Voices Of The Commons
Voices Of The Commons

Episode 5 · 2 years ago

Tom Llewellyn - Collective Resilience and Activating the Commons Ep 5


In this episode of the Voices of the Commons Podcast we talk with Tom Llewellyn, a lifelong commoner and a core member of Shareable, the web's leading e-magazine on all things sharing, commons and community-oriented.

In this episode Tom Talks about:

  • How Shareable tells real life stories of commoning in an accesible way
  • How the commons is as "old as humanity and as new as the internet" and is seen today through channels as varied as city policies, self-provisioning, community resilience, etc
  • The story of The Response, a book with 137 examples about "walking the talk of the Commons" in today's world.
  • How to practice commoning in your daily life - by finding the others
  • How the pressing need for commoning is facilitating its comeback worldwide

Be sure to check out The Response, Shareable's free ebook on "Building collective resilience in the wake of disasters" as well as Shareable's other great publications and resources.

Welcome to the voices of the Commons. We're here to help you learn about the Commons transition. Don't know whatthat is? Stick with our Commons transition team to find out how this simplething is already all around you. Stay tuned for more episodes. Hello,folks, it's another episode of the Commons Transition Podcast, and here is MrMr Activating the Urban Commons himself. Tom Where you from? What do youdo? And Hallowel, have you been at this commoning thing? Yeah,thanks again for having me. I'm Bernie again this I'm Tim Loewell and I'mfrom out in California and have been working on various sharing initiatives and common spaceprojects really my whole life, but most recently I've, and by recently Imean for the last over half a decade, I've been working with shareable to kindof spread the concept of the Commons on a global level in a ina very popular and easily understandable way. That's great. So I'm going topulled you in here. I know you hate doing podcast, Tom but Ipulled you in here today because what are the books? One of the thingsI find most easy to give people, and it really is here in myon my desk in my coworking space in London is the sharing cities book,because it's it's like a bridge to say, Oh, this is what I meanby the Commons. And then one of the one of the stories Irefer to the most in there as of what which is where a lot ofpeople I know live at a working space I was in, is the whichyou've been to, is the Camden the Camden Ghost tax. How this isand it's very easy to like dive into that book and give real life,tangible examples of this is how it happens and I feel I feel you likeone of the people that's best in the world of like translating these huge,heavy academic research papers into listen, make that say can do it in reallife. So how do you, how do you explain the Commons to peoplewhen you're doing talks around the world and engaging with people and doing workshops andfestivals and things? Yeah, I mean, of course there's the you know,cut classic definition of of a kind of a resource, a group ofpeople and system of managing that resource, and you know that kind of goesover the top people's head. Is will and they will isn't that everything?And and so we really like to kind of do more of an inside outexplanation of starting by describing things that people might be more aware of and comfortableof and not even think of being Commons but realize, oh yeah, youknow, like and and the things that really often hits people. You know, this is came out of David Bowyer's research and and, you know,some of his earth my my kind of academic study, you know, camefrom a lot of some of his early books. But the idea that there'sover a billion people that are still gaining their daily sustenance from a Commons allaround the world that really hits people. They realize that it isn't some nichething, this isn't something that's new, you know, or or even somethingthat's antiquated, the fact that it's still incredibly successful. And so when wewent out to produce our book sharing cities, activating the Urban Commons, we wantedto do it in a in a way that was very tangible. Wewanted to make sure that it was easy for people to Digest, and sowe put together a hundred thirty seven different examples from all around the world.You know, a kind of a half of them are our projects and andbusiness initiatives and things that are more like from the bottom up, and theother half our city policies. You know, over over sixty policies of ways thatthat, you know, municipalities have created a channel away for the citizenryto participate in the basic provisioning of those...

...goods, things around housing and food, waste, water, land technology and, you know, work and governance andand finance systems. You know, these kind of eleven core city sectors. And and to be able to tell this story, we knew that,you know, the the small team of us at shareable, although we've gotlots of experience having covered this for a really long time, we wanted tomake sure we walked our talk, and so we put together a team ofabout fifteen fellows from nine different countries that all came together and and develop thethe concept of the book as a group and chose the chapters and how tofocus and and shared the research and and and at the same time we alsoeven felt like the you know, that group of fifteen, you know,plus our staff, was too limited, and so we went on a kindof a listening tour of sorts and conducted over fifty stakeholder interviews with various academicsand community organizers and policy makers from all over the world, again to beanother input. And and then we crowds we opened it up, we crowdsourced examples from our community. We had over twenty five organizations submit case studiesand policies as well. So the the idea was to make this kind ofa global view of what the Commons is currently looking like. And I youknow, they're of course. You know, there's far more than a hundred thirtyseven examples. You know there's chapters that we were not able to includein the book because it got pretty unwieldy. But for the what the scope ofthe project was, I felt like we've pulled off something and at thesame time, you know, we wanted to make this, as I wassaying, make this as accessible as possible, and so we've made the the PDFof daring cities activate in the Urban Commons is available for free on ourwebsite at charable dotnet. There's a we would definitely put a link in theshow notes for that. But how do you and I'd urge people to goand go and have a good rubbish that, because I think nearly any country youlive in there's a there's a story that's supplied to it. The howhow do you, after you put all this together and everything you know,how do you encourage people to like practice this in daily life? Because that'sthe bit. Even after all the you know, time I've spent around thingslike this, I still still probably the most commoning thing I do is workfrom a coworking space and there's just all the little bits that happen in there. But I find it hard to do do this stuff outside of my mywork, if you if you know what I mean, and it always seemslike a political campaign or stuff. I do. It worth that. Ifind it hard to find the middle ground. Yeah, I mean I think thatit can be difficult, especially in urban landscapes, to kind of activelyparticipate, to find a place. I mean there are so many clubs,you know, people who are living in community land trust, you know thosethat are are participating in civic groups, you know in community regeneration. There'sactually a great case study in the in the project, in the book rather, from the city of Bologna and in Italy, and you know, theyfound that there was no way for people living in the community to actively contributeto the city, to put in some sort of a park bench, youknow, to build a mini park, to to just add to the tothe community, any kind of infrastructure whatsoever, and it was it was illegal.And and so the a group, a group they're set off to tochange that and they created this this policy...

...for regenerating, for the regeneration ofthe Urban Commons, and provided a pathway for people to be able to builda park bench, to be able to contribute and and so now people areparticipating all over the place and in Greece there's a great example. After thethe economic crisis that took place there, their project was called Synanthia came up. That was developed to allow members of the community to suggest community projects tofind support, both for other people to participate in helping them to see thoseto fruition, and also government support and finance to be able to build thesethings out in the community. And it's been so successful that the the thegovern ere men in Athens actually brought in the the the lead organizer to helpdo it on a municipal level. So there's in in certain places around theworld. You know, there are ways to be able to plug in andand others. It's really defining desire and finding the others who have similar interests. I mean for myself, I really do try and balance the going aroundand talking about this stuff and and actually doing it. And I'm was fortunateto grow up in a small community of about two hundred and twenty five peoplein the woods outside of the San Francisco Bay area, and it's in anunincorporated community where we have our own kind of community governance system. We paveour own roads. You know, everybody that lives out there for the mostpart is a member of a one water cooperative or another, and I grewup commoning. So for me it's just part of daily life. And andmore recently we've been out here in rural parts of California, fire dangeries isa huge issue. You know, we just I just completed a documentary podcastall about Paradise, California, which was lost to a fire last year.You know, Seventyzero people were were displaced as a result of that fire.You know, thousands of homes were burned, basically the entire town and and allthe the people that lived in the region around the town of Paradise burnedat the ground, and so places like where I am, and I've recentlymoved back to my home village. You know that the idea of fire issomething that we we think about daily, you know, it when somebody lightsup there wood stove, you know, before before winter, everyone gets worriedthere's there's a forest fire going on and and gets organized about it because it'sserious. And so in our community and over the last couple of years we'vebeen organizing kind of brush clearing days where, you know, fifty people will showup to a to an area and and clear the brush and clear theexit pathways and make sure that we can get out if there's a fire,you know, reduce the the chance of fire coming up and and coming intothe town. And we've kind of taken it one step further and we havea kind of a collective herd of goats which for the last and out,you know, better part of the last two years that we've been moving aroundand clearing the underbrush with. So I know that I have a unique situationbeing in a more of a rural area, you know, having living with witha group of people that have similar mindsets or similar concerns, but Ido think that it's applicable. I think that when you you come to anurban space, you know, more and more people are thinking about how tohow to be more resilient, you know, and as we're having, you know, these climate field disasters happening all of the world, the idea ofcommunity engagement, you know, strengthening our social ties, is really coming back. I think it's something that was lost...

...for a while, but there's athere's a pressing need for it, and so one one way that we've beensupporting groups at charable is is by creating a kind of a process guide forsupporting community groups to reimagining existing spaces like churches and schools, community gardens asresilience hubs, to not only be places where, you know, if thepower goes out, if there's some sort of a disaster, you know there'sbackup power, there's there's food, there's water, there's gathering space, theirshelter, but also as spaces to help build out the the overall resilience ofthe community around them. So there's there's lots of ways to get involved.I think. I think when I'm as a big fan of the response potcost at home, like the one I think it was an eve in theyear. Was the documentary you did about whether documentary podcast you did it aboutthe green foiled town and a lot of those things is, and it's notjust in that podcast and other places. When something happens like a tragedy oran event of a negative that brings the community together huge there was there wasanother documentary I was watching and it was about how he after Hiroshima, howhow that came together and it talked about the fifty years of rebuilding and whatthat meant for the community and how how they I'm not going to try therebecause because I won't do it justice. But you know something, the waymeet upcom was came about was Scott was in New York after nine and eleven, where you know where he lived, and he noticed how after nine elevennew people in New York started talking to each other again and supporting each otherand cooking dinner for their neighbors and and his whole original premise and meet upwas used in the Internet to get off the Internet because for him, beforethat people are being coming, going further and further away because they'd had lessreason to meet up in real life because of email, and this was beforefacebook and things like that. And and now he wanted to use the Internet, use the Internet for people to find ways to get together, and thatthat is I meant out to learning. Disagree with me about you know,when something happens, we sort of drop all our bullshit and start talking toeach other again. Is that where you found? I mean, that reallyis what I found around the world, as we've been doing, you know, I research for a charable and and for the response project. I thinkthat one of the most powerful things is comes from a pared experience, youknow, and and from shared experience you can have a shared purpose and that'sone of the reasons why I feel like what we do with the you know, with with maintaining our road in my community or doing these brush clearing days, you just build so much, so much a dpresensive community through participating,actively participating in something together that you don't get from showing up to a communitymeeting. You know, there's there's a there's different understanding and when something likea major disaster, you know like nine hundred and eleven, like like theGrenfell Tower fire, happens, it's it's a point of understanding. You know, you you look at you see each other, and this was something thatcame through, you know, in our in our the last piece we didit about paradises. That is actually it's a we we look at both paradiseand also the town of on Agawa in Japan and and on Agauaor, likeso many of the other coastal communities in that region, were completely washed awayby the Tsunami in two thousand and eleven. And when you know, are thefield producer that we were working with. It was actually lost his home andin paradise he was Alan Myers,...

...was was going to Japan kind ofon a learning journey to see about how, you know, how they've rebuilt overthe last eight years. You know, one of the things that that hereally took away from it was was that share at understanding that it wasn'teven that, you know, you had to even participate have it experienced thesame disaster, but just that sense of knowing that came that sense of kindof deeper respect for the situation and connection just by the fact that you knowthat the people in paradise had experience something similar to what it happened in Japan. There was there was kind of a sense of solidarity between those experiences,and so I think that, you know, there there is a there is agreat opportunity to learn from these and, like you were saying around meet up, the idea of a nitial you know, we don't have to justwait for a tragedy to be able to build community, to build shared experienceand understanding. You know, we can find find the others, as Imentioned before, you know, as our friend over a team human, youknow, often says, and and so that's kind of one of the thingsthat we try to do. It sharable as well, and and another wayof kind of making this kind of commoning real we found to be really successfulis to map out everything that already exists in the community. There's so manyprojects all of the world and you know, we did this book and found ahundred thirty seven. But we've worked with groups in over a hundred citiesaround the world to do community asset maps, you know, mapping thousands and thousandsof examples of of the ways that people are commoning and sharing and andsupporting each other. And and so we've got an easy tool to be ableto do that in your community a charitable dotnet and I really can download forfree. We call our project the the map jam and you know, wehave it set up for kind of mapping out sharing projects, but really,the the the the tools that we've created allow you to map anything and ifyou want, you know, want to look at the UN sustainable development goalsand how your community is helping to meet those right now and how existing projectson the ground are contributing towards that, you know you can use the toolfor that. If you want to look at other different specifically looking at atCommons projects or, you know, it all the tool, I all thedifferent libraries or or community gardens or, you know, community finance resources.It's a great tool to be able to do that. And then, onceyou've made those resources visible at one it becomes a lot easier for people tofind and use those and it supports kind of this larger transition that we're tryingto push. And another great thing that occurs is that it it shows thatthe various projects that you've mapped that may feel like they're disparate, you know, like maybe the the community health people aren't thinking that they're you know inhow that they're related to the community finance, you know, or to the libraryor the farmer's market or whatever. But once you see that all ona map, you get a better understanding and and a larger kind of communitysolidarity is is created as well. And then the final thing that it doesis that it helps you to see what the gaps are. You know,what what are those things that are missing from the community? You know,what are those initiatives that could be created and kind of where can you youknow, who are the other people that you could meet and work with tobe able to fill in those gaps, and I think that's something you know. Again, your question, Bernie, it's from the beginning is you know, you like, yes, you you work on a cowork but space,but you have a hard time finding a place to plug in to be ableto participate. And through doing that mapping, through finding others to start new projects, there's there's a lot of energy they can come from there and it'sjust a really great way to plug in. As you were I'd like to becooled in the list to the listener it as you were talking about that, because we've done a couple of map...

...jams in London over the years.Based on that, and something we're going to do in twenty twenty is we'regoing to get all the coworking spaces in east London together, which includes theUniversity of east London, because they have a space there, and we weregoing to do exactly what that is, and I'm now going to use thatframework, because I remembered it now, to work out where what we're alreadyall already doing and where the gaps are, because that is something that happens alot with with spaces is a lot of those spaces are independently run.They they're being supported by the local government or local authority to help create jobsin the area, to help people know, like because co workers are very affluentpastime and there are thousands of thousands of people in this area of EastLondon who possibly a made to feel by the toad of marketing the places putout is that this isn't the space for them. But actually, you know, that's the you know, people talking and engaging and getting in and knowingthey're like absolutely welcoming co working spaces and this is where going to make allthose Goooi connections to you know, further there, you know, freelance careeror start their small business or start their non pro profit. Is it's whereit is. So I'm if the only thing that comes out of this podcastis a going to use the rap cham framework at our meeting in January.Thank you. I feel like I've had an on air coaching session with Tomfrom shareable. So so where we'll put links in the show notes. Butif people are like, you know, jobing, a little bit of thegym and want to know where to find those things, where are the bestplaces that you know track down all those things and, you know, pointpeople towards the millions of resources you have? Yeah, I would just say goingto the you know, our home page, sharable Dotnet, that it'sa pretty easy way to search and look at our various projects, to beable to go and see our sharing cities work and get the book, tobe able to see all the various community maps around around the world and andget the guide to be able to do that. And we're constantly we know, we add new stories every week, you know, typically five to almostevery day, and are, you know, releasing new books as well. Andand we just put out a book all about for those in the UnitedStates, all about the last kind of a hundred years of discriminatory zoning lawsand how it's had a effect on our communities. And in the next coupleof weeks will be releasing another book based on our work with the response andfocused on on how we kind of build out collective resilience. And then anotherone we've been we've been developing one all about community solutions to reducing waste.So there's lots of things coming on on on shareable as we close out theyear. Where and people find the documentary for the response, the film?Yeah, and the and the film. So I we talked as briefly aboutthe response podcast, which explores the ways that communities come together during and afterdisasters, and we made our first documentary film this year all about Puerto Ricoand and the mutual aid centers that that came out as a response to HurricaneMaria in two thousand and seventeen and so you can see a a on ourwebsite if you go to the response podcast dot org. Can also get therethrough sharable. You can see a the the trailer for the documentary film andif you want to actually host of screening the way that we've released it.We haven't put it up on Youtube or anything else like that yet, butwe've been supporting groups all of the world to host community screenings and we havea whole process guide, again, like I mentioned, around reimagining existing spaces, is as resilience, hubs, questions and everything else like that, andit's available for free for any community to host a screening. Brilliant. Andand where can we find you, toumb? You can find me out in theworld, you know as much as...

I can. And if you wantto follow me on twitter, I'm at chaable Tom. You can find meon facebook as stone soup, and otherwise, you know, follow my writing acharable dotnet. Brilliant. Thank you very much again for your time,Tom and all those links in the show notes. That would be like a, you know, three, three pages long. But always, always,really appreciate your time and it is always great talking to you. And ladies, just this one. Go to Commons transition podcast, sign up for ouremail list, the commoner, and just Google Commons transition and you'll find usall over the Internet. Thank you very much for listening. Take care.Bye. Bye. Thanks bike. Thanks for listening today, you can stayin the loot bus, describing to US email use that at the commoner goto billy forward, slash the commoner, that the IT DOT l y forward, the commoner have a Road Day.

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