CommonsFest is an initiative to promote freedom of knowledge (or free knowledge) and peer-to-peer collaboration for the creation and management of the commons. A philosophy that has spread through free software communities and extends to many aspects of our daily lives, such as the arts, governance, construction of machinery, tools and other goods. Through an exhibition, talks, screenings and workshops, the aim of the festival is to promote the achievements of this philosophy to the public and become a motive for further adoption.
Today a world exists where the freedom of knowledge and art is a reality, and where opinions are expressed and discussed freely so that decisions are taken collectively. A world where the common good is more important than individual profit, where there is respect for natural resources and for human dignity, a world where money is not the only means to cover our needs. In this world, you can freely grow your food, remix a song, tell your opinion about a movie script, improve plans of a tractor design, write an entry in an encyclopedia, participate in a process of political decision making or freely attend university courses. A world where you can build a house and cover your needs by exchanging goods and services with your friends.
In recent decades, the development of Free and Open-Source Software (FOSS) communities have grown new ways to creativity, based on collaboration and on exchanging knowledge freely. Later the management of open peer-to-peer (p2p) communities gave the impetus for the expansion of these ideas into many aspects of life outside the digital spectrum. This has shown that the peer-to-peer model can provide a more equitable and more efficient management in everyday life.
This model is based on some essential characteristics of these communities. The most important are, contribution, sharing and collaboration on a framework for covering needs where every participant contributes according to his/her abilities and receives according to his/her needs, leading as well to an establishment of knowledge which is available to all for common good. Another important characteristic, to which the creation and development of the Internet has played a key role, is that the communities do not need a common location but they may extend to all corners of the globe. This way people from different locations can collaborate on a common project by digitally communicating with each other. Working in a process of non-hierarchical decision-making counteracts the concentration of power within few individuals and all the problems that this entails. This peer-to-peer (p2p) method of management has created many goods that are characterized as being neither privately owned nor state owned. The name given to these goods are commons. These commons are freely available to anyone, based on a set of permissions governing their use, such as the Creative Commons (CC) or the General Public License (GPL).
Some examples of the extension of this open-source and peer-to-peer production beyond the line of digital goods are the freely available designs of the machines that are offered by the Open-Source Ecology project or community designed printers for 3-dimensional objects like the Rep-Rap. Free plans for simple to build housing like the WikiHouse and the extremely efficient car like the Wikispeed are further examples, as well as the patent-free recipes for beverages like the free beer and the open-cola.
The effort to rescue traditional seeds and the detoxification of chemical fertilizers and pesticides has developed a framework of knowledge that everyone can follow to meet his nutritional needs respecting the natural environment and human labor. Turning back to a more natural way of building, coupled with research into renewable energy sources, opens new horizons for the construction of eco-friendly and energy-autonomous houses, making one step further to create sustainable communities. If we add the Do-It-Yourself (DIY) movement to all this, then one can see the plenty of knowledge available to produce goods that can easily fill a large part -if not all- of our everyday needs.
All this could actually be a proposal for a different financial management and what is now presented is both, because we can see today that the present for-profit system can not meet the basic needs of the majority of the worlds population. Other communities may give us many years of experience in a different and more efficient model to cover their needs. At the same time we observe the effect of collaborative groups that surround it in a few words that would define as a social solidarity economy, essentially experimental efforts that accumulate over time but valuable experience in collaboration and solidarity.
It is obvious that the passage from the profit driven administration in an open peer-to-peer system of management can not be done from one day to another. It is worth it though to start creating small production structures for common goods, where conditions permit it, in order for small pieces to fill in gradually the big picture. We want The festival of the Commons to be yet another step into this direction.