Our Commons takes one more step

Last night, Sackville Town Council approved a budget that included financial support for our Commons. The details have yet to be discussed and coordinated, but the Town is going to help us secure a site on which to build. We are far away from breaking sod, but it’s amazing to see an idea that started just over a year ago take on a life of its own (my first post was in October 2005).

For anyone who has not been following this story, here is what our Commons is about, in as few words as I can possibly use at this time.

Our Commons (no official name yet) is a physical space in which we can build our community. It will be outside the official places, such as municipal buildings, schools and churches. Our Commons is neutral ground where all are welcome. Our Commons is based on paid, individual memberships and focused on three areas – culture, environment and entrepreneurship. Members will have shared access to workspace, teaching space, meeting rooms and common areas. This will be an attractive, trusted space in which to have meaningful conversations about what is important for us. The Commons will also offer space to non-profit organisations, giving a focal point for much in our community that is unseen, especially in the environmental and cultural areas.

The lead agency in this project is the Atlantic Wildlife Institute, but the interest of dozens of other organisations and individuals shows that this is an idea whose time has come. Here are some previous posts:

There is also a lens on the commons theme with links to other initiatives, and I’d like to invite everyone to join in the conversation here or elsewhere.

3 Responses to “Our Commons takes one more step”

  1. Doug

    Harold;
    How is the Commons distinguished from the Civic Centre on one hand, and the University on the other?

    “… neutral ground where all are welcome. Our Commons is based on paid, individual memberships and focused on three areas – culture, environment and entrepreneurship…”

    Sounds like a university to me, or at least, what a university started out to be. Or a town hall?

    Elsewhere on your site you note the importance of evaluating expertise based a on portfolio. Is not a university transcript in essence, a formalized portfolio of accomplishment?

    I accept that urban design influences social function, but is the limiting factor a new building space? Or rather moving institutions back to their core functions?

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  2. Harold

    Doug; you’re right that the Commons could be what other institutions may have started out as. One area where the Commons differs is that there is no hierarchy (faculty, staff, students). It will remain small-scale, and should there be more demand, another Commons can be created.

    The structure is more like the Web (small pieces loosely joined) than a university (the trivium & quadrivium) or a Civic Centre (industrial age service to a community of taxpayers). It’s probably closer to a town hall, or the “associations” that de Tocqueville noted in early America.

    Here’s an example set of norms from an existing Commons not too far from here:
    http://www.queenstreetcommons.org/About

    Other links are here:
    http://www.squidoo.com/commons/

    In response to your last question on whether we should be constructing a new building or moving institutions back to their core functions, I have started this voyage based on what I feel is possible. The building of our Commons is a large enough task for me and for AWI. Trying to change the nature of universities or civic institutions is beyond my capabilities and interest.

    I hope that the Commons, when built, will engage a part of the community that lacked a venue to gather. Members will have a place to think, develop and propose the ideas of their particular forte, in the arts, business, agriculture, and in all the facets that make up our area’s creativity. Also, membership in the Commons will be around $40 per month. That’s much less than taking a course at any university; so I think that we are filling unmet needs in many ways, including creating opportunities for informal learning.

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