Principles we can agree upon?

Dear all,

I have been at the World Social Forum in Tunis and had a thrilling conversation with Ashish Kortari,
We shared the idea, that the convergences (of different alternatives) can only take place at the level of principles. And many organisations worldwide have been moving forward with that idea and they came up with a set of principles I want to share with you here and to suggest them as the basis for further discussion and adaptions for our purposes:

Here they are:
Please comment intensively

  • what you like
  • what you don’t like and why
  • what you can and cannot agree with
  • suggest reformulations and share the arguments you have for a new suggestion.

I will then take care of incorporating it into the set of principles.
Here we go!


(taken from the key principles of Radical Ecological Democracy and the People’s Sustainability Treaties as formulated here; this principles are constantly updated)

#1: Ecological integrity

The functional integrity of the ecological processes (especially the global freshwater cycle), ecosystems, and biological diversity that is the basis of all life on earth.

#2: Deep equity and justice

Equitable access of all human beings, in current and future generations, to the conditions needed for human well-being (socio-cultural, economic, political, ecological), without endangering any other person’s access; equity between humans and other elements of nature; and social, economic, and environmental justice for all.

3: Right to meaningful participation

The right of each citizen and community to meaningfully participate in crucial decisions affecting her/his/its life, and to the conditions that provide the ability for such participation, as part of a radical, participatory democracy.

4: Responsibility

The responsibility of each citizen and community to ensure meaningful decision-making that is based on the twin principles of ecological sustainability and socio-economic equity.

5: Diversity

The integrity of the diversity of environments and ecologies, species and genes (wild and domesticated), cultures, ways of living, knowledge systems, values, livelihoods, and polities (including those of indigenous peoples and local communities), in so far as they are in consonance with the principles of sustainability and equity.

6: Collective commons and solidarity

Collective and co-operative thinking and working founded on the socio-cultural, economic, and ecological commons, respecting both common custodianship and individual freedoms and innovations within such collectivities, with inter-personal and inter-community solidarity as a fulcrum.

7: Rights of nature

The right of nature and all species (wild and domesticated) to survive and thrive in the conditions in which they have evolved, and respect for the ‘community of life’ as a whole.

8: Resilience and adaptability

The ability of communities and humanity as a whole, to respond, adapt and sustain the resilience needed to maintain ecological sustainability and equity in the face of external and internal forces of change, including through respecting the conditions enabling the resilience of nature.

9: Subsidiarity and ecoregionalism

Local rural and urban communities (small enough for all members to take part in decision-making) as the fundamental unit of governance, linked with each other at bioregional and ecoregional levels into landscape, regional, national and international institutions that are answerable to these basic units.


This is a great, important, challenging conversation to open up! Seems like a good list there. I want to add some suggestions based on my experiences with designing and running similar process in groups:

  1. Identify a clear boundary or “membrane” around whatever position statements or principles are adopted, so that it is clear when someone crosses into the space where those things are upheld and applied (membership in the organization? any contributor? anyone who participates or uses transformap products / solutions?)

  2. Understand the link between these ideas, and associated actions - so, what activities within the organization relate to each principle? what kinds of decisions will be informed by reference to these statements? In the case of transformap for example, I wonder how the principle of Ecological Integrity would be applied - does this mean something like conserving energy on the host server? Avoiding unnecessary travel? Limiting the taxonomy categories to only subjects which represent high ecological integrity?

  3. There are a range of different types of ideas that can fall under the general collection of ‘principles’ for the org, and it can be useful to distinguish these and understand how they relate. I have been working to develop and test a process called “culture mapping” which identifies the following major categories: Beliefs, Principles, Values, Practices - try to distinguish between what each of these represents and how it can be used!

  4. Define which ones are close to “rules” and which ones are “recommendations” - or how are they used in practice and in governance for the project. Also, of course, how / when can they change and evolve as the project grows and learns.

  5. How do they relate to wider field of related groups, values, intentions etc. - where do these ideas come from, what else do they connect / relate to, what other perspectives can be seen - so that yes, as you say Silke, it makes for an easier point of connection and solidarity with other groups and individuals in the future

  6. A way to document how are these actually being used, embodied, demonstrated by the project as you go forward, in order to show what they really mean to you.


Just stumbled about this thread and , yes, we should integrate this for example
for selecting POI layers. Could be a better approach as the current “topic=need” proposal ?

Have you heard of David Ing?
@bhaugen wrote on GitHub:

@almereyda tipped me to this over in Google+:

Their intro slide deck mention conversations for orientation, conversations for possibilities, conversations for action, and conversations for clarification.

Makes sense to me.

Indeed. Doesn’t this sound quite similar:

  • Beliefs > orientation
  • Principles > possibilities
  • Values > clarification
  • Practices > action

This feedback loop is especially interesting for me, as it was David during a federated wiki hangout who brought me into pattern languages, which are also in Silke’s domain now.

“needs” and “principles” are sth. very different. To my knowledge there is no more comprehensive approach (anchored in the diversity of realities so to say) to describe and grasp what “economy” is for than simply asking: Does x or y activity meet people’s needs?

So, why @toka, whould you think a needs-approach and a the search for principles could be interchangeable?

trying to figure out the shared principles of TAPAs is addressing the
paradigmatic level, while using “needs” as categories is the only way I see to put the “whole of life” (das Ganze des Lebens) back into the concept of economy (which should be called oikonomy at least)

Juhuu! @Giuliana will like to read that.

I’m delighted to see this important thread begin to take off. The initial list of principles is a great starting point.

I’ve used the “beliefs-principles-values-practices” in prior writing in relation to professional ethics. I learned about this methodology in the late 1990’s from my dear friend Charles Herrman, an independent scholar and philosopher. One of his many specialties is stewardship. You may find his work interesting: (His understanding of commons has evolved since he wrote the paper about commons. His writing about stewardship is the relevant thing here.)

I’m in the beginning stages of writing a paper on commons stewardship applying both Charles’ stewardship methodologies and the “beliefs-principles-values-practices” frame. Stewardship is broadly mentioned in the commons movement but I’ve not seen any theoretical unpacking of the depth that can be found in the word.

The way I learned to use that frame is:

Beliefs - are the foundation from which flows the rest of the frame. I see these as spiritual beliefs which may or may not be “spiritual” or “religious” but rather where humans derive meaning. They are usually accepted on faith but may be grounded in science.

Principles- are the manifestation of beliefs that ground the reasoning related to values and practices.

Values - are related to morality (not in the religious sense; derived from principles and beliefs)

Practices - are ethics that bring the beliefs, values and principles into action

Is anybody around aware of the work of Nancy White?
@bhaugen Did me linking you to her work back then result in any meaningful insight?
I have the strange feeling the Pattern Analysis and other material of the Platform Assessment Action Research Project could add arguments to this conversation.

For influence like


Not yet. I have been following her on google+. Interesting person, seems to be doing interesting work, but I haven’t studied in enough detail to have any meaningful insights.

During this years #communities:world-social-forum-2016 @Silke mentioned he is also going to be at the

yes, we should try to talk there and share our latest ideas with @ashishkothari