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June 28, 2010

Storymapping the Commons

On the Commons invites USSF attendees to share their stories

With thousands of community, environmental and social justice advocates converging on Detroit for the U.S. Social Forum, OTC decided it was the ideal moment to launch our new storymapping project.

Storymapping is a simple but exciting idea—a map of the world where people detail their experiences with the commons. Click on a brightly colored balloon anywhere around the world, and up pops a story about the commons from that place in photos, video, text or audio.

At our table at the USSF, we invited people to share their tales about how the commons works back home—or how it could work to improve things around town.

OTC staffers also fanned out across the sprawling, crowded convention hall with tiny video cameras to capture forum-goers’ stories. We simply walked up to folks, explained the idea of the commons to them, and then recorded their stories. Even though most of our interviewees did not use the concept of the commons in their work, their comments were uplifting. The idea of the commons resonated with them, and they were happy to describe important elements in their own communities that clearly fit the description of a commons.

A lot of youth groups were at the Forum, and we recorded the enthusiastic thoughts of young organizers from Providence using art to reach at-risks kids, young organizers from Oakland spreading a message through high schools about good nutrition, and young organizers from Milwaukee promoting economic equality. They all identified their work as part of the commons.

Kim Wasserman-Nieto from the Little Village neighborhood of Southwest Chicago made a strong case that public transit is a commons that is being undermined in urban communities.