Soustainable ECA, where we are (Fred)

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European Commons AssemblySoustainable ECA, where we are (Fred)

In 2015, in France mainly, and in some francophone countries, we organized a commons festival. The TEMPS des COMMUNS Festival (Time of the Commons). There are many commons festival since the last 10 years  : in Finlande Pixelache, in Greece, the Commons festival, in Italy at Chieri, the international commons festival,  ... etc. The originality of the francophone festival was that it was a festival held in many places at the same time with a completely distributed organisation of the events by local people all around France and the diverse French speaking countries. There was more than 250 self organized events. It was probably more than 20 000 persons and a very large media cover including the national radio and newspapers. It is a crucial step in the progress of the commons movement in France.

I met David Hammerstein for the first time during this festival. He took this opportunity to be provocative and launch the idea of a gathering of 150 commoners at the European Parliament.

In 2016, the commons movement organized the "Commons space" within the World Social Forum at Montréal. It was a self organized space. More than 40 Activities took place, involving 100 people, with 20 to 30 people strongly involved in the organization.  The self organization was based on the use of digital tools with a strong facilitation. The budget of the event was 25000 euro, including the fees for intercontinental travels, a 3 month full time contract as an internship.

The results were numerous and very important at the political level for the commons movement. Some examples :

These two examples, presented shortly, demonstrate that we, as a movement, we know to do that : to be efficient, to have fun and work without a hierachical model of organization. This is our superpower !

Comming to ECA.

ECA is not the result of just one provocation, but at least two: one from David, but also one from me. When I met some funders of the commons in 2014 at Stockholm, I told them that we had a movement but that we need to create the conditions to make it more visible and articulated. We needed to go beyong the old style of advocacy. How ?

  • First, we needed to invite to a meeting a gender balanced small group of activists to validate a plan for the commons movement for Europe to alert and survey, to confront and negotiate with public institutions, and to prepare alternative proposals for policies.
  • Two, we needed to have a sort of european congress of the movement, an historical moment of foundation
  • Three, we needed to support a large self-organized, decentralized and distributed newtwork that will politicise the commons by helping each others in there struggles for the commons and demonstrate to the politicians that they need us.

The first proposal was the Commonswatch meeting at Villarceaux. The congress became the idea of ECA at Brussels : an assembly of commoners in the european parliament ! It was a very successfull moment in term of mobilisation and communication. A symbolic and historical moment.

However, since then, we did not develop further how the ECA can be a tool to help articulate commoners, social movements and the political spheres. When this is needed in many different fields.

Actually, we have a strong and resilient commons movement in Europe.

Look in italy, there was the referendum for water as commons, the Rodotà commision and now the co-city movement, in Spain, there is a strong municipalist movement based on the commons. This is the political urban commons movement. It is also the first political victory of the commons in Europe. It is under a incredible attack of conservative forces and we have to deploy our solidarity if we want to protect our narrative as a commons. It is not an issue of independance. It is our narrative that is at stake here. In France, there is a strong articulation between research and actvism. The first dictionary of the commons was published there last month. It was written by 180 scientists and activists. It refects the quality of the collaboration around the commons. It is a symbolic step of the progress made these last years.

In Germany there is a strategic convergence with the degrowth movement. P2P foundation is one big player of this process of convergence.

I cannot cite all activities but you know better than me, that in all the other countries, Greece, Finland, Portugal, UK, Netherland, etc, the commons movement is alive.

The ideal of the commons gathers many people, organisations, initiatives, social, cultural and political mouvements. It is feeding a narrative. It is a fact. We should not be affraid. Let see how it is attracting the social and political forces.

Sustainable ECA (Villarceaux, Oct 2017)

So, at the end of July, we have invited people to self nominate for a 3 days meeting For a Sustainable ECA. 10 persons were volunteers to dedicate 3 days of their life to ECA, that is not nothing ! The gender balance was respected : 5 women and 5 men. We had 3 days for thinking ECA as a tool for the commons movement – meaning in part talking about how to organize it, and how to govern ourselves. It was a very challenging conversation. The result is a report made by Ann Marie from P2P foundation. She did an incredible work to synthesize this difficult conversation.

What is the result of this gathering in Villarceaux ?

First, we realized that it was not possible to solve the problem of governance in such a short discussion. The solution is not to create a board and centralized a coordination. It is not enough to imagine a procedure of membership. We definitively need to be more imaginative.

So we propose to dedicate time to do seriously this strategic analysis. What is our movement ? What kind of infrastructure do we need for it to be functional ? How to organize our work all together, how to make decision, etc. The issue is : How could we redesign an ECA and organize it to be at the service of the commons movement ?

And we propose :

  • First, to take a pause of 3/4 months and during this time, to have someone do a real research on this issue for us : someone that will look at the ECA archives, all the did and said until now, including the discussion we had in Villarceaux, and look at the models that been developed so far by networks to organize horizontal action and the various movements. The task of this person will produce a proposal of governance senario for the assembly.
  • One we have this possible scenario, we will invite volunteers to self nominate for a new « Villarceaux meeting » that will finalize a proposal for ECA and submit it to the members. We will then be able to discuss and adopt a form of governance and functioning for the ECA.

The result of this process and collective work should even be put in the form of a manual, useful to the ECA and its members but also potentialy to others.

Meanwhile, we also proposed that Thomas and I try to develop a consensual proposal to carry on with already planned activities (see the document Work Packages) for the coming months without jeopardizing them.

What do we need to do that ?

  • it is needed to re-alocate to this strategic process, the funds we already have. There are remaining funds on the different activities of ECA. So we can finance this research and process without extra funds. We only need to clarify exactly how much there is in each budget of the actions scheduled.
  • It is also also needed to define clear terms of reference for the reseacher and of course identify the proper person with the adequate skills. All the proposals are welcome as we know that ideas are already in minds.

So at the end, I am confidente that we will have an Assembly with a bottom up model of governance, and I am looking forward to the discussions we will be having now on this.

Frédéric Sultan, Madrid, Oct 2017