Comunes is a non-profit collective dedicated to

  • a) Encourage the protection and expansion of the Commons [1] through our actions. The Comunes approach has the Commons as central idea, using it as a guideline for its actions. It facilitates the discovery and construction of alternatives following a simple rule of three, and it encourages decentralized collaboration through the commons-based peer production. Check our view on the Commons for more information.
  • b) Support those initiatives that reinforce the Commons, especially non-profit grassroots and the informal network among them. Our initiatives attempt to decrease the problems found in the organization and collaboration of those initiatives, as stated by our Manifesto (below).
  • c) Facilitate the work of the supported initiatives by providing free/libre web tools and resources. Comunes acts as a facilitator of the work of activists and Commons-based initiatives, providing tools and resources for boosting their actions. Check the summary of our projects to know how.

[1]: The Commons are those resources that are collectively owned, such as the seeds, the streets, or Wikipedia

Manifesto

The world elites can be seen [2] as social networks, in which each elite member is a node. Each of those powerful people knows a few others of their network, and “connects” with them discussing, synchronizing, taking decisions… The other nodes also know new nodes with whom they spread the proposals received, until a group of elite members agrees on a consistent plan to carry out their aims. Such long-term plans are usually secret to those outside the elite network. That is, they build a closed network that highlights privacy and secrecy. This elite network (or the multiple elite networks overlapped) works over very well-established procedures and communication flows, developed and refined over decades and decades. It’s a dense network where the nodes are very connected, they keep introducing each other new nodes, and they don’t try to do things alone but in coalitions.

When an elite member falls for any reason (e.g. media scandals), the network survives and its ability to develop plans is untouched: it will just re-wire covering the hole left by the missing member, as every social network does (as there are multiple paths for communicating two nodes). The proposal of Wikileaks is not to attack specific members, but the connections among them: the more secret is the communication, the more it damages to have *leaks*. Series of leaks of information, failures in the secret communication process, reveals the network as not trustworthy and not reliable for the elite members. Thus, major leaks in the infrastructure would slow down the whole network and interrupt the sequence of elite plans. That’s where Wikileaks comes, that’s its fascinating mission.

On the other hand, we in Comunes see the world of social movements, NGOs and grassroots collectives as another social network, but this time open and public. Each collective is a node, and each of them communicates with other nodes. New collectives get their inspiration from existing ones, and in occasions, several collectives collaborate to develop common actions. Each of them usually has some contacts in other collectives, and they might help each other to some extent. Other times, collectives dissolve, with the consequent loss of work and contacts. In any case, collectives usually aim to share and spread their ideas and actions, having open agendas and keeping their actions and relations public. We can see it also as individuals (activists, volunteers) being the nodes, clustered in the collectives, and communicating with other individuals/nodes.

However, when comparing this network to the elite network, there are many differences. This grassroots network seems weak and disperse. New nodes find difficult to join the network, many nodes are quite isolated, and the collapse of nodes is frequent. The network is rather new and thus there has not been so much time to build it… and thus we can list some consequences:

  • Difficult to form a new node. To turn a few individuals with common aims into a collective requires a lot of effort. Each time, the collective must begin from scratch, re-inventing the wheel again and again. There are no “common practices”, shared solutions of common problems, or “howtos” accepted and spread (e.g. howto start, which tools are helpful, what not to do…). A direct consequence is the continuous redundant efforts and cyclic discussions.
  • Difficult to strengthen a node. New nodes are small and unknown and thus it is very complicated to attract supporters and resources. They depend completely in the commitment of the few members, and it is common their weakening and disappearance after a period of time.
  • Nodes work isolated. Too frequently, we do our daily work disconnected from others. We don’t spend time/effort on finding common points, learning from the others’ experience and synchronizing common actions and initiatives.
  • Poorly connected. Each collective usually struggles to name 3 or 4 different collectives that have similar aims or tasks. This results in a lack of mutual support and coordination.
  • Difficult communication flow. We do not have easy procedures to communicate or to discover similar collectives. And even if you know them, to synchronize actions requires a lot of effort.
  • Alliances are rare. Sometimes groups of collectives do build common initiatives, but they are usually punctual or temporal campaigns/events/platforms. Consistent alliances to build things in common or to continuously synchronize with each other are rare.
  • No long-term cooperation. Even though collectives do work for the long term, they don’t usually have long term cooperation in common projects with others, due to the lack of alliances. This results in difficulty to handle large scale common aims.

In Comunes we believe that these social movements, NGOs and grassroots collectives should minimize these difficulties in order to boost collaboration (alliances) and facilitate organization (new nodes) and communication (new connections). It’s pretty difficult that a small collective working on, for example, alternative education, makes a difference in a large scale. However, a network of alternative education collectives, helping each other, sharing their experiences and building joint actions, has a much higher probability of reaching critical mass and becoming well-known. We can say the same about seed banks, open data or non-violence movements, for instance.

The Comunes collective aims at boost and facilitate the organization, coordination and collaboration of grassroots collectives in order to overcome the mentioned difficulties they face. Through its different initiatives, Comunes would attempt to contribute by building tools and resources to reach this aim, always under a framework of reinforcing the Commons [1] with their actions.

[1]: The Commons are those resources that are collectively owned, such as the seeds, the streets, or Wikipedia.
[2]: Idea suggested in the 1990′s by the writings of Julian Assange (Wikileaks founder)