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The Commons and Ann Arbor

The Ann Arbor Community Commons Resources

The notion of a Commons – the co-use and management of shared resources important to participants according to mutually agreed practices and rules – might be new to some Ann Arbor Residents, but the practice has had amazing success in communities for many years. As Ann Arbor sets out to cultivate its own local Commons, understanding the basics and how we can help each other will help all Citizens to come together as equals for their mutual benefit.

The Commons and Commoning

Within a city, ‘the commons’ can mean several things, and you will often hear the social organizations words used closely. 

The Commons can be viewed as a shared resource, which is co-owned and/or co-governed by its users and/or stakeholder communities, according to its own rules and norms. 

When the community comes together to maintain and co-produce that shared resource it is known as Commoning.

It is therefore a combination of an ‘object’ of cooperation, or resource, which is shared or pooled and the activity of its members. It is also a mode of governance, and the way decisions are made to protect the resource and allocate its usage, which is related to property formats (and separate from government and the market economy).

The Importance of the Commons Today for Ann Arbor, MI

The 2020 Corona Virus Crisis is perhaps a wake-up call to all residents of Ann Arbor to look at how our current economic, supply/provisioning chain, and political system has left us unprepared to deal with such a shock. It has also revealed the practical and moral problems of continuing to promote globalized economic growth at the expense of environmentally and socially just localized economic development. The needs of vulnerable populations such as the poor, the elderly, minorities and children are ignored by the market and current government systems.  

An emerging Commons-based sharing economy, running in parallel with existing systems, which focuses on environmental and social justice is a vital insurance policy and safety valve to prevent unmet needs from overwhelming quality of life.

For the City of Ann Arbor this means the commons can facilitate us coming together to create opportunities and enterprises to support our vulnerable populations and shore up our local economy against the struggles of the global market. It’s creation would ensure that our resources are going to where they have the most benefit, and improve the lives of all Ann Arbor Citizens.

Commoning Resources

The Commoning Movement is re-emerging all around the world, and many reports and resources address its growing popularity and influence in cities. These resources can familiarize you with some of the key aspects of Commoning we hope to embrace in Ann Arbor, MI.

Changing Societies through Urban Commons Transitions

By Michel Bauwens and Vasilis Niaros

Bauwens and Niaros discuss “the re-emergence of the urban commons as both a bottom-up emergence by citizens/commoners and a radical municipal administrative configuration. Starting with an exploration of the relationship between cities and the commons, with a particular focus on the recent revival and growth of urban commons[.]”

You can also read a Brief Summary of the Urban Commons Transitions Article written by CommonTransitions.org.

Sharing Cities: Activating the Urban Commons

Edited By Shareable

Shareable has created a short book composed of “ a collection of 137 case studies and policies in 11 categories that demonstrate that a city run by the people is not only possible, but that much of it is already here. From participatory budgeting in Brazil to resident-managed public spaces in Italy to taxi cooperatives in the U.S., there’s almost no service that can’t be run democratically by citizens for each other.” 

The Co-City: From the Tragedy to the Comedy of the Urban Commons

  • https://www.thenatureofcities.com/2016/11/02/the-co-city-from-the-tragedy-to-the-comedy-of-the-urban-commons/

By Sheila Foster

Foster adds social commentary to what ‘the Commons’ is and can be in urban settings as well as some outstanding examples of Urban Commons Success.


The Ann Arbor Community Commons has already began to collect valuable resources donated by local Commoners. An assortment of books, which will hopefully begin a Commons Reading Room Resources is also available to local Commoners.

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