Landed Commons

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Dimensions of the complexity of the Landed Commons


"The following dimensions define the complexity of the socio-institutional and spatial dynamics that characterise Landed Commons.

First, Landed Commons imply the existence of ‘communities of practice’ for which the governance dynamics are at stake. Even if the desire for mutual understanding and a ‘common for all’ is shared, very different views may be in vigour on how these Commons should be built, which use rights should be ‘granted’ and how these should be coordinated.

Second, Landed Commons are associated with specific governance systems, consisting of a mix of laws and regulations, land market dynamics, habits and customs and modes of self- organization of land users. In some cases commons are recognized and supported constitutionally and by national legislation; other commons are grounded in regional legislation and regulation or emerge as the outcome of effective planning-land policies; still others from local traditions and inhabitants’ initiatives, a.s.o.

Third, arenas of actors involved in Landed Commons belong to interconnected spatial scales. These scales are not spatial limits or containers, but represent particular socio- ecological and institutional-political dynamics. Scale jumping, segregative zoning, interzonal re-allotment, ... are just some of the scalar practices that play a role in the arenas in which the landed commons are built or challenged."

Principles of Landed Commons


"In the process of writing the INDIGO proposal, based on literature, stakeholder discussions, participation in academic conferences, the Principles of the Landed Commons were provisionally defined as follows. These principles will be used as a reference framework to discuss the features of existent and desired landed commons and will be revised in the course of the research programme.

  • A ‘Landed Commons’ is a collectively agreed or mediated system of diverse land use rights practiced individually, jointly, interactively or in a time-sharing mode, all applying to the same land (plot, greater area, ...) or a wider spatial composition of land and its uses (road system, nature park, multifunctional neighbourhood, ...), supporting a diversity of shared land uses.
  • Landed Commons are usually built on group-or community-owned property and/or use rights defined from two perspectives: a) as resources or areas which by their nature and use may be regarded as more naturally communal than individually possessed, nor implying principal ownership; b) acknowledged in the context of communal ownership (at least in customary or common law).
  • Landed Commons cover a wide array of ownership regimes between private and public, defined by mixed legal arrangements (e.g. the situation of a tenant, of a landlord, situations of usufruct, etc.) and institutional configurations structuring communities of practice, their land uses and use rights, beyond the typology of public, open access, club and private goods. Addressing Commons supports a claim for institutional diversity.
  • The Landed Commons involve more inclusive ownership regimes which make the practice of shared individual land use rights or the benefiting from common pool resources easier and more efficient in use.
  • Landed Commons are not only a matter of land ownership and shared land use rights and rights to use common pool resources but also require new forms of land use governance. Governance as a commons is usually a hybrid governance relationship combining hierarchical relations (state, corporate structure), market regulation, self organization through networks and associations, affective relations....
  • The landed commons should be considered as a social-ecological relationship between land, its resources and a group of people who accept stewardship over the resources. The general values of the Commons governance principles are respect for natural and cultural resources, openness, no discrimination among users or resource uses, ...
  • ... Yet commons are bound to rely on different sets of governance arrangements depending upon a number of functional vis a vis economic deliberations related to the nature of the resources in question, the manner in which the resources are utilized, the extent to which they generate value, their institutional and community setting.
  • The institutional-political system of spatial planning, property laws and regulations must be mobilised and modified to make the smooth functioning of existent and desired landed commons possible.
  • Host Communities rather than markets or governments should hold the stewardship of local and regional landed commons. These communities should by preference be communities in a position to establish the aforementioned social relationship. In this respect they should pursue a form of consensus between the interests and claims of the various communities of practice and individual users involved in the use of the resources. From this viewpoint, host communities should not only maintain a balance between all dimensions of development, but also become effective agents of sustainable development, mediating in possible social or environmental conflicts, while not overlooking minority voices.
  • Landed commons should be governed not just through open access, but by clear rules to prevent overexploitation. A characteristic incorporated in the landed commons assets, is their “sharable nature”. Landed commons are sharable in the sense that the resources can be accessed and used by multiple users; at the same time however these resources vary in their capacity to accommodate different users, exhibit different consumption/valorization thresholds and embody variable reproductive potential. These rules should cater for alienation of rights as well as exit and entry rights."


The theoretical foundations of the (Landed) Commons


"Building Commons as shared land use rights as well as modes of governance to coordinate them is a deep aspiration of most actors active in the spatial ‘land use arenas’. We address these types of Commons related to land issues as ‘Landed Commons’.

It can be argued that Landed Commons are “simpler” to address compared to other types of commons. Landed Commons are in general “sufficiently tangible and finite to indicate that they may be more than common pool resources to which everyone has access, and instead may exist as real and discrete properties”. In addition landed commons are also (in most cases) territorially confined and hence assume a distinct spatial designation.

Yet this ‘simplicity’ is easily challenged by questions on the protection of resources, the implementation of collective spatial projects, issues of redistribution of land value, shared land uses, activation of private land owners, difficulties in mobilising land for collective uses, while conflicts over spatial development strategies feed an impellent need for thorough exploration of innovative approaches and methods."


In Dutch

  • Op grond van samenwerking. Woningen, voedsel en trage wegen als heruitgevonden commons. Red. door Dirk Holemans, Pieter Van den Broeck & Annette KuhkEPO, 2018


"Bijdragen van diverse Vlaamse experten inzake commons, vertrekkend vanuit het INDIGO-project. Dit boek richt zich tot een brede groep van praktijkmensen die op zoek zijn naar nieuwe, meer solidaire manieren om grond te beheren.

Al meer dan twee eeuwen wordt grond geprivatiseerd, verkaveld en vermarkt. En al even lang zijn er schuchtere pogingen om dat proces te stoppen of om te keren – denk aan pacht, sociale woningbouw, natuurherstel of stadsvernieuwing. In dit boek tonen de auteurs praktijkvoorbeelden waarin mensen gezamenlijk optreden als de publieke overheid én de markt tekortschieten. De initiatieven verzachten effecten van vermarkting. Tegelijk botsen ze op het ‘absolute’, wettelijk verankerde recht op eigendom, of op nieuwe privatisering. Bij vragen over gedeeld eigenaarschap of gebruiksrecht beland je bij de commons: culturele en natuurlijke hulpbronnen gebruikt en beheerd door burgers. Op grond van samenwerking bundelt bijdragen van diverse Vlaamse experten inzake commons, en vertrekt vanuit het INDIGO-project. Dit boek richt zich tot een brede groep van praktijkmensen die op zoek zijn naar nieuwe, meer solidaire manieren om grond te beheren.

Met bijdrages van Dirk Holemans (red.), Pieter Van den Broeck (red.), Annette Kuhk (red.), Michel Bauwens, Jef Peeters, Bernard Hubeau, Lieven De Cauter, Pavlos Delladetsimas, Guy Vloebergh, Constanza Parra, Frank Moulaert, Nele Verdonck, Marie Mistiaen, Geert Depauw, Nele Aernouts, Michaël de Potter de ten Broeck, Steven Clays, Sofia Saavedra Bruno, Hans Leinfelder, Jose Luis Vivero-Pol, C.M. Deh-Tor, Annelies Beyens, Kaat Segers, Nico Moons, Griet Celen en Dries Elst."