Commons-sensitive economy

In Deutsch lesen: Gemeingütersensitive Wirtschaft


Since Elinor Ostrom was awarded for the Nobel prize of economy, the importance of common properties for business came into the public awareness. The conservation of an intact atmosphere and the fight against climate change asks for the application of new technologies in economy. Natural commons like the rain forests and oceans need protection against overuse. Questions of the common wealth limit trade and the offer of services and products to consumers. It is difficult to regulate social common properties through the free market economy. Companies are already reacting. This happens because of the pressure from outside, as well as the understanding of the advantages of a common-sensitive economy. Business was always only possible on the basis of social, ecological and cultural common properties. Enterprises need schools and universities, natural resources, streets, social systems, scientific, musical and artistic traditions.

But also the new knowledge-based commons which where invented by the media became fascinating innovations for the economy. Internet or the language of HTML were an important factor in the efficiency of the modern economy. But also new networking structures create alternative public and political stages (citizen journalism, blogosphere, Pirate Party) and have influence on the communication habits and the stream of information between companies, customers and citizens (Web 2.0).

Open Source Software became a serious economic factor of the IT industry. The Open Access movement for scientific literature is getting rapidly popular in various academic disciplines and has good chances to change the market of publications. Not only the production of knowledge is concerned. There is also a change in the industry: regional spread production facilities like Fablabs (fabrication laboratories) and 3-D-Printer-technologies make it possible to produce low cost prototypes and individual pieces. The electrical industry shows remarkable developments in the field of Open Hardware. In the field of the power industry  the „common peer production“ shows new possibilities of decentralized power production with the active participation of power consumers – this will give the infrastructure of power a new face.

The necessity to preserve already existing common goods as well as creating new common properties is launching new products, business ideas and models and develops production flows, organization and structures. The avoiding of overuse as well as the care and the extension of common goods secure the overall future of economy. And often enterprises gain success out of them. Whether and how this will become an efficient economic system – within or additional to the money based free market economy – and which intermediate forms develop and maybe vanish is completely uncertain. This process can be influenced through political instruments like regulation of patent and licensing rights, economic restrictions like ecological taxes or promotion. Against the background of the failure of market and state fundamentalism, the development of culture, society and economy can only be achieved, if the initiatives out of the debate about common goods and Peer-to-peer production are taken seriously.

As the first inter sectoral business association e5 started the discussion about the difficulty of the commons. Here you find further informations about the projects and activities of e5 in this field:


  • 2013 – Ecovillages as Models for Sustainable Living. This project searches for sustainable economic innovations within intentional sustainable communities (ISCs) and initiates their implementation into the mainstream. It is sponsored by the German Federal Environmental Agency (UBA). More information here.
  • 2012 – Essay: Electricity Commons – Toward a New Industrial Society. This paper, written by Julio Lambing, is a result of the workshop „Energy Infrastructure as Commons“ (Berlin, 6. April 2011). It was financed by the Heinrich Böll Foundation. More information here.
  • 2008/2009 – Publishing of “Strengthen the Commons – Now!”. More information here.
  • 2008 – Open Source Clean Technology Initiative. Spread and develop climate friendly technologies with the strategy of „Open Source“. More information here.