Taxonomy Categories; Compatibility with NORA on CAN?

Dear Friends,
I sent this post as an email on the list recently, and was asked to put it here in the discussion forum. So here it is! The discussion has already proceeded since I posted this on the email, so I have somewhat modified the post in order to reflect some of this discussion; Iapologize if I couldn´t do this completely.

At the Leipzig Degrowth meeting I had suggested creating a taxonomy that would be
compatible with the taxonomy developed at the Commons Abundance Network,
which is working on creating in-depth assessments of the systemic
interactions and strengths and weaknesses of a variety of approaches to
managing our common resources (called NORA, Needs, Organizational Forms and Resources for Abundance), and offers discussion forums on these
topics. I still think this would be a good thing.

Here are some “needs” categories from NORA (see
that I am missing in the Transformap taxonomy. I´ve arranged them in
the order that they are listed on the page just mentioned; for many, you
will find more explanation if you follow links from that page.

  1. Air. If we fail to create effective commons for air and atmosphere, our climate system breaks down. Organizations that, however imperfectly, regulate pollution can be seen as working to manage the atmosphere as commons; advocacy organizations are seeking ways how to manage the atmosphere effectively as commons and could be shown on the Transformap.

  2. Water. Some exiting commons exist in this area, such as
    community-organized water distribution systems, water cooperatives. One
    should also consider municipally managed water distribution systems if
    they are organized with effective public control. And again, water is
    essential for life (“beverage” does not cover water - water is more
    fundamental, and is used for more than drinking; I´d say that beverages
    like juices, beer etc. are better included with food).

  3. Being at home. This is more than just about having shelter - it´s about
    having a place where one feels at home. It´s a more diffuse type of
    commons, but I don´t think it should be ignored.

  4. Supportive relationships - the community category may cover this, though I´m not
    sure. Any person creates a web or network of relationships, associating
    with some people for one area of life, with another group (that may or
    may not overlap with the first) for another area of life, etc. They do
    not all need to be one community.

  5. Self-expression. Not listed at all in the present listing. I think that many arts-oriented
    initiatives should come under this heading.

  6. Opportunities to learn. This is a more general category than “skills” or “knowledge”
    (the latter of which CAN lists as a resource rather than a need). The
    way “skills” are usually defined in our culture, we talk about more or
    less technical skills (how to do something). Knowledge, again as defined
    in our culture, usually refers to theoretical knowledge. There are also
    further things we can learn that do not fit either category, such as
    "phronesis" - knowing how to act under specific circumstances, based on
    lived experience, and involving value rationality. This is vital in
    commoning. So, I think it is important NOT to reduce learning to skills
    and knowledge alone. The opportunities to learn page on NORA provides links to a few organizations that can be regarded as learning commons.

  7. Meaningful livelihoods. It is part of the crisis of our civilization that livelihoods all too often are not at all meaningful (what we find meaningful often does not allow us to make
    a living; what does provide lots of income is often extremely lacking
    in meaning). Commons can help to bring these two together. We also need
    to rethink work when production of many material things in our
    households requires less and less work.

  8. Contemplative/spiritual connection. This I have not yet developed
    properly, but I do consider this an important need, and it should in
    some way be accommodated. Here I think it would be interesting to look
    for groups that pursue this in non-hierarchical ways that do not dictate
    which outcomes are supposed to emerge.

The CAN list also includes items listed as “resources” which partially overlaps
with the list of needs both in CAN and the Transformap listing. Air and
Atmosphere and Water I have already mentioned. Here are several more:

  1. Minerals. This is different from “land” in that we are talking about
    such things as iron, potassium, rare earth minerals etc. which are
    either needed in an industrial economy, or to maintain soil fertility.
    Here also it is important to think about how mineral resources could be
    managed as commons, such that for example the mining of lithium in the
    Andes benefits the ordinary people there and not just some big

  2. Living things. This is a vast category, but
    we depend on other living things in a myriad of ways that go far beyond
    the food and beverage categories. This includes for example
    community-managed conservation areas.

  3. Physical, human-made assets. This is a category that is far wider than “objects of utility”; it includes transportation networks, energy and communication
    utilities, buildings and assemblages of buildings (up to entire
    settlements, i.e. cities). I am referring here to the actual physical
    assets here, not just the services that they provide on a daily basis.
    All these can be run as commons.

  4. Intangibles. This includes knowledge, but also such things as trust. How can we build, or rebuild, trust? I think this is a vital question.

I would be happy to have a session with one or several of you to talk
through these categories, for example using a Skype session. If we can
make the CAN and Transformap taxonomies compatible, I think it would be
great because the Transformap could show where all kinds of initiatives
are located while CAN could provide reflective assessments and
discussion forums about them.

Please also note that if some of these categories are “empty sets” (there aren´t any
mapped initiatives that fall into the category), I do not see this as a convincing reason for not including them. Empty categories tell us either
that this is an area where mapping still needs to take place, or that
this is something where new forms of commons organization still need to
be developed. Noting gaps of this kind is essential for pushing forward
the movement. I also think it is important to attampt to have a complete set of needs categories from the beginning, so that contributors from the beginning are encouraged to use any and all needs categories that apply to their work.

Also, in this message I focused on those needs or resources which are there in NORA but not in Transformap, or are defined differently in the two; there are of course also those that are present in both! Some examples are food, participation, security, and mobility. So there are important areas where the two initiatives already coincide.

All the best,Wolfgang