Brief CommonsScope Update

February 26, 2015 CommonSpark Uncategorized

Since our crowdfunding campaign was not sufficiently funded to hire professional web developers, we have decided to create CommonScope in-house using WordPress. We’ll integrate the CommonsQuest surveys into the website for ongoing crowdsourcing of content for existing commons. We plan to launch the CommonsScope site within a couple of months.

We greatly appreciate the support we received and your patience!


An Invitation to Share Your Opinion

December 11, 2014 CommonSpark Uncategorized

Our fundraising campaign to create CommonsScope wraps up on Dec 22nd. Thanks to everyone who has already contributed! Every contribution brings us closer to creating a website that will help people see the commons and give us tools so we can begin to protect them.

“The value of the commons is beyond reckoning. Before we can protect it, though, we have to see it, and that is no small task. Of course, seeing the commons is only a first step; the ultimate challenge is to protect it.” ~ Jonathan Rowe

Click here to contribute to our fundraising campaign

In these historic times, we feel it is critical to take an accounting of our shared assets. Some people call these assets common wealth, or in an archetypal sense, the commons. We invite you to share your opinion on five important questions. Better yet, invite your friends to have a conversation and then tell us the highlights using our online survey. We’ll analyze the responses and report back after the new year.

Listen to David Rovics’ song, The Commons, for a little inspiration.

Here are the five questions:

1. What is your community’s common wealth?

2. What is the most critical common wealth to claim and protect at this historic moment? Why?

3. What common wealth needs to be off limits to privatization or any other form of enclosure?

4. How can your community restore accountability for the care of your common wealth?

5. How is reclaiming common wealth related to creating a just, livable, and peaceful future?

Click here to fill out our survey

We look forward to hearing your thoughts!



The CommonsScope Indiegogo campaign is LIVE!

November 7, 2014 CommonSpark Uncategorized

Our campaign to fund the development of CommonsScope and the 
#CommonsQuest campaign to crowdsource content for the commons directory has begun!

Co-create CommonsScope and help make the commons visible so we can begin the process of reclaiming all we share. You can participate in several ways:

1. Fund the development of CommonsScope

The unrestrained ability of corporations and the ultra-wealthy to turn common wealth into private wealth is the root of today’s multiple crises. This theft and destruction of all we share will continue unless we act. Your contribution to this campaign is critical. Reclaiming the commons starts with seeing the commons which is the reason we are building CommonsScope. Check out our Indiegogo page and the fun, informative and generative perks!

2. Host a #CommonsQuest & #GlobalPotluck

We need your knowledge and we have a fun way to contribute!  Your call to action is to embark on a quest to describe our cultural & natural jewels. During this quest, we’ll inventory our unseen assets and assess the health of our common wealth. Your knowledge will give birth to the commons directory that will live at the CommonsScope website.

Organize a #CommonsQuest & #Globalpotluck in your city or online. Gather your friends to share food and have a conversation about your common wealth and how to reclaim it. Research and document information about your community’s commons. If you participate in a commons, please consider telling the world about it. Check out the #CommonsQuest page for all the details. Add your #CommonsQuest event or yourself to the map.

3. Help us spread the word!

This project has the potential to help our communities reclaim the commons and our future!  We all become wealthier when this campaign succeeds!

Follow us on Twitter
Like CommonSpark on Facebook
Sign up for our email list

4. Become a member of the contributor-curator community

Get involved from the very beginning! The curator community will contribute, edit, curate, and translate the crowdsourced knowledge. A commons isn’t a commons without a community. Join the community today!

We all become wealthier when we recognize and reclaim our common wealth!




The Degrowth Conference & a new name for our project: CommonsScope!

September 16, 2014 Ellen C. Friedman Uncategorized

I’m just back from the Degrowth Conference for Ecological Sustainability and Social Equity in Leipzig, Germany where 3000 scientists, activists, artists and practitioners gathered. People from 74 nations explored a wide range of topics and perspectives related to degrowth and social transformation including commons, climate justice, food sovereignty, anti-capitalism, indigenous initiatives, Transition, solidarity economy, new forms of democracy and much more. Check out the full program of about 400 events for more detail.

The conference is evidence of the emerging movement of movements, a nascent collaboration capable of addressing the multiple existential crises we face with diverse and practical solutions that can create a good life for all. Video can be found for many of the talks online. Opening plenaries by Albert Acosta & Naomi Klein, addressed the religion of growth and climate change as a civilizational wake-up call. Michel Bauwens, from the P2P Foundation and the Commons Strategies Group spoke eloquently about transitioning to a sustainable commons society.

The highlight of the conference for me was connecting with other people in the commons movement. I learned about many varied initiatives in Germany, Austria, Mexico, Ecuador, Brazil, Greece, France, England, Ireland, Turkey, and Finland. It was a refreshing oasis of commons thought & practice compared to the desert here in Texas. German and Austrian commoners launched the Transformap at the conference. Still in development, the team is creating a taxonomy for Open Street Map that will allow all the new economy map details to be featured on one many-layered map. We’ll use the Transformap in our upcoming website in 2015.

There’s big news on the Commons Atlas home front. The Commons Atlas has a new name: CommonsScope! CommonsScope is like a microscope for the commons. Besides focusing on maps & data visualizations, CommonsScope reflects our commitment to feature hundreds or even thousands of commons profiles.

We’re in the final stages of preparing to launch our long-awaited crowdfunding campaign. While we’re raising funds for the development of CommonsScope, we’ll also crowdsource information for the commons profiles. We hope you’ll join us for a #CommonsQuest, a global, distributed effort to document specific commons and what should be commons. We’ll share more about the campaigns soon!


Project Update June 2014

June 9, 2014 CommonSpark Uncategorized

We’ve been making huge progress on the Commons Atlas project since our last post.

We’re in the process of creating striking visualizations that will allow easy navigation of our commons maps, systemic threat maps and open datasets collections which keep growing by leaps and bounds and now feature almost 900 links. We’re using d3, a cutting-edge, open source, data visualization javascript library that utilizes a JSON format. You can check out the d3 library here. We’ve chosen to use the bilevel partition for these three visualizations. Here are a couple of beautiful examples:

Digital Commons Network

Which fossil fuel companies are responsible for climate change?

We’re getting very close to launching our long-awaited Indiegogo campaign! Besides crowdsourcing the funds needed to build the Commons Atlas and Directory knowledge commons, we hope you’ll join us for a grand treasure hunt! Soon you’ll be invited to host a party in your area or online to crowdsource data for the directory of commons.

Another big piece of news is that CommonSpark is now a nonprofit in the state of Texas. In the end of April, we filed for federal tax-exempt status with the IRS. We’re waiting on our letter of determination. If all goes as planned, your donations during the Indiegogo campaign will be tax-deductible.



What’s next for the Commons Atlas?

January 27, 2014 Ellen C. Friedman Uncategorized

The members of CommonSpark are ready to make the Commons Atlas a reality in 2014!

We are deeply engaged in the process of creating data and visualizations, including:

A Map of the Movement will help us see the better world that is bursting forth with new life from under the broken concrete that is business as usual. We are building an extensive list of commons and other initiatives from the sharing and solidarity economies. This data will be accessible through both maps and a searchable directory.

All Our Grievances are Connected will expose how all ecological, economic and social ills are connected to the commons. The commons is the common ground. It is a pragmatic, systems-level frame that will give us the ability to see the world with new eyes and help us create the paradigm shift that addresses the catastrophic, wicked problems that currently plague the world.

Privatized Public Resources will identify enclosures of public land, spaces, infrastructure, and cultural assets. This data will show the pervasive capture of our shared wealth by private entities. Currently, we only see the tip of this immense iceberg that tells the story of the greatest theft in the history of humankind.

Our Common Wealth will focus on the aspirational big picture of our shared ecological, cultural and social inheritance and their states of wellbeing. It is critical that we see what we share in order to claim our birthrights. Future generations of all living beings depend on us stepping into the role of steward of all we share.

The Commons Atlas also will serve as a portal to the existing commons-related maps and data visualizations, petabytes of open data related to the commons, and tools you can use to create your own visualizations and commons. You can get a small taste of what’s to come here on the CommonSpark website:

Commons Maps
Threat Maps
Open Data
Visualization & Collaboration Tools
Mapping & Commons Creation Processes

What can you do at the Commons Atlas website?

Discover. Explore the maps and data. Learn about real commons, how they work, their successes and challenges, and be inspired by how people successfully share.

Create. Use open data and the tools to create compelling visualizations. You can also visualize your own data and map local, regional, and global commons. Identify opportunities to form new commons and apply applicable processes. The wave of commons creation sparked by your creativity will transform the world.

Contribute. Contribute your knowledge to open maps and data. Add your maps and data to identify and strategically address local, regional or global threats.

Connect. Add yourself and your organization to the directory and share your successes and challenges. Identify commons-related organizations for employment or volunteer opportunities. Connect with other commoners.

Share. Use the maps, data, and tools to educate others in a classroom, online or in your communities. Share maps, data, and other resources through social media.

Stay tuned for the launch of our crowdfunding campaign and global data expedition coming soon! You’re invited to contribute your knowledge to the datasets and your money to a project that will create jobs in the commons sector and build an important and generative knowledge commons.

Keep up with the latest news about the emerging commons movement and the Commons Atlas on Twitter, Facebook, and email.


47 New Maps!

August 27, 2013 Ellen C. Friedman Uncategorized

The creative juices have been flowing and the Commons Atlas continues to emerge into reality.

What’s new? If you love maps, you’re gonna love this.

There are 19 new commons maps and 28 new threat maps. There are some seriously outstanding visualizations, so please take some time to peruse the additions to the collection. You’ll find lists of the new maps below the fold.

There’s also a new collection of resources, including pages of commons organizations, commons-related blogs, and outstanding things to read. Many of the publications have been released under a Creative Commons license and are available for free download.

One book of note is “Wealth of the Commons: Beyond Market & State”. This collection of 73 essays, edited by David Bollier and Silke Helfrich, is a must read for it’s clarity showing the breath and depth of practical commons solutions from authors around the world.

The new dataset is pure gold! The Guardian’s Datablog published an “Ultimate list and resource” which is includes all their datasets since Datablog began in 2009. It’s an immense data library, an A – Z with dozens and dozens of topics.

There’s yet another whole new section with an initial set of processes for creating maps and creating commons. A few favorites from this page include Hackitectura’s process for mapping the urban commons, and the People’s Process from Eradicating Ecocide. Also check out their Eradicating Ecocides, WISH 20 campaign to support an international law against ecocide and put yourself or your organization on their map.

What’s next?

We’re creating our first original maps. I’ve been generating data and working some big spreadsheet magic. It looks like we’ll use MapsMarker and D3 to generate these first visualizations for Austin Commons, Humanity’s Common Wealth, and Global Privatized Public Resources.

Happy Mapping!

New Commons Maps

Bike Share Map
Census of Marine Life: Footprints of all census projects
Census of Marine Life: Ocean Life: Diversity, Distribution, Abundance
European Protected Sites
Fearless Summer
Lake Macquarie City Council’s interactive map for crowdsourcing feedback on Warners Bay Town Centre
Mapping America- American Community Survey
National Atlas Streamer
National Complete Streets Coalition
NYCity Map
Protect your Watershed: An interactive guide to taking action
The World We Want
Waterkeeper Swim Guide
World Heritage List
World of the Census – census of marine life & visualization
Yellow arrow

New Threat Maps

Aquatic Dead Zones
Arctic Sea Ice Minimum Volumes 1979-2012
A Time-Lapse Map of Every Nuclear Explosion Since 1945 by Isao Hashimoto
Block by block, Brooklyn’s past and present: An interactive map showing the age of buildings in Brooklyn
Clean up continues from 2010 oil spill
Extreme Energy in the UK: The big picture
Fracking across the United States
Fracking and Drinking Water Contamination
Gezi protest map
Japan Finally Admits The Truth: “Right Now, We Have An  Emergency At Fukishima”
Main issues on Philopappos Hill for the local residents movement
Our Dwindling Food Variety
Privately Owned Public Spaces
Privatization Barometer
Privatization: Michigan School District Support Service Privatization 2008
Status and location of oil and gas pipelines in the Gulf of Mexico
State of Power 2013
Syria Tracker
The Colorado River
The Histomap: Four Thousand Years of World History, Relative Power of Contemporary States, Nations and Empires
The U.S. Immigration Detention Boom
TPP investment Map: New Privileges for 30,000 Companies?
Waterkeeper Swim Guide
What if you could see inequality?
Women Under Siege


Exciting News!

July 18, 2013 CommonSpark Uncategorized

The initial collection of commons maps, threat maps, datasets, and tools for creating data visualizations are now available on the CommonSpark website. The pages can be accessed by the sub-menus of “The Commons Atlas” tab.

Since we are still in the early stages of development, we are using a broad brush in defining both “map” and “commons”.  “Map” implies a wide variety of data visualizations, including but not limited to geospatial maps, timelines, network maps, mindmaps, and infographics. The Commons Atlas will have it’s own website eventually, but we plan to share significant pieces as they are developed to encourage feedback, conversation and collaboration.

Our commons maps are “in the spirit of the commons”, meaning they are somehow related to the commons. We include maps of existing commons that already manifest the community + resource + management processes that a fully developed commons implies. We also include maps related to what David Bollier refers to as “aspirational commons”, things that we know deep in our hearts should be shared, like water and air, but are not yet managed as commons. Discussions about how to sort the commons maps are ongoing and the linear method we use here will evolve to represent the reality of the interconnected commons ecosystems.

The threat maps represent specific threats to the commons ecosystem. Current categorization is by primary threat. Like the commons maps, the linear listings don’t begin to address the interconnectivity inherent in these threats. For example, Fraktracker’s US Pipeline Incidents 2011 – early 2013 map is listed under climate change, oil and gas industry and pollution. What isn’t seen yet is how these pipeline incidents affect a wide variety of commons including water, air, health, biodiversity, climate, cultural, indigenous peoples, food, economy, public safety and more. The pipeline threat doesn’t exist in isolation and it doesn’t threaten just one type of commons. The threats are systemic. In addition to climate change, pipeline incidents are related to biodiversity loss, harm to indigenous cultures, racism, socioeconomic inequality, resource grabs, resource depletion, and capitalism.

You can expect us to connect the dots soon.

We hope our two other new collections, data visualization tools and datasets, will empower you to get creative and make your own maps, infographics and memes. We will provide space soon for you to upload your creations, but for now, we’re happy to add your maps to our link library and share them on Twitter and Facebook.

We encourage everyone to submit maps, tools and datasets by using the simple form at the bottom of each page.

As always, we welcome your feedback.


June 5, 2013 CommonSpark Uncategorized


March Against Monsanto rally in Austin, Texas. Photo by Alain Braux.


For All Our Beloved Relations

June 3, 2013 Ellen C. Friedman Uncategorized

The 2nd international commons conference, Economics and the Commons, was held a week ago in Berlin. I was watching the livestream when a presenter asked, “Why do you work on the commons?” I heard a variety of answers including “justice” and “it makes sense”.

I frequent quiet, green gardens where direct experiences of interconnectedness are easy to access. This embodied relatedness with nature opens my heart to love for my friends and family, for my cats, for the trees, the bees, the frogs and all living beings who call this beloved earth home. It is love for all my relations that inspires and motivates me.

When I contemplate this planet I cannot avoid awareness of the vast harm inflicted by big money-oil-agriculture-military and the planet-eating political and social systems. They are committing terracide.  They pulled off the grandest theft in all of history – the theft of our common wealth. These corporations and their governments take from the commons with impunity and give nothing back except trash and trauma. They are literally stealing our future. This awareness brings me to a terrifying encounter with a colossal wall of grief.

What is the wall of grief? All of the emotions and defenses that we run into when we are confronted by the catastrophe of this historic moment: shock, denial, anger, fear, sorrow, remorse. I know this wall of grief is not mine alone. It is a collective experience. Meme scientists Joe Brewer and Lazlo Karafiath are researching the memes related to climate change in order to find the memes that will motivate us to take action. As they present their initial climate meme report to various audiences, they have gained an awareness of the need for healing the trauma produced by the storms of climate change and the potential for catastrophic ecocide. They realize that we have to address the trauma and the very effective defense mechanism of denial in order to create the livable future so many of us hunger for.

The trauma related to the theft and destruction of commons also needs to be addressed as the commons movement gains momentum. Hundreds of years of enclosure has created inter-generational trauma for indigenous peoples around the globe due to the market state’s theft and pollution of lands, water and culture their communities rely on to sustain life. When people stand up to protect the commons, they may be threatened with imprisonment or murder by the market state as the people of Turkey are now experiencing. Many take their own lives when the market state threatens them or steals their shared resources. Aaron Swartz and the thousands of farmers in India are only the tip of the iceberg.

All the emotion and defenses we encounter at the wall of grief and when we experience trauma are normal. In fact, they are healthy reactions to the circumstances. Time is running short for the commons and for a livable future. We must act now, not later, to create an opening through the wall.

When I follow the threads of my own grief-related emotion, I reach one feeling that is at the core and it provides not only motivation but great healing. Love. It is love that will empower “The Great Turning” and the shift from an industrial-growth society into a life-sustaining civilization. As activist and teacher Thorne Coyle recently said, “Justice requires loving presence. Equity requires loving presence. Integrity requires loving presence.” To get right with the web of life and heal our relationships with each other, other species, and the planet, we must honor our denial, sorrow, anger and remorse. We must forgive ourselves for participating in a system that has proven to be parasitical. And we must tap our love. Our love will lead us to the principles and values that really matter and motivate us to action that heals the world.

I encourage you to find people you can talk with about your feelings and trauma associated with climate change and damage to our commons. Talk about it with all your relations: with friends, family, neighbors, co-workers, counselors, and even complete strangers. They are experiencing this too. You are not alone. Talking will heal. It will help you honor and accept your emotion and motivate you to action that liberates all our beloved relations.

You may be asking yourself, “OK, I get why love motivates you, but why work with the commons?” The more I learn about the commons paradigm, the more hope I find. The commons paradigm is a new and old way to be in healthy relationship with the web of life. The commons are not just the resources we share, they are are our relationships and the practical methods we use to claim and protect all we share. There are no commons without commoning – working together to collectively claim, protect, and govern our common wealth. It is through our relationships that we will heal ourselves and the web of life and create the renaissance that is the Great Turning.


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