As I mentioned, we are moving ahead with the idea of The Tantramar Commons, and the next step is to develop a business plan. Guy Kawasaki’s Zen of business plans, is a perspective that suits me well. I’ve used his short pitch format for business models before and find it’s a good way to focus, not just for investors, but for funders of non-profits.
My aim is to develop a plan for the longer term viability of The Commons. If we are economically sustainable, then we have a good chance for government investment in the necessary physical capital. This is a different perspective than that of a business start-up that has to show a return on investment on its capital. It’s more like the rationale to build interstate highways 80 years ago. We are creating some common ground for knowledge-based organisations that are not focused on short-term profits. One of our aims is to have a culturally, environmentally and economically viable community. Our Commons will be an investment in a garden plot, and members will decide what they plant and care for. The exciting aspect will be the opportunities for cross-pollination. Fiftyty independent organisations, all generating wealth in some way, stand a better chance of survival than one company employing 50 people. The commons is about productive living, not jobs.
Of course, we have to make money and pay the bills. However, The Queen Street Commons is evidence that a work commons can function. Our cultural commons needs to provide the kind of infrastructure that will support early-stage artists and crafts people and help them develop into viable enterprises. Perhaps some form of common teaching and learning space would do it. The environmental commons already has some potential renters but it may also need common space for shared activities. Access to free highspeed Internet seems to be a desirable common good for anyone who visits or stays at the commons, as our connectedness to the rest of the world is essential for our prosperity. Anyway, there are lots of ideas.
I’ve started to collect online resources and examples of commons and bookmark them. I’d appreciate any other information, especially experiences and similar initiatives. I know that there is a group in Halifax considering the creation of a commons as well. I’m sure that we’re not alone, as almost everyone I speak has realised the limitations of our current economic structures in supporting meaningful and productive work.