Charters of Urban Commons

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= "legal mechanisms established by or with communities to enable and organize commoning. They contribute to formalizing the rights and sovereignty of individuals and community over its collective resources". [1]


From Urban Commons to Patterns of Governance of commons

Remix the Commons:

"Since the 1980s, the space for solidarity practices has largely shifted from the workplace to the social sphere and emerged in the form of urban communities. Communities are formed to respond to needs and draw their energy from the dynamics of rejecting inequalities on the one hand and from the register of social innovation on the other hand, to invent alternative social relationships based on collaboration.

Anchored in their territories, these practices link social and environmental dimensions and are part of a logic of transition and resilience. They revisit the forms of combating inequalities by creating spaces where individuals engage in collective actions to take charge of their territories at different scales. These solidarity practices are implemented in a decentralized way, i.e. both polycentric and intertwined. They highlight the problematic nature of reducing what is "common" to the sharing mechanism alone. As Margaret Davies explains in her article "Material Subjects and Vital Objects - Prefiguring Property and Rights for an Entangled World", urban commons are opportunities for humans to recognize themselves as objects of mutually conferred dignity through sharing and common engagement.

To develop such practices, actors need to be able to systematize their governance experience. Since 2015, a network of practitioners and researchers has been questioning and documenting self-organization and governance practices and the production of new legal mechanisms. This approach aims to produce knowledge that is useful for action, oriented towards the ecological and social resilience of the city. We propose to bring together different experiences to co-construct together a common knowledge on the governance of urban commons. The participants document their conditions and challenges in order to foster a common reflection on the tactical use of tools (methodological, socio-technical, legal, etc.) that allow everyone to develop their own legal mechanisms for governing the commons.

These tactics are gathered in the Tactical chartering manifesto that is a document written to highlight several key common social practices and behaviorthat commoners use to dévelop their legal mecanisms, rules and formailsed in their charters, and to render their commons initiatives relevant/functional/sustainable in their local urban environment.

The aim is for people to interpret this document in diverse perspectives, so its content fits in an array of different urban environments. The content was written by first observing what patterns are detectable within each document or charter, and how these patterns reflect to specific approaches of the governance in urban commoning. In order to develop these concepts in the manifesto itself, we went to the activist first for the following reasons.

As we were documenting certain charters and other documents related to commons initiatives, we were asking ourselves what urban residents use not only as legal tools, but also as enablers of communication and co-production to forge a movement, respond to an urban dilemma, protect rights of use of certain urban resources, or create spaces of collaboration and co-production, that are making the legal tools alive and efficient. As we were documenting the several case studies, we find common themes and concepts that could be used to link certain commons projects together, but we found also common tactics that are highlighted in charters in specific contexts. We wanted to highlight these tactics as forms and a condition of chartering, as a resource for users to establish their proper commons projects. We also observed several ways in which commoners use legal/jurisdictional tools to get the government involved adequately.

In the end, we hope that commoners around the world can use this as a tool to enable their commons projects. We also hope it helps establish a network of peers to co-produce and create several forms of collective communication to build movements that are impactful in urban contexts/politics. That is why we kept the manifesto open and modifiable by other commoners who share their own experiences and interpretations of ‘tactical chartering’.

The three stages of the process concern:

  • the sharing of experience;
  • a perspective on the tactics used;
  • the formulation of new avenues for collective work.

The ultimate objective of the project is therefore to help to deploy solidarity practices as commons, by equipping themselves with the tools that meet this particular quality, and by promoting and recognizing this singularity in their community, their neighbourhood, their city.

The project is part of a long-term perspective that aims to:

  • develop with the "commoners" tools and methodologies that allow the creation of legal mechanisms (the charters of urban communes) in order to recognize and develop urban communes.
  • compare political experiences and methodologies that are developed in citizen action oriented towards ecological and social transition, in order to highlight the potential at work in concrete commoning initiatives,
  • question the effects of the reconfiguration of the processes of law production by commoners on the sharing of power and the legitimacy of actors in the public space.
  • contribute to the development of public policy proposals and strategies and an ethical framework for the sharing of sovereignty among the city's producer actors."


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