Commons Transition Plan for the City of Sydney

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* Report: Commons Transition Plan for the City of Sydney. Co-authored by Jodie Hampson, Inka Santala, Monique Potts, Tirrania Suhood and Bronwen Morgan. Sydney Commons Lab, Version 1, August 2019

URL = https://drive.google.com/file/d/1TxN4-XFORuS6i_xgL0QhLyWODXXWS6zx/view?usp=sharing

Version submitted to Sydney City Council – Version One


Status

1. Monique Potts, September 2019:

"The plan has been submitted to City of Sydney council to inform their strategy for Sustainable Sydney 2050 and will also form the basis of our direction and strategy for the Sydney Commons Lab."


2. Jodie Hampson:

"The plan is an ongoing works, and this initial version is intended as a 'conversation starter' and we have recently submitted the plan to Council for further exploration within the Sustainable Sydney 2050 plan context.

One of the many opportunities identified through the plan, for example, is the development of a network, which highlights and connects the existing experiences and expertise within the 'common good' ecosystem (both locally and internationally). The aim here is to connect inspiring people and organisations for increased sharing and commons capacity, innovation, collective leadership and the acceleration of positive change."


Description

"This document outlines the Sydney Commons Lab’s (SCL) ‘Sydney Commons Transition Plan’ as one possible path toward change. ‘Commons’ initiatives (defined in Part 2) are aimed at overcoming pressing modern challenges by providing an alternative to the motives and structures of a global market that often prioritises profit over social and environmental well-being. A profit and competition-based system disenfranchises people from their natural urge to cooperate with one another for meeting everyday needs; which is a necessary prerequisite for long-term sustainable change. As an alternative, this Plan looks beyond the mainstream market economy, promoting the study and support of changes that can improve social cohesion and connection; empower residents and communities; incentivise new and innovative projects; maintain and improve inclusivity and access to resources; and ensure that all of this is done in a sustainable way.


In the plan, opportunities and potential benefits for the City of Sydney are identified under three main headings:

1. Social – including neighbourhood and community cohesion, inclusion and connection; improving community members’ individual skills and confidence; developing community resilience and autonomy; turning passive ‘consumers’ into ‘contributors’;

2. Environmental – including the sharing and maximising utility of resources and food; and developing community level ‘stewardship’ norms for managing resources and associated environmental benefit;

3. Economic – including local economy benefits (new regenerative business models and approaches to creating meaningful livelihoods); economic resilience; and peer-to-peer arrangements for reduced-cost goods and services."


Contents

Part 1: Introduction

A Commons Vision for the City of Sydney…………………….………...……..6


Part 2: Commons Transition Plan Foundations

A) The Aim of the Plan…………………………...……………………………..…...8

B) What are the Commons?...............................................................8

C) Potential Benefits of the Commons..……………….…..……………..….10

D) Research Overview….………………..……...………………...……………….11


Part 3: Existing Sydney Commons Prototypes

A) Inner West Tool Library………….………………….…………………………14

B) Crop Swap Australia……..…………..………………………………………….16

C) Pingala………………………….………..…………………………………………..18

D) FoodLab Sydney………..……………..………………………………………….20


Part 4: The City of Sydney Commons Ecosystem Analysis

A) Organisational Financial Viability…………………………………………..22

B) Levelling the Playing Field……………………………………………………..23

C) Diverse Value Forms……………………………………………………………..24

D) A Commons Ecosystem………………………………………………………….25

E) Personal Livelihood…………………………………………..……………….…26

F) Partnerships……………………………………………………………….….......28


Part 5: Preliminary General Findings for the City of Sydney Council

A) Strategy Directions……………………………………………………………….34

B) Policy Framework - Recommendations…………………………..………35


Part 6: International Commons Movement and Ecosystem

Overview……………….……………………………………………..…………………..36

A) Bologna Case Study……………………………………….………………………36

B) Barcelona Case Study….…………………………………………………………37

C) Seoul Case Study…………………………………………………………………..38

D) International Interviews……………………………………………………….39

  1. Former Chief Strategy Officer, City of Ghent………………………………..39
  2. Commons Network, Amsterdam………….………………………………………41
  3. Goteo Foundation, Spain………...…………………………………………………43


Part 7: Conclusion

Executive Summary

"On a planet facing rapid environmental destruction and in societies confronting constant social and economic challenges, cities can factor significantly into both problems and solutions. With small governments and localised interests, cities are capable of moving faster and more creatively than nations – but they are also the level at which social and economic challenges can take root and spread. The City of Sydney has observed these kinds of problems – food insecurity; income inequality; a lack of community; disempowerment among residents – in its own research (including Sustainable Sydney 2050 planning endeavours).

This document outlines the Sydney Commons Lab’s (SCL) ‘Sydney Commons Transition Plan’ as one possible path toward change. ‘Commons’ initiatives (defined in Part 2) are aimed at overcoming pressing modern challenges by providing an alternative to the motives and structures of a global market that often prioritises profit over social and environmental well-being. A profit and competition-based system disenfranchises people from their natural urge to cooperate with one another for meeting everyday needs; which is a necessary prerequisite for long-term sustainable change. As an alternative, this Plan looks beyond the mainstream market economy, promoting the study and support of changes that can improve social cohesion and connection; empower residents and communities; incentivise new and innovative projects; maintain and improve inclusivity and access to resources; and ensure that all of this is done in a sustainable way.


In the plan, opportunities and potential benefits for the City of Sydney are identified under three main headings:

1. Social – including neighbourhood and community cohesion, inclusion and connection; improving community members’ individual skills and confidence; developing community resilience and autonomy; turning passive ‘consumers’ into ‘contributors’;

2. Environmental – including the sharing and maximising utility of resources and food; and developing community level ‘stewardship’ norms for managing resources and associated environmental benefit;

3. Economic – including local economy benefits (new regenerative business models and approaches to creating meaningful livelihoods); economic resilience; and peer-to-peer arrangements for reduced-cost goods and services.


The Plan draws on multiple resources as well as original empirical research in developing its recommendations and principles.

Part 3 of this empirical research identifies and examines, via documentary resource analysis and interviews, four existing Sydney based commons-oriented initiatives as ‘prototypes’ for further exploration. These prototypes – looking at food, energy and other community resource-sharing activities – identify the areas of need and the immense potential and benefit of such initiatives. By recognising and examining these prototypes, the potential for amplifying their positive impacts through a concerted and supported commons movement is evident.

In Part 4, commons-oriented initiatives across the City of Sydney are examined more broadly, through an online questionnaire and interviews. This examination identifies numerous themes for commons-oriented initiatives, including a disconnection from ‘traditional’ sources of funding, such as government and venture capital; difficulties in competing within profit-driven markets; the lack of a developed ‘commons-oriented sector’ ecosystem; a disconnection between levels of government on commons issues; and a lack of community awareness regarding the role of local government in enabling commons-oriented initiatives and a broader commons movement.

Discussed in detail in the Plan, this support for commons-oriented initiatives might include assisting organisational financial viability, and participant livelihood needs, and their ability to function within a competition-oriented market; logistical assistance, like providing space and infrastructure, recognising the initiatives’ contributory and collaborative character; and policy/regulation efforts. The international case studies identified in Part 6 further demonstrates this support in practice, by highlighting the concrete approaches local government have taken in support of the commons in Seoul, Bologna and Barcelona. Additional research asked broader questions from an international perspective, including interviews with international commons leaders and policy-makers and case-studies of commons-oriented initiatives, infrastructure and policy in cities in Europe and Asia.

From this empirical and original research, five strategy directions and eight specific policy developments (see Part 5) are recommended for inclusion in the Sustainable Sydney 2050 plan. These strategy directions and policy recommendations will also assist in directing the activities of the SCL.


Recommended Strategy Directions:

1. Create a coherent policy framework to support the growth of a commons ecosystem

2. Prioritise commons-oriented projects and localised community wealth building

3. Open public resources

4. Act as a broker between established organisations and the grassroots

5. Collaborate with other councils to advocate for change


Policy Recommendations:

1. Advocate for non-commercial finance loans

2. Offer a suite of commons-oriented capacity building workshops

3. Create an inventory of civic assets for use and make underutilized spaces available

4. Enable communal sharing, including education programs

5. Provide technical support and research funding

6. Provide entrepreneurship support and participative tools

7. Support two specific commons-oriented pilot projects

8. Support the development of a commons network

Excerpts

Acknowledgements

"In accordance with Bauwens and Onzia’s (2017) recognition that ‘the success of the individual genius depends on the collective ability to create a fertile ground,’ we wish to acknowledge the many players that were pivotal to the ‘non-linear’ emergence of this Plan.

The New Economy Network Australia, which formed in 2016, and Mercury Cooperative, have played key roles in connecting commons actors and in inspiring commons initiatives in recent years. The Sharing Map Sydney (n.d.) initiated a general mapping exercise in early 2018 with the aim of locating key local stakeholders and projects that could be working towards ‘commons’ objectives. Additionally, the Sydney launch of the book ‘Sharing Cities: Activating the Urban Commons’ (Shareable, 2018) occurred in early 2018, which brought together numerous commons-oriented actors across the City of Sydney.

Following on from these occurrences, a series of ‘Commons’ events were organised in late 2018, centred around Michel Bauwens thought-provoking work, and organised by social change consultants InCollaboration, and supported by the UTS Centre for Business and Social Innovation, Mercury Co-op and Start Some Good (InCollaboration, 2018).

Following on from these ‘Commons’ events, Councillor Jess Scully organised a Roundtable and invited event participants, interested academics and City of Sydney staff to discuss the progression of commons initiatives in Sydney. The interest from the Roundtable encouraged InCollaboration to progress a Sydney Commons Lab (SCL), which aims to support and promote commons initiatives by developing working models for policies, inspiring new initiatives and linking both with shared ideas, resources and energy (InCollaboration, n.d.).

InCollaboration took on the role of lead catalysing organisation for the SCL whilst collaborating with numerous commons-oriented organisations, including Sydney Policy Lab - Sydney University, University of NSW - Faculty of Law, University of Technology Sydney – Centre for Business and Social Innovation, The Sharing Tree, Sharing Map, New Economy Network Australia, Foodlab Sydney, P2P Foundation, Social Surplus, Mercury Coop, The Grove, Incubator Coop, Pre-Power, StartSomeGood, Shelter NSW, Urban Apostles and Co:Lab4.

The Sydney Commons Transition Plan is a foundational focus for the SCL. The Plan has been developed in dialogue with SCL members and co-authored by Jodie Hampson, Inka Santala, Monique Potts, Tirrania Suhood and Bronwen Morgan, with research assistance from Deborah Hartstein and Shavin Wijeyaratne. Work on the Plan has benefited from the support of the Allens Hub for Technology, Law and Innovation. It has also benefited by cooperating with the “Sharing Cities” research project, a continuing PhD research project exploring communal sharing as a form of ‘commoning’ within the City of Sydney. The findings of the “Sharing Cities” research project will further contribute to this ongoing Plan in the near future.

Finally, we are grateful for the generosity and contribution of numerous local and international commoners, including those listed in the references section, and the many that have remained anonymous."

Preliminary General Findings for the City of Sydney Council

(Part 5:)

"As outlined in Part 2, the aim of this plan is to work as a discussion paper, drawing attention to the growing number of commons-oriented initiatives in the City of Sydney and their potential implications regarding the local community at large. Additionally, the plan provides a practical toolkit, proposing concrete strategy directions and policy frameworks for the local government towards 2050. In this section, we draw together the results of our research and propose some general findings and concrete recommendations for the local government moving forward. These recommendations are based on the six recurrent themes (see Figure 3) identified throughout the City of Sydney Commons Ecosystem Analysis (Part 4).

As our initial consultations demonstrate, commons-oriented initiatives provide a valuable service to the local community, not only in terms of providing a service or produce, but offering residents education, creating social connections and increasing community resourcefulness to tackle the city’s social and sustainability challenges. Yet, many of the commons-oriented initiatives and work remains largely ignored by the mainstream market. As such, there is a need for the local government to better support these commons-oriented initiatives.

A clear need exists for local government to help connect these commons-oriented projects in the development of a more coherent sector. Currently, the majority of commons-oriented initiatives are working in silos with immense barriers to remaining viable within a competitive and profit-oriented market. With strategic support in the early stages, commons-oriented initiatives are more likely to thrive and become selfsustaining over the longer-term. The plan suggests there is potential for local government to work in closer collaboration with commons-oriented initiatives, opening up public resources for communal use and/or providing more resources for commonsoriented projects. In progressing the commons in Sydney, we note the City of Ghent experience (see Part 6) and suggestion to ‘invite an open conversation on how commons want to work with the city and allow them to self organise.’ We also acknowledge the importance of independent civic based institutions for ‘creating space for an open and open dialogue between the city council, city employees and the commons’ (see Part 6). We acknowledge that the Australian context differs in comparison to the European context, particularly in regards to power dynamics and legislative bases for influencing policy development and planning. Yet, as we have demonstrated through the Plan, there are many possibilities for the City of Sydney to enable and support the growth of these commons-oriented initiatives for shared benefit. As a financially thriving and wellrespected local government, the City of Sydney has the resources and capacity to really harness this potential, to create a ‘commons’ agenda and establish clear working guidelines."


License

This work is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License. [1]