CAN History

The idea of the Commons Abundance Network was born on July 12, 2012, in a small town near Amsterdam. Lisinka Ulatowska, founder of Commons Action for the United Nations, had invited several of her friends to her house in order to discuss the Economics of Abundance with Wolfgang Hoeschele, who had written a book on the subject, and was visiting Amsterdam on a trip of several European countries. He brought up an idea that had just recently formed in his mind, to create an online social network to help people learn from each other and innovate in order to build an economy of abundance, of shared responsibility for shared resources, of the commons. This struck a chord with Ulatowska, who had been dreaming for years of a commons-based global community linked internationally by people who all in their own ways contributed to a world that works for all, and where communications and collaboration would be promoted globally via the United Nations; she added the desire for such a network to support advocacy for the commons. Emile van Essen, who was also present at this meeting, came up with the idea of calling this network Commons Abundance Network, CAN for short – "yes, we CAN!"

Indeed, it turned out that we can build such a network. Discussions continued by email and Skype calls, bringing additional people into the conversation. Very soon, Helene Finidori joined these conversations, bringing in her thoughts on engagement and networking at multiple levels and scales which she had developed in her blog earlier that year, and for which she was seeking collaborators. As these discussions proceeded through the end of the year, Hoeschele had the students in his environmental geography class at Truman State University in Missouri, USA, start producing content for the knowledge base that would be part of CAN – NORA: Needs, Organizational forms and Resources for Abundance.

By January, 2013, ideas for CAN were crystallizing, and Michel Bauwens gave invaluable assistance by offering the website of the P2P Foundation as an initial site for NORA pages to be installed. In early February, we went live with our own website, using open-source WordPress and Buddypress software, in the “Commons in a Box” configuration developed at the City University of New York for purposes like ours. Helene Finidori now took the lead in getting this site to work as a multiple-project workspace where knowledge and people could be 'pulled' together to make visible and advance ongoing initiatives on the commons and added numerous collaboration tools, while Wolfgang Hoeschele (and his students) continued to add NORA content; both collaborated closely in these and the many other activities that were needed for this venture to grow. They met in person for the first time only in May, 2013, at the Economics of the Commons Conference in Berlin, which also gave the opportunity for face-to-face networking with numerous people in the international commons movement.

Soon after that conference, in June 2013, we felt that the time had come to turn off the “under construction” tagline on the website. It is, however, still a small project, with only a few dozen members. We plan to add huge amounts of content to the site, as well as visualization tools and tools to help members collaborate and connect with each other more easily. CAN is as of yet an informal group of people, with zero funding. Given that we have gotten this far with so few resources, we expect that we will get much further as more people get involved with their creativity, and as we find sources of support!