Bringing academia and collective action together on commons

I am in Japan for the 14th global conference of the International Association for the Study of the Commons.  It is being held at Kitafuji, the northern slopes of Mount Fuji, which includes extensive commons and has recently been designated as a World Heritage Site.

Kitafuji commons from the sixth station on Mount Fuji, they are the pale green strip in front of the lake

Kitafuji commons from the sixth station on Mount Fuji, the defence area is the pale green swathe in front of the lake

The conference brings together people from all over the globe who are working on commons.  These are defined in the widest sense, ie shared resource, which includes land, water, air and digital.  Our legally defined commons of England and Wales have a place, as one small part of a much larger picture.

At this year’s conference we are remembering with affection the academic leader in this field, Elinor Ostrom, who died last year.  An award has been established in her memory and I am thrilled that the Open Spaces Society is one of the winners.

Collage at entrance to conference

Collage at entrance to conference

The IASC has individual and institutional membership, the Open Spaces Society being institutional.  The organisation is largely academic, as is the conference, but there are practitioners here, with a large contingent from India’s Foundation for Ecological Security, for instance.

I believe the IASC misses a big opportunity by not doing more to embrace practitioners and campaigners and those involved in collective action.  I said so at the members’ meeting on Tuesday evening and I found that many others share my view.  Certainly Lin Ostrom recognised the importance of linking academia with action.  So I have started a move to broaden IASC and thereby widen its appeal and reach.

Water grab in semi-arid Kenya
For instance, this morning, I had breakfast with Marcel Rutten from the African Studies Centre in the Netherlands, who told me of how commercial flower-growers in Kenya are taking communal water and making large sums of money.  It seemed to me that there is a campaign to be run here (and I think there is one developing).  There is a vast amount of research being undertaken on commons which should be underpinning action to achieve change.

This conference is different from the previous 13.  The organisers are the Onshirin Commoners’ Assembly, the Kitafuji commoners from the northern slopes of Mount Fuji.  These are ancient commons, the iriai, which are used today for silviculture and harvesting vegetables and as community gardens.  Part of the land is used by the national government as a training ground for the Japan Ground Self-Defence Force (just like Dartmoor!).  Part belongs to the national government which pays fees to the commoners for use of the common access-rights which they still hold.  Some of the conference halls are actually on the common.

Onshirin Gardens are part of the Kitafuji commons

Onshirin Gardens are part of the Kitafuji commons

Because the conference is on a common, and based in Fujiyoshida, a town which has no large university, the conference is divided between four venues and delegates are scattered in hotels in and around the town.  This makes for difficulties but it is exciting and appropriate to be meeting on a common.

Hundreds of planters are badged for the conference

Hundreds of planters are badged for the conference

The town and venues are bedecked with conference flags, and the helpers all wear blue or orange jackets.

The helpers at registration are having trouble finding my conference badge

The helpers at registration are having trouble finding my conference badge

The Kitafuji commons are being appreciated in a global context.

Ruth Meinzen-Dick, Chris Short and John Powell by Kanadorii Gate in Fujiyoshida

Ruth Meinzen-Dick, Chris Short and John Powell by Kanadorii Gate, with conference banner, in Fujiyoshida

Advertisements

About campaignerkate

I am the general secretary of the Open Spaces Society and I campaign for public access, paths and open spaces in town and country.
This entry was posted in common land, Elinor Ostrom, green spaces, International Association for the Study of the Commons, Japan, open spaces, Open Spaces Society and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to Bringing academia and collective action together on commons

  1. Kate,

    I saw your impassioned plea at the membership meeting. I do think (I’m a IASC member) that IASC is moving in that direction, but everything takes time. I certainly agree with you and I have volunteered to help organize IASC 2015 so I will keep your feedback in mind as we design more ways to link commons/practitioner/bridging academia and practice. T

    • Dear Raul
      Thank you for your comment, we must try to meet before the end. I have volunteered to contribute to the 2015 conference organisation too, so perhaps we’ll be in touch over that via Brenda. K

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s