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  • Posted December 5th, 2023

    Helping commons groups form and grow in Stroud and other towns (and countries)

    Helping commons groups form and grow in Stroud and other towns (and countries)

    Commons ideas have gone down well in Stroud and we have thriving groups in various sectors. We’ve been approached by formative groups in several towns in the UK and in other countries.

    Public events

    Dil, Amrit and I travelled to Llandeilo in Wales where we gave a presentation about commons ideas and Stroud Commons to 60 people at a public event (in a town with a population of 2k). I was nervous talking to a second town. I wondered if if Stroud is a bit of a rebel town, and it’s just not going to be received as well anywhere else. But the event went well, with lots of interesting questions, and chats in the pub afterwards, and there’s now a core group in Llandeilo that we’re liaising with. We have another event in Bath on Jan 9th.

    Other locations

    Apart from Bath and Llandeilo, we (as in Stroud Commons, Lowimpact.org and Mutual Credit Services) have been approached by people / groups in Malvern, Ludlow, Kinver, Tewkesbury, Okehampton, Falmouth, Ross-on-Wye – we’re looking at possibly hosting events in all those places. But we’re also talking with people / launching projects in other places in the UK, and also in India, Vermont, Sweden and potentially Galicia, Costa Rica and Nigeria (plus a big credit clearing project in Liverpool). They spotted what we’re up to and want to do something similar.

    We’ve been thinking about what we can provide to help commons groups get started in Stroud and other towns. We’re working with specialists to provide information and help on building a commons in as many sectors of the economy as possible. It’s a long-term programme, but here’s what we intend to do over the coming months.

    Providing help for formative groups

    We’ll have a zoom call in the new year with people from all the towns we’ve talked with. Commons literature emphasises that the most important aspect of the commons is the social relations. So we suggested that the first thing to do is to get together a core group of 7-10 people (4 will work, but 7-10 is best, and no more than 10, really), and meet regularly (in Stroud we meet one evening per month, taking it in turns to host) to get to know and trust each other, learn about the commons together, promote and recruit (and set up a Signal group for chat – that specialists can join). To help recruit for a core group there’s a short introduction to the commons (and a long one), and here’s an article about how we started in Stroud. The next thing is to find people with an interest / experience in various sectors to set up sub-groups. Here’s an article about that. We’ve let groups know that these are the ways that we might help them set up, grow and network together.

    For each sector of the economy, we’ll generate (and we’ll blog about it on stroudcommons.org and lowimpact.org):

    • Outline of the model: a basic introduction to the proposed model. Like this one for energy commons. But we’re developing simpler, interactive web pages, where you can enter actual figures and work out costs / returns on investments etc. Here’s a draft for a land commons.
    • Questions: we’ll then collect questions from the Stroud Commons group and elsewhere, to clarify the basic model.
    • Interview: we’ll put those questions to specialists in an interview, to flesh out the basic idea. We’ll post a video of the interview on Youtube and the transcript on the blog. The interview has happened for energy commons – we’ll post it here soon.
    • Discussion group: we’ll organise a discussion group with commons specialists and sector specialists – for example, first we’re lining up a discussion group with commons specialists and community energy specialists, to compare notes and learn from each other. Again, we’ll record and blog it.
    • Video meeting: the group makes sure that they’ve read and understood everything above, and provides evidence of this in a zoom conversation with specialists. If it’s viable, we’ll move to a co-design session, and if not, we’ll work out some steps to get there.
    • Co-design: the group meets with specialists, in a video meeting or possibly face-to-face, for one or more co-design sessions. Specialists will ask questions of the group, and vice versa, to put together a design for a commons in that sector, in that town. This will include information about what sort of organisation to set up, how to set it up, and finding investors, customers, stewards and custodians etc. Vouchers can be issued via an app, that MCS will build for groups.
    • Prospectus: specialists will put together a prospectus for investors.

    Then, when there’s an active core group and a few sector groups, we’ll:

    • put together a ‘manual’. The results will be turned into an online ‘manual’ for building the commons (including the core groups / governance) – not to be followed to the letter, as each town is different, but just as a guide. Eventually, this will become a book (provisionally titled ‘the Commoners’ Manifesto’)
    • build an AI chatbot, fed with all the above, to allow visitors to get answers to specific questions. The chatbot will be accessible from the MCS website, Lowimpact.org, Stroud Commons website and any other town commons website.
    • build a package for new groups, that will include a template for a website, including forum and AI chatbot; all foundational documentation that we used in Stroud, plus a page that shows a ‘map’ of the commons in your town, so that visitors can see what’s required, and if they have the interest, skills and experience, they can onboard themselves.

    As new groups form and infrastructure is brought into the commons in various sectors in several towns, these are the next steps:

    • Working models: as groups set up in other towns, we hope to have solid working models in Stroud to point at (always better than just theory). Next year we’ll have at least one house in a housing commons, plus a climbing commons, and who knows, maybe a piece of land too. We’ll blog about all developments as they happen in Stroud and elsewhere.
    • Recruitment: we’ll put contact details for other towns on the Stroud Commons and Lowimpact websites, and eventually link to other towns’ websites, to help recruit new members / activists / customers / investors etc.
    • Connecting: groups can be connected / federated together, economically (via the Credit Commons Protocol – more info soon) and politically (via sociocratic networks). Towns with successful projects can help other towns, online and by visiting to socialise.
    • Agencies: when there are enough working projects, consultancies / development agencies can be formed (as they have for co-ops, for example), to help groups set up and grow everywhere.

    We’ll blog about these developments as they happen, so do subscribe.

    Thanks – and let us know if you’re interested in starting a commons group in your town.

    The views expressed in our blog are those of the author and not necessarily lowimpact.org's


    • 1Liz Moody December 12th, 2023

      Hello. I'm in SW Cornwall. I have few friends and connections. How to meet like minded people to set up a common sense group ?

    • 2Dave Darby December 13th, 2023


      Contact me via dave at lowimpact dot org and I can invite you to a zoom call / give you more info.



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