IASC Workshop

IASC Workshop


Organizational Frame

Download Workshop-Program including overview and detailed session plan (pdf)

Welcome Adress from the International Association for the Study of the Commons (IASC) | Insa Theesfeld, Universität Halle-Wittenberg


Wednesday, June 6th, 6 pm

Seed and Variety Commons: Locating Novel Breeding and Distribution Practices in the New Commons

Stefanie Sievers-Glotzbach, Nina Gmeiner, Julia Tschersich
RightSeeds-Project Oldenburg

Enacting the New Commons: the Global Progress, Promise and Possibilities of Open Source Seed

One form of The “New Commons” is now being actively created around the world by various “open source seed” projects.  Although their specific approaches vary, they are all designed to free the seed from corporate control and enclosure through the application of “copyleft” methods. Kloppenburg explains how a prominent exemplar of this movement – the Open Source Seed Initiative – is working in the USA to create a “protected commons” populated by those who will share, but that excludes those who will not share. He describes how allied open source initiatives are emerging in other parts of the world and assesses the prospects for developing a global movement for a new seed commons.

Jack Kloppenburg
University of Wisconsin

Jack Kloppenburg is Professor Emeritus at the Department of Community and Environmental Sociology at the University of Wisconsin, Madison. He has studied the social impacts of biotechnology, the controversy over control of genetic resources, and the prospects for framing food sheds as an analytical basis for developing sustainable food systems. He is a founder of the Open Source Seed Initiative.

Thursday, June 7th

Governance of Knowledge Commons – Conceptualization and Remaining Challenges

Brett Frischmann will present an overview of the Governance of Knowledge Commons, an emerging field of interdisciplinary study. Knowledge commons refers to the institutionalized community governance of the sharing and, in some cases, creation of information, science, knowledge, data, and other types of intellectual and cultural resources. There are many different knowledge commons. Yet we know little about: How such commons work? Where they come from, what contributes to their durability and effectiveness, and what undermines them? Over the past two decades, scholars in various disciplines have become interested in studying these types of arrangements, and some have begun case studies. However, their research too often focused narrowly on the specific case or an isolated area, such as academic publishing or open source software, and failed to investigate the broader institutional questions or appreciate the need for systematic analysis. Building on Ostrom (1990), Ostrom (2005), and Hess and Ostrom (2006), Frischmann, Madison and Strandburg developed the Governing Knowledge Commons framework for the systematic study and comparative analysis of knowledge commons. (Madison, Frischmann & Strandburg 2010; Frischmann, Madison & Strandburg 2014; Strandburg, Frischmann, & Madison 2017). The community of knowledge commons scholars and the body of work are growing as many researchers from different disciplines use the GKC framework.

Brett M. Frischmann
Villanova University

Brett Frischmann ist Professor in Law, Business and Economics and a renowned scholar in intellectual property and internet law. His books (e.g. Governing Knowledge Commons – Oxford University Press, 2014, with Michael Madison and Katherine Strandburg) provide essential and defining impetus for the scientific discourse on Knowledge Commons.

Friday, June 8th

Beyond the Familiar Categories for Understanding Commons

The commons is not “a certain type of resource” nor a specific type of property regime. It is a life-form, a worldview, and set of social practices and attitudes.  Thus many of the common categories we use — such as knowledge commons, traditional commons, urban commons or digital commons — are too narrow in perspective. In reality, all commons rely on natural resources, the sharing of knowledge, and social behaviors known as commoning. There is no commons without commoning, as the saying goes, and there are no commoners without commoning. Commons need to be constantly enacted.

Silke Helfrich,
Commons-Institut e.V. and Commons Strategies Group

Silke Helfrich is an author and independent activist of the commons. She is founding member of Commons Strategies Group. She is editor of several books on the commons, gathering a great number of authors engaged in the topic from very different perspectives. Her books combine conceptual thinking on the commons with a wide range of practical examples.

Organizing team

The Research Group RightSeedsa cooperative project by the University of Oldenburg, the Institute for Ecological Economy Research and the University of Göttingen – investigates commons-based approaches to variety breeding, seed production and seed usage. A commons orientation in the seed sector, as long practiced in the Global South, provides a promising approach in reorienting the agricultural sector towards the international sustainability goals of food sovereignty and agrobiodiversity. The aim of the RightSeeds project is thus to assess the potential of commons-based seed systems to drive a social-ecological transformation of plant cultivation. To achieve this, the project employs a transdisciplinary research approach by integrating perspectives from the fields of economics, ecology, political science and philosophy, and collaborates with seed initiatives, companies and NGOs in German and the Philippines.

Organizational details

The conference will take place in Oldenburg. The conference venue will be the Schlaues Haus (http://schlaues-haus-ol.de/about-us/ ) in Oldenburg’s historic city center. The program is planned for a timeframe of three working days, Wednesday to Friday, from June 6th to 8th.

To ensure a high quality exchange of ideas and a workshop working atmosphere we will select no more than 25 participants that can participate (including the three keynote speakers; excluding the organizing team). The Call for Abstracts is planned to be issued in December/January 2018. Two main strands of discussion will run throughout the conference: “Theoretical and conceptual perspectives on the New Commons including normative and ethical views” and “Organizational challenges of creating and managing New Commons”. Those will be discussed in parallel in two texturing sequences: the creation of New Commons throughout Thursday followed by their management on Friday.

Specific research topics

In order to advance the theoretical and conceptual understanding of Knowledge Commons and Seed & Variety Commons, as well as explore practical organizational challenges of Knowledge Commons and Seed & Variety Commons, the workshop is structured along two parallel sessions:

Theoretical and Conceptual Perspectives on the New Commons
Organizational Challenges
of the New Commons

Creating the New Commons

  • New Commons as Means for Personal Wellbeing and Re-democratization
  • New Commons: Comparing perspectives from the Global South and Global North
  • Polycentric governance of Global Knowledge
  • Different Types of Knowledge as Chance? Factors for a successful integration
  • Alternative (business) models for financing the New Commons
  • Supporting Commons on institutional level
  • Commons and biodiversity/ plant genetic resources
  • Global Commons character of Knowledge Commons and Seed & Variety Commons
  • New Commons as means for social-ecological transformation
  • Addressing structural barriers to New Commons
  • Protection from privatization
  • Assessing the social-ecological outcome of the New Commons

Managing the New Commons

The conference has two day topics that represent two interconnected layers entailed in the management both of Knowledge Commons and Seed & Variety Commons. The first, inner layer focuses on the processes of generating knowledge and their respective governance. For Seed & Variety Commons, this refers to the common breeding of new varieties by sharing (breeding) knowledge on varieties or exchanging natural resources in the form of seeds. Topics for sessions include factors for a successful integration of different types of knowledge and whether such processes can be means for wellbeing and re-democratization. The second, outer layer refers to the management of the output of the first layer, which encompasses the usage and protection institutions regarding the resulting knowledge (products/services). For Seed & Variety Commons, this entails the varieties, their genetic composition information and other cultivation knowledge.

These two layers of Commons-organization are in a constant interaction and pose specific challenges and opportunities for designing governance arrangements. This approach poses practical organizational challenges such as alternative models for financing or assuring a protection from privatization. Taking a normative perspective, the wider societal relevance is assessed by focusing on practical social-ecological outcomes of the New Commons and their potential contribution to a social-ecological Transformation.

In addition, one parallel session will regard institutional challenges that apply to both layers of Commons-organization: polycentric governance of Global Knowledge Commons and structural frame conditions affecting New Commons.

Interesting links on the topic

Workshop on Governing Knowledge Commons

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