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Commons Offers a New Lens for Community Issues

On the Commons offers a fresh perspective to citizens and organizers

The commons is an evocative phrase, but not understood the same way by everyone who hears it. Some think of grazing land, as in the enclosure of the commons in pre-industrial England. Others think of open spaces, like the Boston Common. Or of the many other things described these days as commons: shopping centers, university lounges, housing developments etc.


That’s just one of the reasons On the Commons is engaged in popular education to promote the commons’ potential in rethinking how community organizing and political activism are practiced today. The more people learn about what the commons could mean to our common future, the more excited they get.


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p(photo-credits). cc license: http://www.flickr.com/photos/ninjapoodles/533942986/


On the Commons Fellow Julie Ristau together with Alexa Bradley and Dave Mann of the Boston-based Grassroots Policy Project are collaborating on a popular education curriculum that introduces the framework of the commons into the context of contemporary organizing. They are conducting workshops with a set of strategic groups and networks to engage organizers in integrating a commons orientation into their work.


The On the Commons-GPP team conducted a training for community organizers from across Iowa, Minnesota and Wisconsin; led a workshop for farmers and rural activists who are part of the Land Stewardship Project, a leading sustainable agriculture group; and showcased the principles of the commons to ISAIAH, a network of religious congregations whose work on justice and community issues carries wide influence in Minnesota.


“We see the potential for the commons framework to help organizers ‘reframe’ existing issues, surface new issues and, most importantly, ground organizing work in a broader framework that bridges constituencies,” Ristau explains. “The commons offers a paradigm broad and rich enough to spark a new vision and philosophy.”