People are discussing Alternatives to business as usual in all corners of the world. And there are examples of initiatives that have been operating on successfully many years. More and more are questioning whether they should be customers at all, looking to explore the possibilities of being part of communities that both own the means of production and produce and consume what they need. After all, the only company that really has your interests in focus is the one you own part of. The commons finance canvas tool helps communities develop their ideas and structure them to provide a basis to be able to answer key questions like” how much do we need to invest”,” How much work is involved”,” Can we do what we want within budget”,“who can do what”, “How can we best organise ourselves?”. The canvas offers you a structured way to explore your ideas and arrive at a point where you can produce a written prospectus and business plan and come to agreement with everyone in the community.
The starting point is a vision of what it will look like when it is finished and working the way you want it to. You can use an existing project or start with a dream.
Start in the middle block of the canvas by identifying the common asset that belongs to your community or group. The place – the land (if your commons is not virtual) is also the stage, the setting where you and your community will write the script and perform the play, so to speak, that creates your wonderful, sustainable place of cooperation and needs fulfillment.
Good things to identify here are the geographic location and boundaries. If it is a property, identify points of access, and the existing structures on the property. How the sun shines on the property, shade during the day morning sun and evening sun are all good to get an angle on. Understanding the ownership, leasing rights, rights of access, points of entry of services like water, electricity, waste water, surface water runoff. For later calculations, gather hard data: good things to identify are the length and breadth, area e.g. square meters or hectares, and costs including purchase or lease, taxes and other rates.
Making a map of the land is useful in planning and should include important aspects like access points, where streams and rivers leaving the property, various biotopes and buildings that house various key functions.
Putting together a vision board is also a good exercise at this point. A vision board offers a large area to gather sketches, diagrams sticky notes with questions, ideas etc. , to just get everything down as a rough start.
If your project entails a virtual commons – for example a shared online platform – the exercise is similar: include a systems map to show all the incoming and outgoing links and flows of data.
Before moving on to the next part of this exercise make a note of questions and issues on separate papers. Take a breath and stand back you might see other things you had not noticed.