The Celebrating Commons Scholarship Conference at Georgetown Law, which was co-hosted by Sheila Foster (Professor, Georgetown Law and Public Policy), Brigham Daniels (Professor, BYU Law), and the International Association for the Study of the Commons, with the support of doctoral fellow Chrystie Flournoy Swiney (JD/ PhD (ABD)), from October 5-6, 2018 was a great success! This two-day event brought together scholars and practitioners from around the globe to discuss the nuances, applications, and critiques of Commons Scholarship, which can be traced back to Garrett Hardin’s famous 1968 Science article on 'The Tragedy of the Commons'. This article spawned a body of eclectic scholarship challenging, and in some cases refuting, Hardin’s conclusion that shared resources must be privatized or governmentalized in order to prevent their depletion. Commons Scholarship focuses on alternative ways that collectivities of individuals and communities can and have come together to mutually enjoy and cooperatively utilize shared resources without falling prey to the “tragedy of the commons.”
Photo and story by Chrystie Flournoy Swiney under Creative Commons license CC BY-NC-SA
This vibrant, well-attended, and extraordinarily multicultural conference included nearly fifty authors from over twenty different nations presenting over forty papers on a wide variety of interdisciplinary, and trans-disciplinary, topics. Case studies were presented from Barbados, Brazil, Indonesia, Sub-Saharan Africa, Italy, Poland, Israel, Hawaii, and beyond, and topics ranged from “Indigenous Perspectives in the Commons,” to “Reconceiving the Commons,” to “The New Commons: Outer Space, Cyberspace, and Beyond.” Various other panelists applied the Commons Framework to water, cities, the environment, technology, biodiversity, and the media. The opening plenary featured three leading commons scholars: Professors Foster, Daniels, and Shi-Ling Hsu (Florida State University College of Law), who discussed the most recent innovations in commons theory.
Adding to the richness and diversity of this conference was a “Practitioner’s Workshop” offered on the second day, led by Amanda Huron, a professor at The University of the District of Columbia and author of Carving out the Commons: Tenant Organizing and Housing Cooperatives in Washington, D.C., and Paula Segal, a Senior Staff Attorney at the Community Development Project. This workshop specifically focused on Community Land Trusts (CLTs), a legal tool increasingly used as a way to solve the affordable housing crisis in cities throughout the globe. Following three presentations by practitioners working on CLTs in New York City, Baltimore, and Rio de Janeiro, an interactive, hands-on CLT governance exercise was conducted, whereby participants were involved in creating and debating the various ways in which CLTs can be governed and structured.
The Celebrating Commons Scholarship Conference at Georgetown Law was, by all accounts, a great success. Participants expressed an eagerness to plan a follow-up conference and to create a joint publication based on the papers presented. The organizers plan to pursue both in order to maintain the momentum and energy created by this exciting conference.