Policy Influence of the P2P Foundation

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George Dafermos:

During this period, the work of Bauwens and the P2PF began to have a strong influence on public policy actors. In 2013, Bauwens was invited to become the research director of FLOK Society Project, a government-supported activist-research project in Ecuador, with the aim of developing a set of policy proposals for the transformation of the country through peer production and the commons. Bauwens recruited the core team of researchers, with whom he worked closely for about a year in Ecuador. In the summer of 2014, FLOK Society organized a large international conference in Quito, with hundreds of participants from all over the world, which attracted a lot of media attention. Funded by three ministries of the Ecuadorian government, it was the first time that peer production theorists had ever worked in such close proximity to political decision-makers: that in itself was a strong signal that the theory was becoming a force to be reckoned with in the world of politics.

That actually seemed to be true in some parts of the world in the mid-2010s, as in the case of Greece where Bauwens’ theories and the example of FLOK Society had caught the attention of some Syriza party members and work-groups, who invited Bauwens and FLOK researchers George Dafermos and John Restakis to Athens in the autumn of 2014 for a series of seminars (Bauwens, 2014). This marked the beginning of a period of close collaboration, which continued for several months, between Syriza’s work-groups and Bauwens’ team of colleagues from FLOK Society and the P2PF. It is indicative of its legacy that Syriza’s official “Government Program”, which was released in 2015, refers to commons-based peer production as a pillar of the productive transformation of the Greek economy (Syriza, 2015).

With a view to reinforcing their advocacy of the commons and peer production, in 2014 Bauwens and his colleagues launched Commons Transitions as a think-tank focused on research and consulting.19 In 2017, Bauwens followed up on this work with another FLOKlike project.

This time he went to the city of Ghent in Belgium, where he spent three months with his colleague from the P2P Lab, Vasilis Niaros, in order to lead a research project, which had the support of the mayor and the political coalition of the city, on the “commons city of the future” (Bauwens & Onzia, 2017a, 2017b). The emphasis on the city as a locus of policy intervention has a strategic significance in the work of Bauwens and his P2PF colleagues since the mid-2010s, reflecting the growing political momentum of new municipalist movements in various European cities (such as the Barcelona en Comú citizen platform that governed Barcelona from 2015 to 2019), which aspire to bring about radical change by taking control of their local government (Utratel & Troncoso, 2017). Most importantly, reaching out to these new political forces has been quite a fruitful endeavor, judging by the fact that the “cornerstone of new municipalism,” as some participants and researchers of Barcelona en Comú have remarked, “is a reinvigorated notion of the commons, as proposed by ... Yochai Benkler, ... Michel Bauwens and organisations like Commons Transition” (Calafati & McInroy, 2017).

One of the main concepts that the above projects emphasized in their advocacy of peer production to public policy actors was that of the so-called “Partner State,” which is a proposal for the development of a commons-friendly government (at both local and national levels) that enables community organizations to participate in the management and provision of public goods. Practically speaking, the concept denotes a local or national government that is supportive of cooperative organizations by developing policies and regulatory frameworks that enable them to play an important role in the economy.20 Through their advocacy of the “Partner State,” research projects like FLOK Society infused peer production theory with a theory of the State, in the context of which cooperatives are actively involved in the management and provision of public goods and services. At the same time, the emphasis of their work on cooperatives brought Bauwens and his colleagues in touch with actors from the new cooperative movement, who were receptive to the idea that their goals synergize well with those of the commoners and peer producers. From a theoretical point of view, this dialogue between peer theorists and cooperators led to the development of the concept of “open cooperativism” (Bauwens & Kostakis, 2014, 2015; Conaty & Bollier, 2014; Pazaitis et al., 2017): the concept, which is basically a proposal for cooperatives to become more actively engaged in the production of the commons, has been at the epicenter of Bauwens' recent work (e.g. Bauwens & Pantazis, 2018). At a more practical level, it resulted in influencing cooperative projects, like the famous Catalan Integral Cooperative (CIC) in Catalonia, to become vocal proponents of the commons and peer production (See, for example, Catalan Integral Cooperative, 2015, Dafermos, 2017 and Duran interviewed in Bauwens et al., 2014)." (http://peerproduction.net/wp-content/uploads/2021/02/Chapter-07_Prophets-and-Advocates-of-Peer-Production.pdf)


* Article: Prophets and Advocates of Peer Production. By George Dafermos. Chapter 7: The Handbook of Peer Production. Wiley, 2020

URL = http://peerproduction.net/wp-content/uploads/2021/02/Chapter-07_Prophets-and-Advocates-of-Peer-Production.pdf