Commons Abundance Network

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CAN is an emerging online social network for learning, collaboration and innovation to help create a new, commons-based economy of abundance, in which all people, and an abundance of animal and plant species can thrive, not only in the present, but the future as well. A key part of CAN that we are now developing on the P2P Foundation website is the wiki, NORA (Needs, Organizational forms, Resources for Abundance) - that is, for any need and for any resource that needs to be managed, one will be able to find out about appropriate organizational forms for fulfilling that need and sustainably managing that resource. Beyond that, CAN is a social network, with a growing number of functions for discussion, for innovation, for collaboration, so that everyone involved can learn and improve whatever they are doing.

The following sections representing what CAN is about are available on the CAN website "About" page; check out the page for additional content.

Please also note that we are planning a side event on CAN after the conference, on May 25!


We humans are at a turning point, at a point where we may head either toward disaster or toward a renewal of civilization that will allow all humans and a multitude of life forms to flourish on this planet. The decisions we make now will determine in which direction we go.

We, the members of the Commons Abundance Network (CAN,) recognize that we are on the verge of an urgently needed deep social and cultural transformation that is just waiting to be made visible as a viable future. It is changing mindsets, re-ordering our priorities, creating new institutions and transforming old ones.

Our old economic institutions have been built on the assumption that people are isolated individuals who enter into social relations only in order to maximize their self-interest, who cooperate only in order to be able to compete more effectively, and whose material wants are unlimited. Unfortunately, such ideas are to a certain extent self-fulfilling prophecies. As a result, we now face a situation of extreme social inequality (where nobody seems to have enough and it thus becomes impossible to share the wealth with those who truly do not have enough), and of unprecedented threats to environmental sustainability (driven by seemingly insatiable desires for more consumption), and where most limits of resilience have been reached.

In order to reverse this course, we need to build on the new types of commons-oriented institutions and relationships, which are now increasingly emerging. Wherever people are steering/managing/producing their own resources in an inclusive and open manner for the benefit of all stakeholders, we can speak of an all-win commons approach. Commons can involve ways of sharing social or natural resources like Wikipedia or the Internet or common land or water, or they can take the form of cooperatives—commons businesses which include a billion members worldwide, one seventh of the world’s population. All-win implies that the approach takes into account the well-being of all people and nature as a whole. Many current initiatives operate under the principles of all-win commons even when not expressed as such. When we adopt an all-win commons approach, we work together and share responsibilities as well as benefits flowing from the shared natural, cultural, intellectual, and spiritual wealth that we inherit and nurture, with the intent of leaving as much or better for coming generations than we have inherited from our forebears. This will allow all of us to live better and be more secure, in short, to live in abundance.

The Commons Abundance Network is being designed to empower people and commons-oriented organizations by bringing them together in order to learn from one other, and to innovate together. This will channel our energies and help to transform or build the institutions that will enable all of us to meet our needs while using resources sustainably. It is designed to combine the power of modern information technology with the powerful desire for a better world in order to build a new, commons-based economy of abundance. CAN is being designed to be a motor for the accelerated social learning, collaboration and innovation that is needed to head us in the right direction.

Creating a better world is difficult – but it is necessary, and it is not beyond human ingenuity. So let's figure out how to do it, and get to work. We CAN do it!


CAN is being designed to support the following, mutually supportive activities:

Learning and Research

For all people: to learn about commons-based approaches as an effective means to working towards greater abundance and a world that works for all; to learn about the risks of co-optation and enclosures of commons.

For people wishing to start a new commons-based projects: To find information about how to get started.

For commons groups/clusters/networks and other sustainability driven groups supportive of a commons stewardship approach : to envision their activities in terms of commons and develop a discourse that can help expand and advance their own activity and grow the commons at the same time.

For commons groups/clusters/networks and people already involved in commons-based approaches: to learn from one another, so that their efforts can become more effective and rewarding, and exchange information to enable them to develop better solutions to the problems they face

For people studying the commons-based economy: to learn about experiences worldwide and to facilitate research on factors enabling success, and which approaches most effectively support abundance.

For commons groups/clusters/networks as well as individuals promoting commons-based approaches: to assess the full range of needs and resources for which commons-based organizational approaches have been developed, to what extent they have been successfully applied, both generally and in specific geographic regions and localities, in order to develop strategies for improvement.

Collaboration and Networking

For commons groups/clusters/networks and individuals wishing to start a new commons-based project: To find collaborators, both those who will be directly involved in their project, and those who can act as mentors or teachers or commons communities with which they can link.

For existing commons-based organizations/groups/clusters/networks: To recruit new members and to find partner organizations with whom to collaborate on projects that exceed the scope of their own organization.


For commons groups/clusters/networks and other sustainability driven groups supportive of a commons stewardship approach : to converge and coalesce the 'forces for good' around a commons-oriented discourse, to develop agendas for change, and to work together to make that change happen, at all levels from the local to the global (including the United Nations); to provide information on commons-based solutions to economic, social and environmental problems that can be presented as best practices to legislators, diplomats, politicians, and experts at the UN.

Becoming the commons-based economy at all levels we are advocating

For commons communities to learn from one another, network and collaborate on an all-win basis and thus strengthen the foundation, an “open source operating system” for the all-win commons-based economy of abundance that is now emerging.

Is the Commons Abundance Network (CAN) for you?

If any of the questions below apply to you, this is how CAN may be the right fit for you or your organization.

Are you perplexed how to come to grips with the social, economic and environmental problems that are disrupting your life and that of other people worldwide?

CAN will put you in contact with people and communities that have found ways of dealing with many of the issues that confront you today and with networks you can join that can support you as you develop the solutions most appropriate to your situation. Just go to the NORA (Needs, Organizational Forms, and Resources for Abundance) portal, which is searchable via major headings and subheadings, geographically, by keywords, or by following internal links.

Would you like support in creating a community/group/network of people where all can meet their needs by working together in an open and democratic manner? For instance, by developing a local economy where people with little money can barter for the goods and services they need; a community garden where all can cultivate organic vegetables; or an online center where people from different parts of the world can share cultural traditions, information, or best practices?

You will be able to find people who can share their experiences with you and help you get started, both through the NORA portal and the CAN social network.

Do you want to work in a meaningful job that contributes to creating a better world, or do you have extra time that you would like to spend doing something beneficial for your community?

The CAN social network will provide postings of job and volunteer opportunities at commons-oriented organizations.

Do you need to find people with whom to collaborate to start a cooperative (a business which is managed and operated by the workers and all share equally in decision making and the benefits) or a co-housing group (where a group of households reduce housing costs through shared facilities and ownership) or any other venture of mutual support?

The CAN social network will help you find like-minded people who are themselves looking for partners.

Are you already working in a community-based conservation program, or a food coop, or a community-development program, sharing design, hardware or software or artistic creations under free/libre or open licenses or any other commons-based project, and wish to share experiences with people engaged in similar projects elsewhere, so everyone can get better at what they're doing?

The CAN social network will offer forums and innovation spaces where people with similar or complementary experiences can exchange information, observations, and experiences, and generate new ideas how to make their work more effective.

Are you a leader in a ride-sharing or p2p car-sharing program (where people rent out their own cars) or in a credit union, or any other commons-based initiative, and need to find more people to work for you – either as volunteers or as paid employees?

The CAN social network will provide opportunities to advertise such vacancies.