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"Clear the Table"

February 4, 2014

Enjoy what you’re reading? We have so much more in store for 2014—but we need your help to create a strong financial future for our organization. Please watch the video below and consider making a tax-deductible donation today to advance the commons movement. Let’s own this work together.

How Urban Design Helps or Hinders the Health of the Commons

January 30, 2014 | By Jay Walljasper

Centuries before someone first uttered the words “sharing economy,” the steady rise of cities embodied both the principles and promise of that phrase.

The reason more than half the people on earth now live in urban areas is the advantages that come from sharing resources, infrastructure and lives with other people. Essential commons belonging to all of us, ranging from transportation systems to public health safeguards to plentiful social connections, are easier to create and maintain in a populated area.

The Man Who Helped the World to Sing

January 28, 2014 | By Jay Walljasper

It’s hard to think of anyone who embodied the spirit and practice of the commons more than musician and activist Pete Seeger, who died yesterday at the age of 94.

He devoted his life to folk music— songs and tunes and lyrics that have been passed along from generation to generation, neighbor to neighbor throughout human history. No one owns the rights to this music; it’s everyone’s priceless cultural inheritance to sing, to hum, to play, to adapt to their own tastes and to share with others.

Can Cities Lead the Way in Reversing Inequality?

January 28, 2014 | By David Morris

Can Cities Lead the Way on Inequality?

Cities Partner with Rural Communities to Protect Water

January 17, 2014 | By Jay Walljasper

It sounds like multi-tasking run amok. Tackling a slew of problems at once seems like a crazy idea. But when urban water utilities team up with rural neighbors to protect water sources, there’s an outpouring of positive outcomes. Elusive solutions fall into place. Among a cascade of benefits, you get:

The Power of Sharing Hits the Streets

January 17, 2014 | By Jay Walljasper

When bikeshare systems started popping up across North America, I got excited.

I knew bikeshare had improved life in European cities by offering people a convenient way to get around town on short trips. “It’s like a whole new kind of transit system on two wheels,” explained a friend who’d used the system in Paris.

But I never imagined myself renting bicycles from automated stations. They’re for people who don’t own bikes, right? Why would I pay for bikeshare when I have several bikes of my own in the garage?

Republican Principles Depend on What's Best for the Rich

January 17, 2014 | By David Morris

Is Congress inconsistent when they sometimes support using revenue offsets and indexing to inflation and sometimes don’t? Not at all. They’re actually very consistent. When capital comes asking for gifts Republicans act like Santa Claus. When labor is asking they conduct themselves more like Scrooge.

Consider the Republicans’ different approach to the estate tax, the minimum wage, and jobless benefits.

Public Water Systems Can Help the War on Poverty

January 15, 2014 | By Jay Walljasper

No army can win a war without water. (Dysentery took more lives in the U.S. Civil War than battle wounds.) That holds equally true for the war on poverty.

Enliven Public Spaces in 5 Easy Steps

January 14, 2014 | By Jay Walljasper

1) Maximize flexibility: Successful places are able to be used by the young and old, from day to night, in a variety of ways. Does your space offer things to do and see all day to all users?

2) Have many things to do in the space at once: Similar to the point above, are there a diversity of things to do? If one person wants to sit in the sun, the other in the shade – are they able to? Are there things to eat, see, play?

The National Treasure in Your Neighborhood

January 13, 2014 | By Jay Walljasper

How does owning a vacation house at Yosemite sound? Or a beach cottage near the shores of Acadia National Park? Do you dream of hiking the Grand Canyon right outside your front door, or taking a dip in Crater Lake after getting home from work?

The Story of Vincent and Elinor Ostrom

January 10, 2014 | By Jay Walljasper

Elinor Ostrom overcame considerable barriers to become the first woman to win the Nobel Prize for Economics. Besides the obvious discrimination against women in academia and society at large, she faced the stigma of stuttering as a child and growing up poor with a divorced mother in the low-rent district of glitzy Beverly Hills. Ostrom worked her way through UCLA in three years and then put her husband through Harvard Law School, after which he became a successful entertainment lawyer in Hollywood.

Its Been a Very Bad Month For the Private Sector

January 9, 2014 | By David Morris

The private sector has had a very bad month. Its most widely publicized failure occurred when UPS and FedEx fumbled their Christmas deliveries while the U.S. Postal Service scored a touchdown.   

The Slow Unnatural Death of Our Personal Space

January 8, 2014 | By David Morris

The natural tendency of the private sector, when unrestrained, is to strip us of our personal physical and psychic space. The clearest examples may be found in the air travel and broadcasting industries.

Fly the Claustrophobic Skies

When it comes to air travel, private airline companies’ profits depend on maximizing revenue per cubic inch of space inside a plane.

Discovering a Legal Tool to Curb Climate Change

January 7, 2014 | By Jay Walljasper

On Mother’s Day, 2011 a legal campaign was launched in fifty states and in Federal court arguing that global warming violated the rights of the plaintiffs — young people and their posterity. The actions were based on an innovative application of an ancient legal principle known in the US as the “public trust doctrine.” They asserted that, under the public trust doctrine, governments serve as trustees of the atmosphere for the true beneficiaries, current and future generations, and that they are violating their most compelling duties by failing to protect it from devastating climate change.

Five Lessons About the Commons

January 6, 2014

Five Lessons

I. Starting from Here

Lesson I, emphasizes the roles of artisanship and science in the design of our communities—including the intimate association of a marriage. The “art and science” of how we associate with each other emerged as Vincent’s core concern—from drafting part of the Alaska constitution to fashioning a marriage with Lin. They always started from a challenging place—what Lin would always describe as a “puzzle.”

II. Diagnosing Reasons for Failures

"Bringing Back Water"

January 5, 2014

Enjoy what you’re reading? We have so much more in store for 2014—but we need your help to create a strong financial future for our organization. Please watch the video below and consider making a tax-deductible donation today to advance the commons movement. Let’s own this work together.

A Global Exploration of Economic Possibilities

December 26, 2013 | By Jessica Conrad

The Heinrich Boll Foundation just released a detailed, educational, and inspiring report summarizing the international conference it hosted in Berlin, Germany May 22-24, 2013.

2013: The Year Bike Sharing Came of Age

December 26, 2013 | By Jay Walljasper

2013 is the year when the sharing economy—the recent rediscovery of the economic advantages of mutual cooperation—came to public attention.

It was also the year that bike sharing, one of the most tangible symbols of the sharing economy, came of age in America.

New bike sharing systems opened in New York, Chicago, San Francisco, Salt Lake City, Fort Worth, Columbus and Aspen, Colorado, this year while existing systems expanded in Minneapolis, Washington D.C. and other cities.

VIDEO: Commons. Are you in?

December 23, 2013 | By On the Commons Team

With the end of another year in sight, all of us at On the Commons invite you to recognize the gift of our commons, everything we inherit and create together. The commons include parks and public spaces, libraries, the air we breathe, public water systems and art programs, the Internet, and even the spirit of collaboration. These cherished commons, among many others, bring us health and security, inspire our imaginations, give us hope, and more.

Actual World, Possible Future

December 16, 2013

From Director Barbara Allen: