Value in the Commons Economy

Value in the Commons Economy

In February 2017 the report “Value in the Commons Economy – Developments in Open and Contributory Value Accounting” has been co-published by P2P Foundation and Heinrich Böll Foundation.

The authors, Michael Bauwens and Vasilis Niaros, address several question in the report, like “is anything good coming up from the crisis”, or “is a new system able to grow from within an old one”: they focus on a main thesis, describing the “value crisis” that is affecting our current world as a sign of a silent transformation in our “value system”.

Starting from the analysis of real case studies, the authors try to explore how the new value regimes emerging from pioneering communities can represent a shift towards post-capitalist practices. In the “commons’ transition” approach, that would mean that commons themselves could represent a new economy emerging within the old system.

The report offers an overview on how the new commons-based approaches are attempting to deal with some significant questions regarding the evolution of value, such as:

  • What is value in our “digitalized” and “networked” societies where knowledge commons are playing a fundamental role?
  • What should value be in a world marked by ecological and resource constraints?
  • In a world of social and cultural diversity, can a new value system incorporate all the values that are not recognized by capitalism?

Three main case studies are therefore analyzed, namely: Enspiral, an entrepreneurial coalition of mostly mission-driven entities that calls itself an ‘open cooperative’ because of its commitment to both the production of commons, and an orientation towards the common good, Sensorica, an open collaborative network committed to the design and deployment of sensors and sense-making systems, utilizing open source software and hardware solutions, and Backfeed, a system based on the use of the blockchain ledger, which imagines itself as a full infrastructure for decentralized production, which comes with sophisticated capabilities to develop incentives and express them through crypto-currencies..

Bauwens’ and Niaros’ analysis also shows some different perspectives and approaches regarding what determines values. All the analyzed approaches, however, agree on the fact that we are going through a “value crisis”, characterized by an increasing capacity to create commmon value through commons-based peer production and other practices from the collaborative economy.

The main question that the authors address, in this sense, is not what is value nowadays, but what if value is becoming a driver for change. The possible consequences are mainly two: a complete shift of paradigm, where a translation of capitalism’s features in new terms is necessary, and a scenery of coexistence of the different realities, with the doubt of an effective possibility of preservation of the characteristics of each one.

And what is the role of commons in this shift of paradigm?

In this scenery, Bauwens’ and Niaros’ approach really matches with LabGov’s co-founders’ (prof Sheila Foster and Prof Christian Iaione) one, who in “The City as a Commons” affirm that “What we are interested in is the potential for the commons to provide a framework and set of tools to open up the possibility of more inclusive and equitable forms of “city-making”. The commons has the potential to highlight the question of how cities govern or manage resources to which city inhabitants can lay claim to as common goods, without privatizing them or exercising monopolistic public regulatory control over them.”

LabGov is in fact currently carrying out a research on the CoCities approach, investigating what are the variables that conduct a city in the process of a commons transition. The output of the research will be soon available on

The full report is available here:

A febbraio 2017 è stato pubblicato il report Value in the Commons Economy – Developments in Open and Contributory Value Accountingche analizza il concetto di valore e quale sia la sua prospettiva e il ruolo dei beni comuni nel cambio di paradigma che la crisi sta generando