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Q: What is Stroud Commons?

A: We’re a group of people who want to help build a commons economy in Stroud.

Q: What’s a commons economy?

A: It’s an economy in which the essentials, like housing, energy, water etc. are owned by the community itself. More information here.

Q: Why?

A: By using ‘use-credit obligations’ we can start to bring existing infrastructure (or build new infrastructure) into common ownership, rather than being owned by corporations, banks or absentee landlords. This can include every sector of the economy, including money / credit – a credit commons, using mutual credit rather than money.

Q: How does it work?

A: It’s an economy in which the essentials, like housing, energy, water etc. are owned by the community itself. More information here.


Q: What are use-credit obligations?

A: Think of them as ‘future-use vouchers’, that allow infrastructure to be brought into the commons without incurring debt, by issuing vouchers sold at a discount. Imagine a community energy group wanting to put up a wind turbine. At the moment, to get the funds, they need to go into debt or give away equity (which means the infrastructure will belong to investors or banks before long). Instead, they issue energy-credit obligations – vouchers denominated in kWh, not £ (which makes them inflation-proof). People will want them because they’re sold at a discount, and they provide a store of value – security for old age or sickness. UCOs can work in every sector of the economy (starting with housing commons, because everyone needs housing, and the housing market is so broken). More here.

Q: What’s mutual credit?

A: It’s a way for small businesses to trade without needing money or banks. Members get an account, set at zero. When they sell, they get credits, when they buy, they get debits. There are limits to how far anyone can go into credit or debit. It’s really just a way of accounting for who’s done what for whom, not (like money) something that’s extracted from communities and concentrated. More here. A credit clearing scheme can be the precursor to a local mutual credit network.

Q: What’s a credit clearing scheme?

A: It’s something the banks do, to reduce the need for money to pay debts. But we can do it too. Imagine A owes B £10; B owes C £10; C owes A £10. If everyone has all the information, it can just clear, without needing money to pay debts. For networks of trading small businesses, this can be done with algorithms, covering larger and larger areas. It reduces the need for fiat money and banks. More here.


Q: How do we get these things implemented in Stroud?

A: We’re organising a sociocratic network of ‘circles’ for people interested in those various sectors. Specialists in those sectors and in the commons will come to Stroud to run co-design sessions with the people in the circles to get them up and running.

Q: What’s sociocracy?

A: It’s a governance / decision-making system. The basic idea is to create small groups (or ‘circles’), that are able to have deep and meaningful conversations. In a medium-sized organisation there might be 20 circles, that have clear areas of decision-making. Ideally, those circles will contain 4-7 people – small enough that people can really listen to each other. The people making the decisions in a circle will be the people who do the work covered by those decisions. which is different from a hierarchical organisation, where some people do things and some people decide things. More here.

Q: Isn’t this similar to the co-operative movement?

A: Similar principles, yes; but co-ops need to go into debt with banks to be able to obtain infrastructure in the first place – for example, a housing co-op would need to go to banks / mortgage providers to be able to buy housing to co-operativise. These new commons ideas mean that we don’t have to be in hock to banks to bring infrastructure into the commons.

Q: Where do we start?

A: We could start in several places simultaneously. There could be a credit clearing scheme for local business networks, from which could grow a mutual credit network – it would be good to use our own mutual credit ‘money’ rather than relying on bank money; we’ve got a group of people who want to co-design a housing commons (a local couple are putting a house into the commons, and we have potential investors and tenants); and the same could happen for other sectors. We start to build the sectors where people turn up. For example, if we have a dynamic group interested in building energy infrastructure, then we form an energy commons group, linked sociocratically to other groups.

OK, I’m interested…

Q: How do I get involved?

A: Subscribe to the blog, and we’ll let you know when there are new developments. Right now, we’re looking for: investors for a housing commons; people with second homes that they might want to put into the commons; members of business networks who might be interested in a credit clearing / mutual credit scheme; anyone who’d like to join a group of people interested in commoning specific parts of the economy – energy, water, housing, land, transport, care, health, education, media, anything. We have a water engineer who would like to assemble a group to build a water commons for Stroud, we have a housing commons group and some people interested in energy, land and education; when commons groups are up and running, there will be paid jobs – managing the schemes / maintaining houses and infrastructure etc. More here.