The Journal of Peer Production - New perspectives on the implications of peer production for social change New perspectives on the implications of peer production for social change
Editorial notes: Public policy proposals for a society of the commons image

Editorial notes: Public policy proposals for a society of the commons

This issue of JoPP is dedicated to the policy papers originally developed by the FLOK Society Project with the purpose of kick-starting the transformation of the country of Ecuador into a society of the commons.

FLOK Society – an acronym for Free, Libre and Open Knowledge Society – is a research-activist project, which began in 2013 with the aim of developing a set of public policy proposals for the transformation of Ecuador into a society and an economy based on the principles of the commons, of peer production and free access to knowledge. Equally important, FLOK evolved a process for the development of these proposals, which was itself modelled upon the principles of the commons, of peer collaboration and free access to knowledge. In this respect, it has been an attempt to reinvent the policy process by organising its development from the bottom up. To achieve this, FLOK sought from the very beginning to engage a wide spectrum of actors in the development of its policy recommendations: not only academics, public servants and policy makers, but also hackers, activists, social movements and civil society at large. To this end, the project evolved a research process that was open, collaborative and distributed. It was open because the results of the research process – as crystallised in the FLOK policy documents – were released under free/open licenses, thus allowing anyone to use them, to modify them and to redistribute them. It was collaborative because FLOK made use of tools and technologies that enable distributed collaboration and promote transparency: for example, the project used wikis and pads for collaborative authorship, the co-ment platform for the process of peer review of the policy documents by the community, mailing lists and Mumble for communication among project contributors. Last, the process was distributed because anyone, regardless of their geographical whereabouts, could participate in the development of those policy proposals which, in order to encourage participation, were released ‘early and often’, thereby opening up their development process from a very early stage to the global community.

In this spirit, in November 2013 the FLOK project embarked on the development of more than a dozen policy papers encompassing the fields of education, science, culture, biodiversity, agriculture, manufacturing, energy, software, hardware, Internet connectivity, open data and open government, civil society, the social and solidary economy, institutional innovation, traditional and ancestral knowledge and the urban commons. Six months later, at the end of May 2014, the first versions of these policy documents were presented and discussed at the Summit of Good Knowledge (Cumbre del Buen Conocer) in Quito, where 200 persons – drawn from the world of academia, indigenous communities, the public and private sector, practitioners and experts, social movements, activists and civil society at large – gathered to review and revise them and the policy recommendations put forward therein. However, it is important to take into account that these policy proposals were originally conceived of as being largely applicable to any country – not just Ecuador.[1] The present issue is made up of five of those policy papers, which have been peer-reviewed and revised specifically for JoPP.

The first two papers focus on the transformation of the secondary sector of the economy, with emphasis on manufacturing and energy, respectively. In ‘Transforming the productive base of the economy through the open design commons and distributed manufacturing‘, George Dafermos looks at how the open design commons enable collaborative and distributed development models, which provide us with a template for re-inventing manufacturing on the basis of the principles of the commons and peer production. In ‘Transforming the energy matrix: Transition policies for the development of the distributed energy model‘, George Dafermos, Panos Kotsampopoulos, Kostas Latoufis, Ioannis Margaris, Beatriz Rivela, Fausto Paulino Washima, Pere Ariza-Montobbio and Jesús López explore the model of distributed energy as a viable alternative to centralised models and make the argument that energy could be more effectively organised as a commons, rather than as a commodity. In ‘Public policy for a social economy‘, John Restakis proposes the development of a public policy ecosystem based on the concept of the ‘Partner State’, which ensures the autonomy of the social economy as a driver of new forms of social and economic production. In ‘ICT, open government, and civil society‘, John Restakis, Daniel Araya, Maria José Calderon and Robin Murray underline the significance of ICTs as instruments of civil empowerment and propose the development of a ‘generative democracy’ as a means of reimagining and realigning the role and powers of the state and civil society for the social production of goods and services. In ‘Towards a new configuration between the state, civil society and the market‘, Michel Bauwens and Vasilis Kostakis introduce some general transitional proposals concerning both the micro-economic and the macro-economic level, shedding light on the concept of the ‘Partner State’.

In addition to the above papers, the editorial section includes an article by FLOK’s scientific directors, David Vila-Viñas and Xabier E. Barandiaran, entitled ‘the FLOK doctrine‘, in which they discuss the FLOK Society Project and the particular social and political context in which its policy recommendations were developed. In connection with this context, an unfortunate event in the history of FLOK was the rupture between FLOK’s research director, Michel Bauwens and the project administration team (as well as that between the latter and Gordon Cook), which we reckon there is no reason to try and hide from JoPP readers; besides, the fact that it unfolded across various sites on the public Internet has made it a well-known affair among commoners and netizens interested in FLOK.[2] The reason why we mention it is not so that we can point the finger of blame; we have no intention of playing the role of the judge. Not that a critical discussion and evaluation of the internal workings of the project and of the causes that led to that rupture should never take place; it is just that this JoPP issue is not the appropriate place for that purpose, as we do not wish to distract the attention of our readers away from what is actually most important about FLOK – its policy proposals – in order to take sides in a personal conflict. Let us repeat that: the focus of this JoPP issue is not the FLOK project or even Ecuador, but a set of policy proposals, whose applicability, in our opinion, extends well beyond the scope of any given country. Yet, even though we have no desire to consume ourselves in a conflict that has so far proven to be impossible to resolve in a constructive manner, we do however reckon that, in the spirit of openness, we should not try to silence the fact of that rupture; with that in mind, we mention it in full confidence that JoPP readers are capable of forming their own views on the subject.

We are hoping that the collection and publication of the above papers in JoPP will be of interest to our readers, thus contributing to the crucial discussion around the paths of social change opened up by the perspective of the commons.

Lastly, we would like to thank our volunteer copy-editor, Bryan Hugill, for the great work he did for this JoPP issue and Vasilis Niaros for his assistance in the task of uploading and double-checking papers.

The editors,
George Dafermos and Vasilis Kostakis


[1] That was in part necessitated by the fact that the core team of FLOK researchers, which authored the “alpha versions” of the FLOK papers, were (with one exception) foreigners with no expert knowledge of Ecuador. And so, the rationale was to adapt these “alpha versions” to the local context through field research (such as interviews with local social movements, experts and public officials) and through collaborations with researchers in Ecuador.
[2] For example, see Michel Bauwens’ evaluation of the project and Gordon Cook’s report.