Topic outline

  • Description of the content and form of the seminar:

    This seminar introduces participants to the basic concepts and approaches to the commons. The seminar is structured around textual and visual material which introduce participants to the commons in a clear and attractive manner. The seminar also contains ‘exercises,’ experiments and games where participants in partner-specific breakout rooms collectively consider and experiment with the realization of the commons in their local contexts and case studies. The seminar was given live on the 15th of November 2021 at 17.00 – 20.00 CET 

    You can see the recorded session at:


    The purpose of this seminar is to introduce partners and third parties to the basic concepts and main approaches to the commons. The purpose is also to give participants opportunities to operationalise the commons in their local educational practice.

    Learning outcomes:

    After attending the seminar participants can:

    o             identify the three different schools of thought and their concepts and approaches to the commons,

    o             translate the key dimensions of the commons into their local educational practice,

    o             approach the commons in its flexibility, variety, complexity and creativity and make use of these features in their local educational context.



    Pechtelidis, I. &Kioupkiolis, A. (2020) Education as commons - Children as commoners: The case study of the Little Tree Community, Democracy & Education, 28(1).

    • The Commons

      The growing paradigm of the ‘commons’ is an alternative value and action system, a different way of building and living our cosmos, which nourishes democratic ideals, egalitarianism, creativity and sustainable relations between humans and nature (Bauwens, Kostakis and Pazaitis, 2019). The ‘commons’ or ‘commonpool resources’ (Ostrom 1990: 30, 90) or ‘commons-based peer production’ (Benkler&Nissenbaum 2006:395) comprise goods and resources that are collectively used and produced. Access to them is provided on equal terms, which may range from totally open access to universal exclusion from consumption, with many possibilities in-between. The common good is collectively administered in egalitarian and participatory ways by the communities which manufacture or who own it. Sharing is a fundamental process which lies at the heart of the commons. ‘These things we share are called commons, which simply means they belong to all of us’ (Walljasper 2010: xix). There are many different classes of common goods, from natural common-pool resources (fishing grounds, irrigation canals etc.; Ostrom 1990: 30) to common productive assets, such as workers’ co-operatives, and digital goods, such as open source software (Benkler&Nissenbaum 2006; Dyer-Witheford 2012). ‘Commons can be gifts of nature –such as fresh water, wilderness, and the airwaves –or the products of social ingenuity, like the Internet, parks, artistic traditions, or the public health service’ (Walljasper2010:xix). Their common baseline, however, is that they involve shared resources which are managed, produced and distributed through collective participation in ways which contest the logic of both private-corporate and state-public property (Ostrom, 1990: 1-30, 90; Benkler&Nissenbaum 2006: 394-396; Dyer-Witheford 2012; Hardt & Negri 2012: 6, 69-80, 95). Most definitions (Dellenbaugh et al. 2015: 13; see also Bollier& Helfrich 2015: 3) render commons as an artifice which consists of three main parts:


      (a) common resources/goods,

      (b) commoning practices, 

      (c) commoners who are implicated in the production and reproduction of commons.  

      • Educational Commons

        In education as a commons the process of learning, knowledge transmission and acquisition, and the modes of governing this process are managed and co-constructed by the entire educational community -teachers, students and, likely, their families, on terms of participation, openness, diversity and flatter hierarchies. The teacher becomes a companion and a facilitator who helps pupils and students to become commoners, i.e., self-directing, creative individuals who draw on the educational commons of culture and knowledge, but they also embark on their own innovative explorations, renewing inherited forms and inventing new ones. Hence, the teacher, even as s/he acquaints pupils and students with fields of knowledge and activity, negotiates with them the terms of learning and apprenticeship. S/he enables them to become autonomous creative subjects who take their cues from the common cultural heritage, but they also reconstruct it, conjuring new ideas and works, communicating with other creative singularities and participating thereby in the reinvention and the expansion of culture, values, and knowledge in society. The teacher forsakes the position of the master who transmits a fixed, authoritative tradition. By contrast, s/he treats pupils and students as equally capable actors who bear singular capacities and creative energies. S/he assists them in becoming free commoners, that is, individuals who are integrated in communities that share common goods but navigate their own course through them (Masschelein& Simons, 2012; Pechtelidis and Kioupkiolis, 2020).