The Countryside and Community Research Institute of Gloucestershire University has published an e-book on the biennial, global conferences of the International Association of the Study of the Commons (IASC).
It is by John Powell and Chris Short of CCRI, and me, and includes many of the blogs we wrote during the conferences. It is called A Companion to IASC Commons Conferences and you can download it here.
I was a bit of a latecomer. My first attendance at an IASC conference was the one held in 2008 at Cheltenham, which was organised by CCRI. Here is my note from the e-book about my introduction to the world of IASC and its conferences.
Although I had been working on commons for the Open Spaces Society for 24 years, my knowledge of commons as a global concept, extending beyond land and water, was woefully inadequate in the year 2008. That all changed when I received an invitation from Graham Bathe of Natural England (NE), who was hosting a pre-conference workshop. I was to join speakers from NE, the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, and the Federation of Cumbria Commoners, the theme being ‘Connecting the UK’s Ancient and Contemporary Commons’.
I was not familiar with addressing an international audience, but it was extremely rewarding; there was an immense level of interest and I was surprised and pleased to learn that many delegates were familiar with Lord Eversley’s book of 1910: Commons, Forests and Footpaths—for some it was bedtime reading!
But even more interesting for me was the opportunity to take part in the policy forum in the big marquee on the following day. It was about ‘Creating a political voice for the commons’ and enabled me to talk about the campaigning which is dear to my heart. It was organised by Ruth Meinzen-Dick and Stephan Dorhn from Collective Action and Property Rights (Capri), and there were speakers from United Nations, Africa and India.
It was then that I began to appreciate that commons have different meanings in different nations, and that they are under threat worldwide. In England and Wales commons are probably safer when they are owned or managed by public bodies, but I learnt that elsewhere it is the opposite: governments are stealing commons from the people.
The Cheltenham conference opened my eyes to the world of commons and shortly afterwards I joined the IASC and have attended every biennial conference since.