Unitisation: Services (block 2)

Commoning in practice: using unitisation

This article talks more in depth about how to use the unitisation approach to form the basis of a shared business plan.

So:  you  and some others are exploring how to have common property together. Many people think of bringing people together to own land, housing, market gardens, music studios etc. Like with all ownership sooner or later you need to get down to handling investment  and day to day expenses, and there a conventional business plan consisting of cash flow, balance sheet and profit and loss statement are useful tools for planning and follow-up and to fulfill government reporting requirements depending on the type of organisation your commons group has formed.

There are many ways to go about this, and there is no one ”right” way, but I recommend you start by seeing what commons members all want in terms of services rather than things. The table below shows you some objects that people might want to share, and on the right side, the services that derive from them.

 Object      Service Thinking
Minibus  Transport to local station two times a day forth and back
Vegetables  Weekly food supplies year round
Summer Cottage  Access to place to stay with kitchen/toilet over summer months


The next step is to go back and check that the services are sufficiently defined in terms that might include:

  • volume
  • quantity
  • frequency
  • and quality.

Examples of further quantification

Food supplies might be further defined as all groceries for a normal –sized family

The transport might be for 6 to 8 persons Monday to Friday connecting  to train times.

Percentage of annual needs

How much of yearly needs the initiative supplies is an important figure for budgeting.  You can represent this figure as a percentage or fraction (i.e. veggie boxes 21/52).

Having completed the unitisation exercise the next step is to consider how these services can be provided.


In order to be able to have a comparison and alternative, it can be useful to find out what the service would cost if you bought it outright. For instance, if you could get a local taxi or bus service to do the transport. You could ask them for a quotation for an annual service.

Benchmarking is useful in making a comparison with a commons service. Consider that it is not always possible for groups to provide services cheaper than those available commercially, especially as commons groups can negotiate group or volume rebates.