A Commons Society is a systemic intervention within the market mechanism that acts like a Trojan Horse because it changes the rules of the economic game from within the system. It acts at meta, meso and micro levels, every year expanding to deliver resources to civil society and the natural commons that our existing economy starves of resources due to its systemic inability to deliver common wealth as well as private wealth.
This week the Elysia Commons Society entered our ground-breaking systemic economic model in the Buckminster Fuller 2016 Prize for a whole systems solution. The Buckminster Fuller Institute issues “an urgent challenge for a creative revolution to make the world work for 100% of humanity, in the shortest possible time through spontaneous co-operation without ecological offense or disadvantage to anyone.”
Here some extracts form our application.
The Commons Society or Commons Corporation is a new regenerative form of company ownership, finance and distribution, which at scale generates a stable, sustainable, fairer economy without government intervention or change in the rules of exchange. It is a game-changing, economic architecture of systemic stewardship addressing dysfunctions of the capitalist market.
It has been taken for granted that the function of the economy is to create private wealth. But sustainability and legitimacy require that it also produces common wealth.
To transform the economy, so it works for all humanity and nature, we need to solve the problem of “The Tragedy of the Commons” by bridging individual and collective interests.(i)
A core systemic problem faced by local and global economies alike is that markets, whether ‘free’ or regulated, contain no built-in, self-limiting or balancing mechanism capable of addressing the excesses of capitalism. Private ownership and free market capitalism naturally privatize wealth but degrade common wealth so that wealth creation inevitably becomes disconnected from the common good, ratcheting the wealth gap ever wider.
Communities, civil society and the natural environment are consequently starved of resources and left dependent upon individual or corporate largesse or state intervention. The system is dysfunctional.
This dysfunctional economic landscape cannot be restored through philanthropy, public ownership or political intervention or even more ethical management of individual companies.
Without a systemic change in the relationship between the different elements of the economy – between companies, finance institutions, employees, charities/NGO’s and communities – the economy will remain unsustainable, unstable and unfair.
Our solution lies in strategically re-configuring what already exists to create a more balanced and natural form of ownership.
By developing a network of for-profit companies held by a non-profit structure, which is governed by an ethical legal architecture, we can re-balance the economy so that it supports common wealth as well as private wealth.
Through a simple adjustment in corporate structure, applied through already existing and well-understood mechanisms, we can re-arrange (within an ever expanding network within the existing system) the relationship between different elements of the economy to generate a systemic economic shift.
The system we are developing is simple.
- The Commons Society acquires, through buying and receiving as gifts, established mature companies.
- These are then moved to employee management (as with conventional employee-owned organisations like John Lewis) to gain all the benefits of stability and motivation that ensue from that participative model.
- The profit is then shared through the annual distribution of surplus in 3 ways:
- Rewarding the employees who have created the wealth
- Funding community initiatives and needs through a Commons Endowment Foundation
- An investment pool which is used to expand the number of companies in the Commons Society through an Economic Development Fund
The Commons Administration retains a small amount annually to provide network services to the governance and communication functions.
The Commons Society retains three key responsibilities in each company: 1) an asset lock 2) a constitution lock and 3) authority over Director’s remuneration. Otherwise all power to run the companies (and to fail) lies with the directors.
Once a company is in the ownership of the Commons, its surpluses are held in common ownership for ever. The organisation cannot be sold.
A Commons Endowment Trust, at the centre of each Commons Society, governed transparently, allocates the surplus in the community.
Our model transforms extractive enterprise into generative enterprise within a naturally expanding generative economic network so power does not coalesce from accumulation of profit. All benefit, from the success of all
The key strategic questions in the realm of the new economy are posed and must be answered at a meta-organizational design level. We are unaware of any other solution that does so.