does not share its monetary value with its participants that create its content. The value of peer production for the commons is also creating community.

In closing the conference, Michel highlighted the growing emergence of solidarity co-ops for social care, citing initiatives in Quebec and Northern Italy, which are governed by multi-stakeholders. When they reach a certain scale, they go “viral” and launch another one to assure local responsiveness.

I didn’t get a chance to ask Michel for his favorite song lyrics related to building a new economy commons. But he reminded me of a 2001 panel that I participated on for the Asset-Based Community Development Institute. I referred to facilitators then and it’s relevant to “keynote listeners” today as “cleaning windows” so people can clearly see alternatives for a better world.

Thanks to Michel and the organizers of Cooperation 2015 for bringing him to Chicago to share with us.

What’s my line?
I’m happy cleaning windows
Take my time
I’ll see you when my love grows
Baby don’t let it slide
I’m a working man in my prime
Cleaning windows…
Van Morrison, Cleaning Windows

3 thoughts on “I C A BETTER WORLD


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