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December 2, 2013

A New Way to Make Housing Affordable for Nonprofit Workers

December 2, 2013 | By Jessica Conrad

Brewster Kahle, founder of Alexa and the Internet Archive, just launched a radical new housing experiment that could substantially decrease housing costs for nonprofit workers in the San Francisco Bay Area and, hopefully, beyond. By placing a covenant, or legal clause, on a recently purchased apartment building in the Richmond district of San Francisco, Kahle will be able to offer units to the staff of Internet Archive and other partner nonprofits at cost.

What’s Good for Bill Gates Turns Out To Be Bad For Public Schools

November 29, 2013 | By David Morris

Schools have a lot to learn from business about how to improve performance, declared Bill Gates in an Op Ed in the Wall Street Journal in 2011. He pointed to his own company as a worthy model for public schools.

“At Microsoft, we believed in giving our employees the best chance to succeed, and then we insisted on success. We measured excellence, rewarded those who achieved it and were candid with those who did not.”

Building the Good Society

November 25, 2013 | By Jay Walljasper

*Universal health care: This would include natural health treatments and psychological therapies, both of which save money over the long haul by preventing serious medical conditions.

*A fair electoral system: How about a voting system in which the guy who gets the most votes wins? Even better would be proportional representation (common outside the English-speaking world), which allows third and fourth parties to bring fresh ideas into the political debate without becoming spoilers.

Yes to Amazon.com. No to the Public!

November 19, 2013 | By David Morris

The announcement that the US Postal Service will deliver packages for Amazon on Sundays came just a few days after a federal judge halted USPS’ sale of Stamford’s historic downtown post office. The juxtaposition of the two events throws into stark relief the new Janus-like philosophy of the postal service: a big hug to big business, the back of the hand to the public.

Why Peer Production Thrives in the Field of Theater Arts

November 18, 2013 | By Jessica Conrad

What happens when you apply the tools of the sharing economy to the mission of an enterprising arts organization? Four American theater enthusiasts create a community of four hundred that quickly explodes into four thousand and, together, amass a new bank of resources available to all. This is the story of HowlRound, a center for the theater commons where artists and theater makers promote best practices, share dissonant opinions, and engage in dialogue “with the hope of ensuring a vibrant future” for the field of theater arts.

A Vision for Architecture as More Than the Sum of Its Parts

November 11, 2013 | By Jay Walljasper

Many research studies show a remarkable divergence between the way architects see their work and the way non-architects do — to such a degree that it is not uncommon to hear ordinary people wondering aloud how it is that architects, and architecture students, seem to want to make such strange and unpleasant buildings today.

"Olam Ha-Ba"

November 11, 2013

Vancouver Values Sharing

November 10, 2013 | By Jessica Conrad

Eager for the sharing economy to bloom in Vancouver, Chris Diplock, co-founder of the Vancouver Tool Library, designed the first research project to measure and report on people’s interest in the sharing economy at a municipal scale. He called it The Sharing Project. Diplock’s primary goals were to understand Vancouverites’ attitudes toward sharing, to measure the demand for shared assets in the city, and to highlight opportunities for growth within the sharing economy.

Stop the Presses!

November 9, 2013 | By David Morris

In the November 7th New York Times business columnist Floyd Norris writes about the conclusions of a study of a 2009 federal law intended to force down the hidden fees credit card companies impose on their customers:

When Neale Mahoney, an economist at the University of Chicago’s Booth School of Business, set out to evaluate the effect of that law, he was confident he knew what he and his colleagues would find: It didn’t work.

Time is Running Out to Save the Post Office

November 5, 2013 | By David Morris

In July 2011 the United States Postal Service (USPS) management announced it would rapidly close 3600 local post offices and eventually as many as 15,000. And shutter half the nation’s mail processing centers.

A frenzy of grassroots activity erupted as citizens in hundreds of towns mobilized to save a treasured institution that plays a key and sometimes a defining role in their communities. Only when Congress appeared ready to impose a six month moratorium on closures and consolidations that December did USPS management agree to a voluntarily moratorium of the same length.

Goldman Sachs Embraces Small Businesses in PR, But Not in its Portfolio

October 30, 2013 | By Jay Walljasper

For years Goldman Sachs gave only a tiny fraction of its profits, less than 1 percent, to charity. Then the depression hit in 2008 and the huge bank was in the public’s crosshairs for its role in that collapse and the billions it continued to give out in bonuses.

Six Poets to be Featured in UNCOMMON/WORD

October 29, 2013 | By Elizabeth Dingmann

On behalf of everyone at On the Commons, I am thrilled to announce the six poets whose work has been selected to be published over the coming months in our new commons-inspired poetry column, UNCOMMON/WORD. The poets include Julia Kolchinsky Dasbach, Laura Hansen, Elizabeth C. Herron, Roger Higgins, Rumit Pancholi, and Mike Rollin.

Creativity, Collaboration and the Art of the Right Word

October 29, 2013 | By Camille Gage

Elizabeth Dingmann is the inaugural poetry fellow for Commons Magazine’s new commons-inspired poetry column, UNCOMMON/WORD. She worked with the magazine’s team of poet advisors, guiding the process of selecting poems that will be featured in the column over the next six months.

Discovering the Good Life

October 27, 2013 | By Jay Walljasper

“There’s More to Life than the Pursuit of Private Pleasure”:http://www.utne.com/community/reimagining-the-good-life.aspx

Ah, the Good Life. Fine wine. Fast cars. Beautiful people. The beach house on St. Bart’s. The ski chalet in Switzerland. The apartment overlooking Central Park. The ranch in Montana. The castle atop . . .

Dream on!

Art for Everyone's Sake

October 26, 2013 | By Jay Walljasper

Is art a commons? Or does collective creativity violate the individualistic nature of artists themselves? That’s a topic I’ve explored both in my art and in conversations with artists around the U.S.

Are Bike Lanes a White Thing?

October 26, 2013 | By Jay Walljasper

Rev. Kenneth Gunn’s ministry at Chicago’s Bread of Life Church covers both the Bible and bicycles. He organized a bike club that regularly rides from the South Side church to Lake Michigan and along the Lakefront Trail. In his spare time, Gunn repairs donated bikes that he gives to kids in the predominantly African-American neighborhood.

Public Beats Private

October 23, 2013

Private systems are focused on making profits for a few well-positioned people. Public systems, when sufficiently supported by taxes, work for everyone in a generally equitable manner.

The following are six specific reasons why privatization simply doesn’t work.

1. The Profit Motive Moves Most of the Money to the Top

How One Farmer Protects His Land from Fracking

October 20, 2013 | By Jay Walljasper

When J. Stephen Cleghorn realized that Paradise Gardens and Farm, his certified-organic farm in Pennsylvania that sits above the Marcellus Shale formation, was at risk of being “fracked” for shale gas extraction, he knew he had to act. But he did more than just act against fracking when he became the first private property owner in the United States to use a deed easement recognizing the Rights of Nature to ban all activities that would do systemic harm to the ecosystem both above and deep below the surface of his farm.

The Forgotten Idea That Shaped Great U.S. Cities

October 17, 2013 | By Jay Walljasper

With Connecticut following Pennsylvania’s century-long lead by enacting legislation this year that applies the work of the Gilded Age economist and reformer Henry George, it is timely to look back at similar efforts in the U.S. of his Progressive Era followers, known then as Single Taxers.