The perspective of the commons is being rediscovered as a versatile new narrative of economy, self-governance and resource management as a third sector complement to private and public sector models of ownership and distribution.
Currently, there is no automatic mechanism within the market to protect and build the commons, nor is there any institution within the State that exists to do so. However, a new kind of institution ‘A Commons Equity Society’, a mutual ownership and financing structure, offers an architecture that can use the energy of enterprise to develop shared value and community wellbeing by extending the commons. By mutually owning surplus-producing companies through a Commons Equity Society communities can invest in the things that matter by using the system to create a new system.
The Commons Equity Society
The Commons Equity Society is a means by which people can simultaneously provide for their own security whilst serving that which they have in common with others.
It works by simply redirecting corporate surplus back to the community – either because a corporation has been given into the Commons, bought into the Commons or grew in the Commons.
The mechanism for distributing the surplus flows 3 ways: to those that made it, to a core economic development fund (to purchase more companies into the network) and out into the community.
The distribution of cash into the community is not ad-hoc, it is knitted into the structure of the Commons Equity Society, such that, the cultural and social benefit of the surplus develops the capacity of the whole.
Three cycles driving three motivations: self-interest, common-interest and care for the other.
It couldn’t be simpler, we need it now.
The Commons Society Foundation is a not for profit organisation committed to developing new forms of ownership and distribution for the common good.
Our aim is to offer a different legacy choice to retiring entrepreneurs, by giving management of companies back to the employees already running them through a mutual ownership structure such as a Commons Equity Society.
Every day, business owners who have successfully built a living for themselves and their employees, decide it is time to retire or simply do something else. At that point, for the most part, they have only one option – to exit the business that they have diligently spent many years creating and to abandon their staff, who they have painstakingly trained, and to sell the business, risking it will be run in a completely different way or asset-stripped, or broken up or even shut down. Often this is not in the interests of employees or communities, but entrepreneurs, in the logic of the market, have little option other than to sell their creation as a commodity in order to be fully rewarded for their efforts. Our purpose is to offer new options that benefit owners, employees and communities.
We research, promote and support the development of models of mutual ownership, financing and governance to benefit employees and communities. A Commons Equity Society is one way of developing and resourcing socially impactful and generative mutual aid networks.
We are piloting a series of commons economy programmes of social learning and capacity building in order to establish multi-organisational mutual aid networks.
By acting as a facilitating conduit for the collaboration of different parties, the Foundation links together different types of organisations in order to significantly impact quality of life not only for employees but for a wide range of people whose needs are not at present addressed in the current system thus ensuring a more effective legacy for former owners.
The Commons Equity Society’s ownership design limits the degree to which capital can accumulate and concentrate in one single place. This is firstly because wealth, as it is created, is distributed in ways that create virtuous circles of transformation. It is also because the organisational units (eg companies) held within the Commons Equity Society cannot be traded and thereby be de-purposed. So the biggest and richest cannot simply buy smaller competitors. Instead of corporations enclosing land, capital and nature and renting them back to society for their shareholders profit, we propose to “re-enclose” them – through commons-owned networks – that will divert and direct surplus to where it is needed
Surplus wealth created by corporations is traditionally distributed to share holders. In a Commons Equity Society the dividends are paid to the mutual network which then distributes them according to the rules of its governance. 10% is retained for administration then 30% is paid back to the co-workers that made the surplus, 30% is re-invested in the economy of the Commons Wealth Society, and finally 30% is spent on the civil aspects of the Commons Equity Society, eg health, education, conservation and the arts.
In this way the Commons Capital is used to drive three virtuous circles of positive social transformation.
Because the surplus from the corporations is being shared into the Commons Equity Society for the benefit of all, the consequence of every co-worker’s activity is positive for everyone. This means that whatever the task being done, each person’s success is not just good for them, but it is good for all. The Commons Equity Society is a community of endeavour, where all work is meaningful and there is shared purpose.
This film is about one of the founding projects of the Commons Equity Society that demonstrates our values and capabilities. It was made by the Community Shares Unit and explains about how the Stockwood Community Benefit Society that put a rural business park and 150 acre organic farm into trust in a £2.6 million deal (www.stockwoodcbs.org).
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A local Commons Equity Society creates a domestic economy in which everyone involved is personally invested – whatever their role. Sharing surplus profit in the right way creates transformative virtuous circles of motivation, investment and
THE PROBLEM WE ARE ADDRESSING An economic system that has been described as "unstable, unsustainable, unfair and unhappy" (i) OUR PROJECT The Commons Equity Society is a new model of company ownership, finance and distribution