International experts see FairShares as ideal for managing a knowledge commons

With each passing year, participating in and studying the development of the FairShares Association gets more interesting. This year’s FairShares Association conference, opened by Cliff Southcombe on 7th...

With each passing year, participating in and studying the development of the FairShares Association gets more interesting. This year’s FairShares Association conference, opened by Cliff Southcombe on 7th July at Sheffield Business School, gathered practitioners, educators, students and researchers from across the UK, as well as from Norway, Australia and New Zealand.

Through keynotes and case studies, the conference demonstrated that there were early signs the the FairShares Model is starting to impact on practice – especially in terms of managing a knowledge commons. It lends support to findings published in the first peer-reviewed paper on the FairShares Model that ‘espoused theories’ of FairShares are making the transition to ‘theories in use’ in education work and pilot projects supported by the association.

US-based Rob Jaimeson and Eric Doriean from Australia presented a new crowdsourcing project, Massmosaic, a global resource and ability exchange platform, and the world’s first internet FairShares company.

Delegates also heard about Nicci Dickins’ work with Independent Living Ireland to adapt FairShares for community healthcare projects across Ireland.

The morning session included two keynote addresses and a 90 minute OpenSpace on the “challenges and opportunities in managing multi-stakeholder social enterprises.” Consultant Adrian Ashton spoke about member engagement for sustaining the governance of multi-stakeholder co‑operatives. Dr Shann Turnbull (from the International Institute for Self-Governance) advanced a vision of a FairShares society populated by democratic self-regulating enterprises that use new investment instruments that transfer investor shareholdings to producers and consumers over a period of 10 to 15 years.

In the afternoon, delegates learned about ‘critical appreciation’ from Dr Suzanne Grant (from Wakaito Management School, New Zealand) before participating in a critical appreciative process (CAP) facilitated by Cliff Southcombe. CAPs are asset-based activities that eschew a problem-solving mind-set in favour of building on ‘the best of what is’. For critical appreciation to occur, questions are reframed to elicit positive accounts of practice, and not the identification of ‘problems’.

The conference also saw the launch of The FairShares Movel v2.1, a book compiled from members’ work, and including a suite of learning activities and model rules that support web-based governance. The book integrates with the FairShares Wiki to provide a knowledge commons that is licensed to the public using Creative Commons 4.0, with additional rights for supporters and members of the association.

The conference concluded with an hour long debate on Steve Wagstaff’s work to design a FairShares Information System. This is designed to allow anyone to nominate an enterprise for evaluation against FairShares Model principles. Delegates debated whether evaluations should be conducted by each organisation’s own nominated stakeholders, an independent panel, or a combination of both.

What is FairShares?

FairShares is a philosophy for creating and sustaining networks of solidarity enterprises that share power and wealth amongst their entrepreneurs, producers, consumers and investors. It promotes a new approach to capital allocation that recognises entrepreneurial, labour and user activities as well as financial contributions.

The FairShares Model is advocated by the FairShares Association as a way of thinking about enterprise, and includes a three-step methodology for social enterprise development supported by a set of values; social auditing, diagnostic and research tools, model rules for associations, co-operatives and companies; and a Wiki containing technical support information about the model rules and diagnostics.

For more information on FairShares and the FairShare Association, visit

[This article is republished under Creative Commons Licence 4.0. The full original article can be found here.]

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