NORA Commons Resource Model

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Wolfgang Hoeschele:

"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 or managing that resource."

NORA is a component of the Commons Abundance Network.

Proposed ontology and structure

Shown here is a draft version from early 2013. The current version is available on the Commons Abundance Network website.


All Living Organisms These are needs that we must take care to meet not only for humans, but also for animals and plants (i.e., to make sure that animals and plants have the habitats they need where there is clean air and water, where food sources are there, and from which they can reach other habitats if needed, as in seasonal migrations).

  • Clean air to breathe
  • Clean water to drink, for cleanliness, for cooking and as habitat
  • Sufficient and nutritious food, appropriate to one’s cultural preferences and taste
  • Being at home in the place where one lives
  • Mobility to reach the places one needs to go, with appropriate modes of transportation

Humans These are either strictly human needs, or needs that we share with animals and plants but that are typically provided for if their needs for habitat are satisfied.

  • Security from bodily, emotional, and mental harm; this includes security when one cannot take

care of oneself (e.g., in infancy and childhood, in old age, or due to illness or disability)

  • Clothing appropriate to one’s cultural and individual preferences, and the climate
  • Shelter/housing appropriate to one’s cultural and individual preferences, and the climate
  • Physical and mental health, and access to appropriate care in the case of illness or disability
  • Supportive relationships with other people, relationships that empower, that contribute to a

gain in personal energy rather than an energy drain

  • Opportunities to learn anything and everything relevant to one's life
  • Meaningful livelihoods that allow people to meet their other needs
  • Participation in collective economic and political decision-making
  • Having enough time to relax, to think, to imagine, to enjoy life, to play, to be alone
  • Spiritual connection with one’s deeper self and with a transcendent unity
  • A freely chosen life direction


Air and Atmosphere

  • air quality near the Earth’s surface
  • air quality affecting the ozone layer
  • gaseous composition of the atmosphere, including greenhouse gases


  • fresh water (surface, groundwater)
  • brackish and estuarine water
  • marine water
  • ice (glaciers, ice caps, permafrost)


  • land for agriculture and forestry (annual crops, horticulture, gardens, orchards, grazing and range land, forest plantations, freshwater aquaculture etc.)
  • land for nature preservation
  • land used for mining
  • land used for industrial manufacturing and energy generation
  • urban (residential and commercial) land
  • land used for waste disposal


  • fossil fuels
  • solar (photovoltaic, solar thermal, building design)
  • wind energy (used for wind power, sailing ships)
  • energy from water (rivers, tides, ocean currents)
  • geothermal energy
  • energy from biological sources (wood and other fuels, organic waste)
  • animal power
  • human power (e.g., cycling, seesaws to power water pumps)


  • iron and other ferrous metals
  • non-ferrous metals
  • rare earths
  • common rocks and gravel (e.g., granite, marble, slate)
  • clay
  • gems

Living things (plants, animals, fungi, micro-organisms)

  • crop plants (genetic diversity and resilience)
  • domesticated animals (genetic diversity and resilience)
  • plant species (as well as larger taxonomic groups or vegetation types)
  • animal species (as well as larger taxonomic groups)
  • habitats and ecosystems

Physical, human-made assets

  • buildings and the spaces around them
  • transportation infrastructure
  • communications and information infrastructure
  • the built structures of cities and towns
  • vehicles and transport equipment
  • furniture and household appliances
  • industrial equipment and machinery
  • repositories of knowledge (libraries)
  • works of art, craft, cultural artifacts etc.


  • information
  • knowledge
  • trust
  • love
  • spirituality

Organizational Forms

In order to use resources to meet needs (in whichever way those may be defined), a host of organizational forms are required. In an economy that uses commons approaches to meet the needs of humans and other life forms on this planet while using resources sustainably, existing organizational forms may be used, modified, or discarded, while other new forms are created. The organizational forms below refer to forms that may be organized either in hierarchical and unsustainable ways, or as commons where all relevant stakeholders can participate in decision-making and share in the benefits and responsibilities of using resources sustainably. More detailed discussion of each organizational form will focus on how they can be managed as commons, or be transformed to approximate a commons.

Each of the clusters listed below includes a huge diversity of economic activities, but the relationships among producers on the one hand and users/customers on the other are somewhat similar within each category. The links of the main clusters will lead to analyses of how each cluster relates to the other clusters, who the relevant stakeholders are within the cluster, which of them are empowered or disempowered by currently dominant versions of those organizational forms (i.e., how abundance and scarcity are distributed), and links to further pages on commons-based organizational forms within the cluster.

Self-provisioning cluster

Self-provisioning by individuals, households or larger groups/organizations

Breathing the air, drinking water from an openly accessible source, growing one's own food, cooking and other work in the household, parenting, taking care of elderly or ill people in the household, DIY, household-level renewable energy systems, building one's own shelter, consumer cooperatives and buying clubs, fab-labs, etc.

Community solidarity cluster

Community solidarity: mutual aid within a community

People helping each other because of a shared identity, with the expectation that one who needs help now may be able to offer help at some other time, and vice versa; conformity to social conventions or an honor code may also be expected. Shared identity can be on the basis of neighborhood, kinship, ethnic or geographic origin, class status, occupational group, a Mafia membership, religion, ideology, membership in an intentional community, among many others. Sometimes, solidarity may be extended on the basis of shared humanity (as in the good Samaritan story), or even on the basis of being a living thing (as in humans helping animals, or a dolphin helping a human).

Natural resource management cluster

Ownership/control of land, nonrenewable resources, fisheries, wildlife, timber, the atmosphere, the oceans, the ocean bed, Antarctica, outer space.

Property forms include common property, no-one's property, government property, or private property.

Individual sales cluster

Production and distribution of goods or services for sale to customers, without monopoly or obligations or contracts for repeat sales

Examples: Family farms, most small and medium enterprises (SMEs), most manufacturing, agricultural plantations, mining, retailing and wholesaling, publishing, restaurants, theaters, cinemas, some legal services, some private medical practice, some consulting, airlines where there is competition between carriers.

Ownership may be by self-employed people, private owners, corporations, worker cooperatives, the state (state-owned enterprises). The organizations may be for profit or not-for-profit.

Constrained-choice sales or service cluster

Production of goods or services for a defined service area or community that typically involves a continuing relationship between the service provider and customers/users/members over one or more years (one-to-many, continuous exchange)

Water, sewage, electric, natural gas, telephone, cable etc. utilities; public transport and airlines where there is little or no competition between carriers; transportation (road networks, ports and airports) and telecommunications infrastructure; public parks and places; production of large aircraft, large weapon systems, industrial plants, transportation infrastructure; corporate or government (e.g., military) research which is not to be shared with a wider community; banking, insurance, and other financial services; monopolies in any industrial sector; educational institutions; hospitals and long-term medical care; retirement homes; social services, such as unemployment and retirement benefits; legislation, the courts, arbitration and dispute settlement; law and rule enforcement; government administration and taxation, the military (in its relationship with citizens); subscriptions and long-term contracts such as media by subscription, some consulting, coaching, as well as online social networks and community supported agriculture; religious institutions; professional and business associations, chambers of commerce, unions; community development and planning institutions.

Such services can be in the ownership/control of private businesses, the state, workers, the people whose needs are supposed to be met (clients, customers, users, members, citizens, patients, students) or some combination of the above.

Coercion and denial of choice cluster

Armed forces (in their relations to internal or external enemies), the criminal justice system, prisons and other forms of punishment, paramilitaries and rebel forces, and institutional mechanisms used to back up this kind of force. Border controls that prevent people from leaving a country and totalitarian control are very strong forms of coercion, backed up by multiple institutions. In the case of genocide, the entire state apparatus may be employed for the purpose of coercion and mass murder.

Abundance and the commons imply the absence of a freedom-denying state, but even in a commons-based scenario it is necessary to consider how to handle national defense (as long as other states pose a potential threat), and criminal infractions.

Sharing/renting cluster

Sharing, renting or leasing of assets without transfer of property title

Rental/leasing of land, houses, apartments, cars and other goods, car sharing (as a business or P2P), informal or formal sharing of household goods, sharing of assets among businesses or other organizations, libraries (of books, artworks, tools, etc.). This differs from service provision in categories listed above in that the user has control over the thing being used for the duration of the rental contract.

Both owner and renter/user can be an individual or any type of organization or group.

Free knowledge cluster

Production of knowledge- or information-based services on behalf of a vaguely defined community of beneficiaries, most of whom can potentially benefit from those services freely

Advocacy non-profits, think tanks, public research institutions, open-source software production, information placed on the Internet, an increasing share of publishing. The information or knowledge produced becomes part of the public domain or commons, while the producers may be organized in a wide variety of forms, including dispersed networks (not usually possible for most other categories of production).


Government/central bank-issued currencies, complementary/alternative/parallel currencies, scrip, coupons, LETS, time banks. The currency circulates through the hands of many people and organizations, but a large part of the control or influence remains with the organization that issues the currency and create the rules by which it circulates.


Loose networks that involve collaboration or competition with varying partners, where no individual or organization has the exact same set of partners as any other. Examples include friendship and professional networks, industrial districts of many small businesses with shared ways of doing things, alliances of organizations working for a common cause but directed by no single organization, the “international community” involved in international politics, open-source software development groups, and markets.

If excessive power imbalances and hierarchies are avoided, networks can allow both communities and individuals within them to flourish.