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June 2013 Newsletter

Newsletter sent to all CAN members on June 13, 2013


CAN Newsletter, June 2013


Dear Members of the Commons Abundance Network,

This is now our second newsletter to the membership – the first one, sent out on April 17, went out to about 30 members, while this one is going out to well over 40 members two months later. We welcome all the new members, and hope that all members feel at home on this website!

A lot has been happening over the last two months about which we wish to keep you informed, regarding 1) the Economics of the Commons Conference in Berlin, 2) the development or improvement of functions on the website, 3) the NORA Knowledge Base, and 4) CAN organization and funding. We also have plans for the next few months as well as the longer term in these areas, and invite you to participate in any way that fits your inclinations!


Economics of the Commons Conference (ECC)

In May, we (Wolfgang and Helene) attended several conferences with direct relevance to the commons – the Ouishare festival in Paris (attended by Helene), the Geld oder Leben conference in Schrems, a little town in Austria (attended by Wolfgang; follow the link to "Veranstaltungen" in the link provided), and the Economics of the Commons Conference (attended by both of us). At the latter conference, the two of us got to meet each other the first time, although we've been collaborating on CAN since last fall! We hoped that Lisinka would also attend the Berlin event, but unfortunately that did not work out.

The ECC was of particular relevance because it offered the opportunity to meet commons activists from around the world (although the majority were from Europe and the Americas, there were also participants from Asia, Africa and Australia). Details about the conference can be found on their website; Helene has posted her reflections on the conference to CAN, and started a follow-up discussion on commons and abundance to which we invite you to contribute. A major intention of the ECC is to promote international networking for the care and promotion of the commons, and this is of course also what CAN is all about! Several of our new members have joined as a result of this conference, and we are confident that this infusion of new members will help our network thrive.


Website Functions

In the last months, Helene has been continuously adding to the collaboration tools available on the website, and addressing various bugs that affected the functionality of the website. As new features get added, or new versions of existing features are installed, some things suddenly don't work anymore and we have to find ways around these problems with the help of the Commons-in-a-Box developer community. This unfortunately sometimes takes a bit of time. If you find that something is not working the way you expect, please do let one of us know, and we can update you on what we are doing about it! And of course, if you have any suggestions for improvements of the site, let us know as well! These can be expressed on the Help & Support forum as well as in personal emails.

Further improvements that we wish to make include a more effective graphic user interface, especially for finding relevant pages on the NORA knowledge base, along the lines of a mindmap or a social network visualization tool. Plus, we plan to install more effective ways for you to find other members with similar interests as your own – artificial intelligence tools exist for this purpose, but we need to explore those and figure out which ones are most appropriate for our site. In cooperation with Seth at Netention, we are looking for ways to make data sources relevant to NORA accessible and searchable from the site, and to provide ways for members to communicate their interests and levels of expertise to other members.


NORA Knowledge Base

The NORA knowledge base is gradually evolving. Wolfgang is writing new pages (most recently a page on "opportunities to learn"), and his class of economic geography students have completed their NORA pages. You are welcome to edit existing pages, add new information, links, sources etc. If you find it too daunting to make edits directly, you can also send suggestions for improvements to Wolfgang.

Further development of the NORA database that we envision is to bring in more people who are willing to create new pages, and to update old ones. One important strategy here is to invite university professors to join and then to create assignments for their students to write NORA pages instead of more conventional class papers. Guidelines for professors how to do this are in development. If you know professors with interests compatible with NORA and CAN, in any disciplines, please let them know about this opportunity to have their students do projects with a wider audience and potentially positive impacts on society! They can contact Wolfgang for further details.


CAN Organization and Funding

As CAN is growing, we also need to devote attention to governance of the network – who is to make decisions, and how can we assure that everyone who wishes to be involved in decision-making can have their voices heard? A related concern is creating a formal organization, so that we can accept and spend money. This process will have to be open and participatory, but at the same time not all members may wish to get their emails filled with these deliberations! Please let us know if you wish to be involved in a group to discuss governance issues.

We will also be looking out for possibilities of raising revenue for CAN, so that at least a few people can be paid for all the work that goes into CAN – developing the functionality of the website, installing software and fixing bugs, coordinating and editing NORA, finding funding sources, creating graphics and better user interfaces, communicating with members, promoting CAN at conferences and other venues, etc. Possibilities include sponsorships from commons-oriented organizations or universities and other educational institutions, as well as grants from foundations or the European Union. These issues can also be discussed in the governance group, forming project teams within that group.


Member Participation

We welcome member participation in all these areas. CAN has been conceived as a commons, and will be successful only with your active participation, ideas, and creativity. We are now only at the beginning of a long-term project, which we hope will help change the world! The current situation can be compared to a supersaturated liquid, where people everywhere are unsatisfied with the current system, but they have not yet converged, crystallized, around a compelling vision for change. We hope that CAN will be among the crystallization points which will allow a phase change to a better world, and invite you all to be part of that project!


Wolfgang Hoeschele and Helene Finidori

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