Keynote Sessions May 15th

Here is an overview of the main conference speakers together with their Biographies:

Adjusting our organisational practice to increase our collective impact & better serve our common interests, wealth & well-being

Speaker/ Author


James Quilligan Local and Global Commons: Increasing our collective impact to protect common wealth and well-beingJames will explain the notion of The Commons and what can we do at a local and business level to preserve the common interests, wealth and wellbeing.     Overview – see below
George Por,School of Commoning An exploration of how to make an impact on issues that concern us: lessons from the mobilization of large numbers of people towards a common concern (as with social movements such as the ‘green movement)Context: We all have concerns and things we would like to see happen, either through personal interest and/or as a part of our job role. How can we have the greatest impact on these? With awareness, there are a great number of choices in how we focus our efforts, particularly choices between what we do ourselves and the initiatives we start ourselves and enhancing initiative/inspiration and initiatives of or with others. The session will give some simple and practical ideas. It will also point to ways in which anyone interested can learn more about the subject.More: Natural ‘default’ response when addressing an issue is to focus on what we can do; what we can make happen. We are programmed to ‘do it ourselves’. We may however be able to have a greater and sustainable impact; return on the investment of energy may be achieved by joining with others who share a concern (either already or after inspiration), rallying others, and supporting places where there is existing initiative. Study of how wide-reaching shifts have happened and the science of systems and complexity can be tapped to provide insight that can be applied to help contribute to wide and deeper change. The session will give some simple and practical ideas. It will also point to ways in which anyone interested can learn more about the subject.
Tim Harle Adjusting our governance systems. From Ant Hills to the Arab Spring. Drawing on ideas from complexity theory & observation of how the natural world works, to re-examine our inherited notions of leadership, power and control, the session/article will examine some of the implications for how we organize. In particular, adjustments needed to our governance systems. Affiliations:


Susan Canney An example of how a living systems approach delivered greater impact for a fraction of the cost than parallel work using conventional approaches. Using a case study from Mali, West Africa, where the problems were deemed intractable, this presentation will show how the key ideas from complexity theory have been used to deliver greater impact, for less money, than a much bigger project using a conventional mechanistic, ‘command-and-control’ approach.  Establishing a shared goal and systems to govern the commons were central to success.The presentation will briefly describe the project to be able to draw out the key differences between the two approaches, and thus to demonstrate why the systems approach works. Key to success was an adaptive methodology that did not work from pre conceived ideas but focused on the local situation as embedded within a wider socio-ecological living system. Establishing a shared goal and systems to govern the commons were central to success, while the eco-literacy of the local communities and of individuals within government was a key asset. The whole process continues to generate new ideas and surprises!
Anna Betz & Alex Laird Living Medicine:This session will describe how Living Medicine has been working with parks and communities in East London to revive our use of the precious commons of plants and healing food and plant knowledge. Our challenge is to shape Living Medicine’s organisation so that it demonstrates co-operation, connection and health from the inside out as an inspirational model.  We are developing a programme to Involving local people in co-creating and running community healing gardens and teaching each other.
Eileen Conn Relations between the organised world and the community: community engagement in the social eco-systems dance. This presentation will introduce the theory and model of the Social Eco-System Dance (SESD). It offers some explanations of why life can be so tough at the place where community action (the horizontal peer system) interacts with the organised work world (the vertical hierarchical system: including public agencies, and the voluntary sector – charities with staff). The two systems dance to very different tunes. Generally the horizontal world, as a separate system with its own distinct organisational dynamics, is invisible to the verticalworld. Lack of awareness of this makes it painful for both and often seriously interferes in the effectiveness of their interactions.Using a complex systems perspective, the SESD model gives a new additional way of seeing this. It provides more ways of understanding how the dance might be adjusted gradually through ‘adjacent possible’ steps to enable people in each system to work together, and allow effective collaborative ways of working to emerge, serving the common good more effectively.  Nurturing relationships, and systems leading to trust, are a key to this. For more information see papers at and (




Bio & affiliations of relevance and possible interest to others

Contact Details

James Quilligan James Bernard Quilligan has been an analyst and administrator in the field of international development since 1975. He has served as policy advisor and writer for many international politicians and leaders, including Pierre Trudeau, François Mitterand, Edward Heath, Julius Nyerere, Olof Palme, Willy Brandt, Jimmy Carter and His Royal Highness Prince El Hassan. Quilligan was a policy advisor and press secretary for the Brandt Commission (1978-1984). He  has also been an economic consultant for government agencies in more than 30 countries. Quilligan is a co-founder of Global Commons Trust, (, where he is working with colleagues to develop a Secretariat to provide research, support and publicity for a new international commission on the global commons. He has also launched a lobbying effort, Commons Action for the United Nations (CAUN), which has been successful in introducing the concepts of the commons into UN discussions and documents. Over the past several years, Quilligan has published a series of unique articles on the global commons in Kosmos Journal.
Tim Harle Tim Harle is a Visiting Fellow at Bristol Business School and a Lay Canon of Bristol Cathedral. He is a member of the international In Claritas community exploring new approaches to governance and Vice-Chair of MODEM, a network promoting mutual learning between churches and the business community.Relevant/recommended affiliations:


Web www.timharle.netEmail tim@timharle.netTwitter @TimHarlePhone +44 (0) 1249 721707


George Por George Por is an evolutionary thinker/activist, social architect, and strategic learning partner  to changemakers and visionary leaders in business, government and civil society.He is a Fellow of Future Considerations and the founder of CommunityIntelligence. At the School,of Commoning he pursues his passion to make waves for increasing Commons literacy, everywhere, fast. Web:
Susan Canney Susan Canney’s work involves using systems perspectives and collaborative approaches to understand and find sustainable solutions to problems concerning the human-nature relationship. Having worked on a variety of projects around the world and as a research officer for the then UK Government’s independent adviser on sustainable development, Susan’s affiliations are:

  • Co-founder of the Gaia Network
  • Research Associate, Oxford University,
  • Leader of the WILD Foundation’s Mali Elephant Project
  • Forum for the Future’s ‘Reconnections’ team for business leaders


Anna Betz Anna Betz has 30 years of experience working in the public and private sector in health and social care. She works as a medical herbalist and workshop leader of Living Medicineand also works as lead practitioner in dementia care in the NHS. She brings a passion for creating a better world and is one of the founders of School of Commoning. The commons movement is to her where individual, communal, organisational, and social evolution meet. Her expertise together with her passion for building sustainable communities, inspire her to discover and co-create with other commoners the ‘commons of health and  wellbeing’
Alex Laird Alex Laird is founding director of Living Medicine and a medical herbalist who runs clinics in hospital dermatology clinic and a breast cancer support. Living Medicine is a charit, that reskills people in using foods and herbs for self care, sharing knowledge between all cultures. Our work aims to inspire people to reconnect to healing plants and teach each other to take responsibility for their health. We wish to create community medicinal gardens and a gorgeous World Kitchen Garden as a national visitor centre grown by and with the public.
Eileen Conn Eileen Conn has been an active local resident of Peckham in SE London for many years, and in parallel a senior civil servant in Whitehall focusing on the management & development of the Government system.  Her experience has led her to develop a new theory on how organisations (vertical hierarchical system) interact with community activity (horizontal peer system).Affiliations:


Patrick Andrews Patrick heads up the research and learning work at Working in Trust, a project that aims to foster the development of trust-based businesses balancing the needs of the environment, of the community and the staff. Patrick was formerly a corporate lawyer, employed by large corporations including Pratt & Whitney and Kingfisher to handle mergers and acquisitions.  He is on the board of eco-car company Riversimple.Relevant/recommended affiliations:

  • Working in Trust


Email: patrickandr@gmail.comMobile: +44 (0) 7717 226667
Ray Charlton Ray Charlton, OD consultant, tutor, coach, and action learning facilitator, is a visiting contributor in executive development at Said Business School, Oxford, Henley Business School and WMG, Warwick. He is a member of the Deming Alliance and of the Deming Special Interest Group of the Chartered Quality Institute. Email: rayc@transitionpartnerships.comWeb: www.transitionpartnerships.comTel: + 44 (0)1564 794665
Esther Ridsdale


Handouts on the day will include the following information:

How can participants learn more about the subject? Recommended books, organisations, web-sites, articles, next steps.


Here is more information about James Quilligans presentation:

Increasing Collective Impact and Serving Common Interest, Wealth and Well-Being

James Quilligan, 19th April 2012 – Overview for event on 15th May 2012

 Our commons are the shared wealth (material, natural, genetic, social, cultural and intellectual wealth) which we have inherited or created and must be passed on to future generations. What segment of society can best organize and manage these common goods apart from private (market-based) goods and public (government-produced) goods? In recent decades, civil society has been defining the interests and advocating for the rights of the unrepresented, global networks, nongovernmental organizations, citizens associations and social movements. Indeed, many of the concerns that civil society organizations are pursuing – greater neighborhood organisation, healthy food, clean water, clean air, environmental protection, green energy, free flow of information, social technologies, human rights and indigenous peoples’ rights – may be managed as commons.

This seminar focuses on how civil society can reach a new level of impact by adjusting its organisational practices to better serve the needs of all stakeholders by increasing their power and protecting the common wealth and well-being.

Besides maximising the power of networks to create greater synergy through cross-sectoral cooperation among existing institutions, many new forms of commons collaboration are emerging, leading to new ways of interacting and coordinating social and economic life. For example, social charters, co-governance, co-production, commons trusts, autonomous civil society initiatives, partnership governments and peer-to-peer job creation are rapidly generating new forms of value and political management, teaching civil society organizations how to adopt new values and structures.

Through these innovative forms of peer-to-peer management and open source business models – including free software, open hardware groups, open media and educational models, open collaborative research in commerce and science, horizontalist decision-making by social activists, couch-surfing and peer-funding – resource users are becoming directly involved in the process of production. A new production and governance logic of learning-by-doing now becomes possible.

By operating both as resource users and as producers, enabling local stakeholders to develop their own political power, civil society groups can thus expand the scope of collective rights and civic power to develop a more dynamic basis for collective action, social solidarity and direct democracy than currently exists. As catalysts for the integration of producers and consumers, many civil society organizations may evolve into local/regional councils and commons trusts, or perhaps form partnerships with them.

The increased participation and political choices offered to citizens through these new accountability structures can transform economic, social and political decision-making at the local level and increase the effectiveness and impact of their collaborative activities for stakeholders. In a way, none of this is really new: it’s the ancient but much-neglected foundation of self-organizing communities.

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