The organizational mode of the commons can be presented as the inverse of solutions that allow for profitable business in a competitive world, particularly among industrial companies and entrepreneurs.

Conversely, the cooperative and mutualization principles at the heart of the Commons can be defended as a strategy capable of responding to the civilizational challenges of climate and digital transitions, particularly by activists.

How can we create with the Commons the conditions for listening and respect between the business and the activist approaches?  By proposing a new interpretation grid and coordinated actions.

Current context: Washing All Over

The rise in power of the buzz worlds #collaborative, #collectiveintelligence, #participation, #coconstruction and lately #commons is obvious in the public and private sectors. No political, corporate, or academic authority can launch a credible project without somehow "doing it with" citizens and putting the user-clients at the center.

The approach is often the same: communicate on the call for ideas and skills, then look for the best way to keep control over the project, by reducing the margins of maneuver allowed by open innovation. However, the problems posed by this approach are recurrent;

  • Sharing information and pooling it would be a risk. The reality is that the more information has direct or potential value, the less accessible it is; only that which is not disruptive is open to input and output sharing. At the same time, the communication of projects is based on the innovation gap allowed by sharing. These bogus rules of the game do not allow to create trust and emulation between the participants. With this way of seeing things, each partner is a risk bearer and mistrust is generalized.


  • Scaling up is projected downstream from the projects. This is logical, because the difficulty in creating trust and emulation among participants within the first circles prevents the conceptualization of scaling up from upstream, whereas this characteristic is precisely what differentiates the mode of organization of the commons in order to promote innovation and respond to challenges that are otherwise unresolvable by the usual methods.

Leaving the business-as-usual or militant frameworks allows us to understand the extreme efficiency of the commons organization model. Three main axes allow us to describe the operationality of the commons.

Commons as a Business Model


Providing meaning

Sharing and working together on crucial challenges capable of producing economic and social value gives meaning to the commitment.

The organizational mode of the commons allows in particular to respond to the need for meaning sought by the younger generations. The autonomy of action allows for unsupervised engagement in all kinds of hybrid groups on all kinds of territories and subjects, with the capacity to develop concrete local actions that can be duplicated.   

Provided that there are sincere rules of the game, based on the engineering of the contribution at the heart of the commons, the need to rely on communities with the most diverse knowledge and experience possible becomes obvious in order to respond to the complexity of current challenges.

The worlds of business and activists can overcome mutual mockery if they engage together around shared intentions and maximize their chances of success.


Economic security

Multiplying the number of committed contributors who are happy to work on crucial projects, allowing the proliferation and accessibility of ideas and knowledge, having methods to encourage autonomous thinking and creating convergences for the passage to prototypes, evaluations and action on modular and adaptable projects.

Can we invent a more rational and pragmatic model in the face of contemporary challenges?

Like any real innovation, the mode of organization of the commons requires time to set up, in particular to allow for the cultural evolution of the actors. But this time is unmatched by the efficiency gained by the reduction of cognitive and economic waste allowed by the organizational mode of the commons.


Democratic efficiency

Giving local and global governments radically innovative solutions for climate and digital transitions without the need to impose them on civil society or the private sector.

The change of perspective brought by the commons organization mode favors the emergence of solutions in a transparent and documented way through collaboration between civil society, public sector, private sector and academia, thus neutralizing by design a large part of the resistance to change.

At a time when civil society's distrust of political actors is manifested by increasing abstention and the rise of extremes, the opportunity brought to politicians by the mode of organization of the commons is as much on the side of new freedom of action offered to populations as on the side of the indispensable role of political authorities in preserving the general interest through intelligent regulations.

The establishment of a pool of commons in permanent renewal, resulting from public/commons partnerships, opens the way to a more free, creative, participative and responsible society. Probably the kind of agile society needed to respond to an increasingly uncertain and exciting world.

16/1/ 2022  Post Alain Renk / Open Urbanism Fondation

Participation - Intelligence collective Recherche