Education, The Commons

Knowledge Commons for the Global Commons

Common Course 
Dr. Terri Homan: “Six months ago I had never heard of the commons.
Perhaps the starting point for a world movement is spreading
awareness, so there are more banner-carriers to work toward
the change in consciousness that is required. Unless a critical mass
of world citizens demand change, it is too easy for the rest to look
away.” Terri is a physician in the Chicago area, one of 49 people
from four continents who enrolled in Common Course: An Introduction
to the Global Commons.e four-week program consisted
of readings, on-line discussions and weekly conference calls. On
one occasion economist James Quilligan joined as a guest speaker.

Spreading awareness, as Dr. Homan suggested, was a key objective
of the course, which was sponsored by the Anthroposphere Institute
and Global Commons Action for the United Nations. There
is now a special iteration of Common Course underway with a special
emphasis on climate-related commons. Some of the course
participants will be attending the UN-sponsored COP 16 Climate
Change Summit in Cancun.

The next offering of Common Course will take place in late
January 2011. To register, visit the Anthroposphere Institute
( or the Commons Knowledge Alliance
( The Commons Knowledge
Alliance offers learning resources, courses and discussion
spaces for commons-related practice communities.

University Courses 
An increasing number of universities worldwide offer courses that
address issues relevant to the commons—the sharing of common
pool resources, sustainability, natural resource management, open
source software management and so on. Online resources
are growing as well. For instance, the Digital Library of the
Commons ( is an excellent resource for
academic articles.

Last spring (2010) author David Bollier taught “The Rise of the
Commons,” a semester-long seminar for undergraduates at
Amherst College. Bollier, the author of Silent Theft, Brand Name
, and Viral Spiral, is also featured in This Land Is Our Land: The Fight to Reclaim the Commons, a new one-hour documentary
on contemporary commons issues. Educators should note that
this film is an excellent addition to any introductory course on
the commons and is available through Media Education Foundation

The University of Notre Dame’s Mendoza College of Business is
the first business school to establish courses that specifically focus
on the commons. e Global Commons Initiative at Notre Dame
examines the ethical dilemmas related to the private sector’s enclosure
of the commons. Professor Leo Burke is teaching courses
on the commons to undergraduates, MBAs and Executive MBAs.
Going Global 
UNITAR (United Nations Institute for Training and Research) and
the University of Notre Dame have agreed in principle to partner
on developing an introductory e-course on the global commons.
Slated for launch in the fall of 2011, the course will have a creative
commons license. Individuals will be able take the course both
through UNITAR and the Commons Knowledge Alliance. Institutions
can incorporate the course into their respective curricula.

This article was originally published in the Fall | Winter 2010 issue of Kosmos Journal.