FLOK: Policy paper on Territorial Organization of the Knowledge Economy

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DRAFT 19 May 2014

by Janice Figueiredo [1]

Executive Summary

Ecuador made a huge step towards the possibility of transitioning to a new economic and social model when the country introduced the idea of sumak kawsay[1] - or “harmonious coexistence[2]” as a right in its 2008 Constitution. The Constitution establishes that the Ecuadorian State should provide an integral economic, political, socio-cultural and environmental system to assure the achievement of sumak kawsay[3].

FLOK Society proposes that a society where knowledge is open, shared and can freely circulate is better positioned to achieve sumak kawsay (Barandiaran and Vazquez, 2013). The project aims to bring the ideas and experiences of the global open, shared and commons-knowledge communities and frame them in the Ecuadorian context in order to formulate a transition proposition, through the recommendation of policy proposals.

Over the past 15 years, there has been an expansion of different collaborative initiatives structures - such as fablabs, makerspaces and co-working spaces - aimed to the creation of commons-knowledge outside the conventional paths provided by the market and the state. These self-organized initiatives propose alternative ways of providing what is necessary for their communities, following the principle of self-governance and having the protagonism of participants as a key element on the construction of those knowledge systems.

The possibilities on the creation of commons-knowledge communities are leveraged by an increasingly interconnected world that brings availability and access of information through open data platforms, allowing people to use, distribute and intermix data according to their needs. A growing number of open mapping projects have been emerging, as well, helping people to identify commons initiatives and allowing them to become participants in such actions.

Ecuador presents several successful experiences of self-governance based on systems of commons-knowledge generation. Some of these experiences are based on traditional organizational models, such as the comunas, which are self-organized structures that continuously generate the needed knowledge to manage their territorial and political organization through community participation. Or “La Trueca”, an initiative which is part of the “Trade School” network, that stimulates and facilitates knowledge exchange through p2p networks.

This policy paper examines how a social knowledge economy can be built from a bottom-up perspective, through local communities self-governance and citizen participation. The paper also examines how public policy can favor knowledge creation and flow within communities and presents strategies and actions on implementing such ideas within the Ecuadorian context.

Introduction and focus: general background

“The fundamental principle is that knowledge is universal, it's a human heritage. It cannot and should not be privatized”[4]. (Rafael Correa)

The statement introduces the text of the “Organic Code of Social Knowledge Economy and Innovation” - COESC+i, in its Spanish acronym - site and clearly indicates Ecuador’s position towards knowledge: the country is committed to create a “Social Knowledge Economy” that is inclusive and that is based on the intense use of infinite resources: knowledge, creativity and human talent. When referring to the COESC+i, Ximena Ponce, President of the Committee on Education, Culture, Science and Technology of the National Assembly, affirmed: “we are talking about a knowledge generation system largely open, thought from the viewpoint of a common good that should be to the service of all citizens and which should be developed in a collaborative way[5]”.

The COESC+i proposes to be a normative framework for the collective construction of the “Social Knowledge Economy”, one of the key ideas brought out by the National Plan of Good Living (2013-2017) as a means to transform the productive structure of the country:

“The accumulation, distribution, and redistribution strategy, in agreement with the 2013-2017 Government Program, proposes the development of an “open commons of knowledge”. This development model includes the creation and adoption of creative ideas, as well as the potential production of new goods and services and the distribution of their benefits. The management of knowledge —seen as a public, common and open good—is a constitutional principle and is more efficient economically than other, closed models.” (National Plan for Good Living 2013-2017, p. 67)”

This paper introduces the idea of commons-oriented knowledge systems, where both resources and work are mutualized by participants of a community, who share responsibility and rights over common resources and who are active players in the creation of knowledge-commons.

The idea of commons-oriented knowledge systems is not new. Throughout history communities have been coordinating the use of commons resources in a cooperative way through their social networks. In Bali, for centuries rice farmers have been using water sharing systems to coordinate the use of scarce water. Spain used similar systems for almost 600 years. In the province of Illocos Norte, the Philippines, there are more than a thousand jointly water irrigation systems that benefit every participant (Rowe, 2008).

A growing number of people around the world are increasingly basing their practices on the shared goal of creating and preserving a commons (Siefkes 2009) and on the creation of networks of self-sufficiency and self-managed projects. An eco-network is one of such examples:

“An eco-network is a place of exchange, with a bio-regional organization, that promotes the development of self-management activities, that encourages economy and local human relations based on proximity, creating support mechanisms among people and helping develop new abilities(...).It works in order to recover the ethical and human dimensions in economic activities, overcoming individualism and capitalist competition, launching an economy based on trust, reciprocity, solidarity, cooperation and ecology.”[6]

This document presents policy proposals that stimulate the creation and multiplication of networks of knowledge, as well as proposals to facilitate the transition to a commons-knowledge based society and recommends mechanisms to improve access to knowledge to a broader and diverse public.

Critique to capitalist models

The construction of a knowledge economy based on free and commons knowledge goes in opposition to the notion of knowledge under the capitalistic system. The latter sees Western knowledge as superior, unique and treats knowledge as a commodity.

Hegemonic knowledge

The prevailing Western knowledge system is seen as universal and applicable to all people at all times. By carrying out the idea that it is “superior”, Western knowledge is placed in a dominant position, creating a situation of monopoly, where local knowledge systems are delegitimised, become invisible and gradually disappear (Shiva 1993). One of the ways to deny the value and existence of local knowledge is by attributing it adjectives such as `primitive' and `unscientific' (ibid).

Since the type of knowledge used and the way it is generated and structured determine how nature and society are transformed, the prevalence of Western knowledge in the development of territories means that those who detain it will have more power over those whose knowledge is delegitimised, generating a system of inequalities and of intellectual colonization through knowledge.

Traditional indigenous knowledge, for instance, has been seen as a devalued form of knowledge in the dominant Western culture (Tasiguano, Kakras et al 2014). Yet, community-based and local knowledge have been recognized by many as vital to the solution of complex problems, such as climate change.[7](#sdfootnote7sym)

Utilitarianism of knowledge

In the best of the cases, local knowledge systems, under the capitalistic logic, may be considered by the dominant knowledge system, as long as they are useful to the latter. In its search for efficiency, capitalism will consider local knowledge that may provide efficient mechanisms of social regulation and resource allocation, disregarding any alternative proposals. (Davalos 2009).

The idea that Western knowledge originates from “developed” people, while local and indigenous knowledge systems are considered “non-developed”, creates a power relationship where local and indigenous systems of knowledge can be easily usurped by the dominant developed discourses.

Knowledge as a commodity

In the capitalistic system, knowledge is seen and is treated as a commodity. Neoliberal political systems are essentially engines of market enclosure (Bollier, 2010). By enclosing knowledge through the mechanism of Intellectual Property, it becomes a private property which can then be commercialized through the market.

Under this logic, knowledge is no longer seen as integrated to nature and community (Simbaña 2011), but as a potential source for profit.


The privatization, mercantilization and homogenization of knowledge have serious consequences to communities and territories. Some of them are:

- The enclosure of knowledge -the free circulation of knowledge is compromised under the capitalistic logic. People who have access to knowledge will tend to have an individualistic and mercantilistic attitude towards it, while a great deal of the population, that cannot afford to pay for it, will not have access to knowledge.

- Lost of knowledge diversity and local practices - the dominant knowledge system will devalue other systems. This will cause the loss of local practices and an increasing unbalance of local ecosystems.

- Monopolization of knowledge createsdependence. The top-down approach will condition local knowledge to be “validated” by the dominant system in order to “exist”.

Alternative models

Many have been the authors to point out the need of a profound change of the current economic model in order to achieve a new civilizational paradigm (Sousa Santos, 2010; León, 2008; Acosta, 2010). Ecuador has given a big step towards this shift by embracing the concept of Sumak Kawsay in its 2008 Constitution, as an alternative to the capitalistic model (Simbaña, 2011).

Aligned with these ideas, FLOK Society proposes a model that places the notion of wealthiness in the creation, expansion and replication of knowledge. In this model, civil society is at the heart of the creation of commons knowledge, while the State plays the role of a Partner State - a facilitator and promoter of knowledge creation by civil society. (Bauwens, 2014; Restakis, 2014).

Around the world, many have been questioning the conventional economic model and have been organizing themselves through projects associated with social entrepreneurship, fair trade, peer production, sharing of resources and the creation of the commons. Coworking offices, which are working environments shared by people from different organizations, double every year[8]. An estimated 207,000 members work in nearly 4,400 co-working spaces worldwide; within the last 12 months, the number of co-working spaces has increased by 81 percent, and members by 89 percent.[9]

In the US, the number of local farmers' markets organized by civil society tripled between 1998 and 2013. Today, hackerspaces[10] [11] bring together nearly 40,000 people, since their first developments in 2005.[12]

The social and productive forces of the commons-based and P2P communities are citizen-workers who see themselves as autonomous producers of shared knowledge and value (Bauwens 2013). Those communities usually are highly concerned with the environment and see, in the practice of sharing and exchanging resources, a possibility to diminish their impact on the environment.

Buenos vivires - valuing creativity and a diversity of knowledge

The notion of development of a knowledge society is based in people and their potential of creation. In order to build an inclusive Social Knowledge Economy, it is crucial that mechanisms that encompass an amalgam of viewpoints, traditions, experiences, practices and contexts are facilitated by the government. In this sense, it is fundamental to integrate the diversity of the Ecuadorian people as significant and active players in the building of their communities.

One example of how the diversity of knowledge is being acknowledged is “Inteligencia Colectiva”. The initiative recognizes the value of a multitude of knowledge - traditional, modern, informal- among communities and provides a platform where cities around the world can share knowledge and build their own repertoire of building techniques, facilitating the rescuing of ancient and traditional expertise, as well as giving visibility to informal methods of construction.[13](#sdfootnote13sym)

Sumak Kawsay - Society and Nature integrated

Outside the Western paradigm, many people conceive the development of a civilization highly integrated with nature. To them, Nature is not seen as a commodity or a “natural resource”, but as the Pachamama, the mother of all (Simbaña, 2011). Harmonious Coexistence - or Sumak Kawsay - can only be achieved when Nature and society are in balance and in harmony.

The dissemination of knowledge that considers an integrative view of nature and society, such as the set of practices used by permaculture communities, or the ancestral indigenous knowledge, can facilitate the achievement of sumak kawsay.

Global knowledge for local needs: a glocal approach

In a world that is becoming more and more connected through technology, it is possible to create global networks of collaboration to support local initiatives. This type of arrangement combines the specific needs of local communities with the potential benefits that a collaborative global community can provide.

Parcell proposes a model where global knowledge is applied in a local context through such global collaboration networks:

“We need a global infrastructure that functions as both an interface between local and global economies, such that we can exploit global economy-of-scale to provide ever-changing and evolving appropriate local technology, and functions also as an interface between local communities such that they are connected in a global web of mutual support for specifically local knowledge, for instance how to build with local materials.” (Parcell, 2014)

Such global platforms can serve as knowledge repositories to support and maintain local systems of communities that produce locally and keep an autonomy in decision-making processes. This model can outperform the traditional top-down approach used by governments, as it makes use of a much larger knowledge repository and community.

An example of such model is “Arquitecturas Colectivas”, an international network comprising more that 120 collectives around the world. It promotes and facilitates the participatory construction of urban environments by providing an online platform containing numerous collaborative tools to support the network.

Public Open Data for Citizens

More and more cities’ governments are making their urban data open and freely available to citizens[14](#sdfootnote14sym). Besides increasing transparency of government, these actions have the potential to build a new digital commons: as public open data become increasingly available, citizens, organizations and the media can use them for the benefit of communities. The city of Helsinki, for instance, has published over 1,000 sets of open data - including municipal financial data for free use of everyone[15](#sdfootnote15sym). One of the most interesting applications developed using open data in Helsinki is Kansanmuisti.fi, an online service that allows citizens to follow the voting of members of the parliament and verify whether they carry out what they have promised during the elections.

Protagonism and interdependence

For more than two decades UNDP reports have been stressing citizen participation as a vital element of any strategy aiming human development (UNDP 1990; UNDP 1993; UNDP 2002; UNDP 2010)

The building of a Social Knowledge Economy requires mechanisms to allow communities to develop their own capacities and ideas. To achieve that, it is important that communal forms of governance are facilitated and stimulated (Moreno, 2013), enabling the protagonism of local communities. Smaller organizations are better positioned to develop solidarity and trust relationships and, in this model, the Partner State can act as a facilitator and strengthener of these needs.

In Montevideo, the Consejos Vecinales (Neighborhood Councils) channel citizens requests and proposals to government instances (Veneziano 2005). Some cities, like Bologna, in Italy, go even further beyond and are enabling public administrations to govern with their citizens[16].

In May 2014, the “Ciudad-Escuela” initiative was launched in Madrid. This model of urban open source pedagogy proposes that any urban area can become a learning space - urban gardens, hacklabs, assemblies - where any community member can propose a new learning unit or improve an existing one.[17]

Networks of local knowledge

There are many advantages of networks where local knowledge can circulate and be exchanged among community members. Local knowledge networks are able to rescue traditions, strengthen local values and preserve livelihoods and cultures. Moreover, they may create activities that benefit the local community. One example is use of local knowledge to create a local food economy, where the community finds ways to shorten the distance between producers and consumers and make the connections between the two more direct, besides having an influence on the kind and quality of their food.

Nextdoor[18] [19] is an online social network for neighbours of the San Francisco Area. It is aimed to connect neighbours, share information about the local community, such as events and build stronger neighbourhoods.

Another example of regional citizens interaction with the cities is “Maker Cities”, a platform in the form of a game where anyone can submit ideas about improving cities in the state of California, in the USA.[20]

==== Case Study 1 - Trade School ==== [21]

In 2010, three people created in New York a platform where any individual could teach whatever they were passionate about and students would, in exchange, give something that teachers needed: resources, ideas, skills, etc - anything, except money. The goal of the initiative, named “Trade School”, was to create alternative learning spaces that would enhance community interaction and support and stimulate non-monetary exchanges among participants.

The principle is simple: anyone who wants to offer an activity post in a website what they want to teach and what they would like to receive in exchange; students agree to bring what is requested when registering for a class.

Since everyone has something to give and share, possibilities of activities are as numerous as there are people, skills, resources and creativity within a community: from photography, yoga or language classes to knot tying, composting and origami making. The exchanges requested from teachers are equally diverse: they can request help painting a kitchen, putting up a website, a hug or organic seeds.

Since its creation in 2010, the “Trade School’ became a global movement aimed to exchange knowledge, to enhance community connection and to stimulate alternative, informal ways of education. The model has expanded to over 50 cities all over the world. At each new place the project expressed itself in different ways and have adapted to its new context, according to local communities needs and visions. Trade School Glasgow, for instance, has put an specific focus on social care and community development.

===== “La Trueca” - a Trade School in Quito ===== [22]

At the end of 2012, a group of nine women brought the “Trade School" concept to Quito, Ecuador, creating “La Trueca”, the first Trade School of South America. “La Trueca” is a learning space that proposes to potentiate the qualities that every human being has.

Refusing the idea that learning can only happen through educational institutions or against monetary exchanges , "La Trueca" bases its work on four principles:

  • Sharing: the initiative seeks to break up with the idea that it in order to teach one needs formal training or a degree and encourages participants to share all the knowledge they have. Thus, the wisdom of each human being is valued and each participant has the opportunity to express themselves as a unique and unrepeatable being.

  • Reciprocity : "La Trueca” recovers the randi randi Andean practice and challenges the supremacy of the economic system, that demands that a monetary value is placed on everything. The initiative invites people to use their creativity to find ways of exchanging that are not linked to monetization.

  • Respect, trust and mutual support : "La Trueca" encourages the community to nurture relationships of trust, solidarity and mutual support.

  • Horizontality: "La Trueca" works as a facilitator of meetings, where participants meet to share, exchange and develop new relationships. Power and information are totally decentralized and there are no hierarchies that impose knowledge.

Initially, the activities of "La Trueca” happened in private spaces, such as restaurants. In its third season, which started in 2014, the organizers decided to stimulate the occupation of public spaces - parks, neighbourhoods, squares, streets, buildings - to develop their activities. By positioning public spaces at the core of community interaction, “La Trueca” adds an important dimension to the initiative: it expands the idea of public spaces as areas of recreation and leisure and brings the idea of public spaces as Commons, resources belonging to all, available at any time, that may serve as a setting place to shape communities and to contribute to the strengthening of their cohesion. Besides, as public spaces are used as environments for the development of a multitude of activities, such as co-creation and artistic expression, they become lively, vibrant territories constantly energized and renovated by their citizens.

Since 2012, participants of the network “La Trueca” proposed inumerous activities on diverse themes, such as ballroom dance, cooking, urban gardens, introduction to solar energy and language classes. The requested counterparts have been equally diverse, such as flowers, organic food and even a dentist appointment.

The latest activities, proposed by “La Trueca” in May, 2014, include classes on photojournalism, the use of medicinal plants, knitting of mandalas and the making of songs out of poetry.

Trade Schools are not only about bartering: they provide a framework for community support and instigate a different behaviour within a community, based on solidarity, reciprocity and mutual support, which goes in the opposite direction of the individualistic behaviours encouraged by capitalism.

Case Study 2 - Comuna Tola Chica

The Comuna Tola Chica, located at the valley of Tumbaco, has existed for 70 years and it consists of 64 families and about 400 people living and working in a communal manner, in an area of 105 hectares[23](#sdfootnote23sym). The community tries to preserve its cultural roots through the development of local projects, such as the School of Traditional Knowledge, and to stimulate ecological and sustainable local projects, like the building of a local communal house made with super-adobe.

One of its greatest strengths is its communal organization model: decisions are made through a democratic system leaded by an organizational council elected by the community to guide procedures. All decisions concerning the Comuna are taken in a collective, participatory way, through assemblies open to all residents. The elected leaders of the Comuna cannot take decisions without having the prior approval of the assembly, which is the highest authority of the Comuna.

As a community, land ownership is communal and all comuneros have the same rights over the lands. The total area of the comuna is equally divided among each resident, who can have three and no more lots each. The exit mechanisms are regulated and favor the strengthening of the comuna: when someone decides to leave, there is a priority scheme for the assignment of the related lands: family members have the first priority, followed by someone from the comuna.

Some of the responsibilities that are fully shared among residents include: political decisions, the handling of water issues, the work on large crop areas, the management of the sports, community school, events and training center areas. Other communal activities include two annual festivals and 12 mingas every year.

Through the practice of mingas, the residents, who are mostly indigenous, work collaboratively to improve the community. Some of the projects include the collective cleaning of streets, reforestation with local native plants, rain water harvesting for irrigation of crops and the building of a communal house made of superadobe, used for the meetings, where community projects can be discussed and approved (Madrid, 2011).

The comuneros of Comuna Tola Chica have been creative and adaptive on dealing with an important issue experienced by mostly comunas in the Metropolitan District of Quito, which is the increasing lack of interest of young people in the activities of the Comuna. To tackle that, Tola Chica has brought rock and cumbia to the traditional festivities. Another inventive idea to attract young people was through sports: the creation of the soccer team of the comuna has been successful in bringing a younger population to its lands.

Besides practising organic farming, the community has 12 protected areas for reforestation of the native forest. Reforestation is a very important issue in a region that suffers a severe dry season and needs trees to hold water in the ecosystem to supply the human, plant and animal communities. Almost 20 hectares of forest have been recovered through communal practices. Currently, activities around environmental issues are the ones which have the strongest force to gather comuneros towards communal activities.

The projects of the Comuna follow the principles of sustainability: they aim to meet the needs of the local population through the conscious use of natural resources, in order to not compromise the needs of future generations. Some of the projects include:

​1. Crop planting (maize, potatoes, peas, beans, beans, legumes and vegetables)

​2. Organizational Strengthening: empowerment of communal forms of organization and government.

​3. Recovery of the biodiversity of mountain Ilaló, a process going on for over 10 years, which involves the extension of remnant native forest and reforestation and environmental education.

​4. Cultural identity: education and strengthening of community and ancestral action and the revitalization of artistic expressions and celebrations

​5. Community Education: the SAMAY Community School is a proposal that seeks to provide a holistic and intercultural education, based on the principles of Sumak Kawsay.

At the training and education zone of the Comuna, a superadobe construction provides a space for workshops and events, and it is served by dry toilets.

The Ecuadorian political framework

The two main legal sets of rules that govern the country - the Constitution and the National Plan of Good Living - contain the foundations to stimulate profound structural changes on the current system: they place the rights of all Ecuadorians at the same level, recognize the rights of the Nature and establish a development model based on participatory planning. One of the main proposals of the government is the building of a “Social Knowledge Economy”, which aims to “satisfy needs, guarantee rights and potentialize individual, collective and territorial capacities” (Ramirez, 2014).

Moreover, the autonomy provided by the law, through the GADs (Decentralized Autonomous Governments) and “Consejos Provinciales” favors the building of a “Social Knowledge Economy” through local civic participation.

Article 238 of the 2008 Constitution defines how the GADs should work:

Article 238. Decentralized autonomous governments shall have political, administrative and financial autonomy and shall be governed by the principles of solidarity, subsidiarity, inter-territorial equity, integration and public participation. Under no circumstances shall the exercise of autonomy allow for secession from the national territory.

Citizen participation in Ecuador contemplates five progressive stages: dialogue and consultation is a first level of involvement, followed by public deliberation, planning and management, decision making and, ultimately, social control. This participation structure aims citizens to directly exercise social control, after having gone through public deliberation and direct participatory planning mechanisms. (MONJE, 2014).

The Organic Law of Citizen Participation (LOPC) contemplates several mechanisms to enable citizen participation, which include:

1-Local planning councils (Art. 66) -. Spaces where development plans and local and sectoral policies are formulated.

2-Citizens sectoral councils (Art. 52) - Sectoral instances of dialogue, deliberation and monitoring of public policies at the national and sectoral levels.

3-Participatory Budgeting (Art. 67)

Preliminary general principles for policy making

-Knowledge is universal: “The fundamental principle is that knowledge is universal, it's a heritage. It can not and should not be privatized.”**[24] (COESC+i, 2014).

Civilizatory evolution has been possible due to the sharing of knowledge and culture. At times when culture and knowledge have been locked up and contained, such advancements have stopped (Falkvinge, 2012). So, stimulating knowledge creation and sharing is beneficial to the development of communities.

- Sumak Kawsay: having been adopted by the National Plan of Good Living, Sumak Kawsay is a central idea in the political life of the country (Houtart 2011). “The concept describes alternatives to development focused on the good life in a broad sense. On the one hand, it includes critical reactions to classical Western development theory. On the other hand, it refers to alternatives to development emerging from indigenous traditions. It includes the classical ideas of quality of life, but with the specific idea that well-being is only possible within a community.” (Gudynas, 2011). Sumak Kawsay sees Nature as an inherent part of the social social, not as a productive factor or force (Davalos 2008). As stated by Ramirez, Sumak Kawsay supposes that individual and collective freedoms, opportunities and potentials are able to flourish and expand so society and territories are able to achieve what they consider to be valuable as a life goal. (Ramirez 2010, cited by Gudynas 2011).

- plurinacionality and diversity (including economical diversity):Ecuador has 34 nationalities and pueblos[25](#sdfootnote25sym), and each has their own traditions and cosmovision. Article 57 of the 2008 Constitution guarantees the rights of each community to develop their own identity and practice their own systems:

“Article 57. Indigenous communes, communities, peoples and nations are recognized and guaranteed, in conformity with the Constitution and human rights agreements, conventions, declarations and other international instruments, the following collective rights:

​1. To freely uphold, develop and strengthen their identity, feeling of belonging, ancestral traditions and forms of social organization.”

​8. To keep and promote their practices of managing biodiversity and their natural environment. The State shall establish and implement programs with the participation of the community to ensure the conservation and sustainable use of biodiversity.

​9. To keep and develop their own forms of peaceful coexistence and social organization and creating and exercising authority, in their legally recognized territories and ancestrally owned community lands.

​10. To create, develop, apply and practice their own legal system or common law, which cannot infringe constitutional rights, especially those of women, children and adolescents.

​12. To uphold, protect and develop collective knowledge; their science, technologies and ancestral wisdom; the genetic resources that contain biological diversity and agricultural biodiversity; their medicine and traditional medical practices, with the inclusion of the right to restore, promote, and protect ritual and holy places, as well as plants, animals, minerals and ecosystems in their territories; and knowledge about the resources and properties of fauna and flora.

All forms of appropriation of their knowledge, innovations, and practices are forbidden.

​13. To uphold, restore, protect, develop and preserve their cultural and historical heritage as an indivisible part of Ecuador’s heritage. The State shall provide resources for this purpose.”

It is necessary to create theoretical and methodological knowledge production systems that take into account the complexity and diversity of the social and environmental reality of Ecuadorian matrices, mechanisms that facilitate the rescuing and valuing of ancestral knowledge, as well as of instruments that allow re-building the Ecuadorian collective memory, and create mechanisms which can facilitate the construction of identities and social projects.

Ecuadorian policy recommendations with institutional Participation

The 2008 Constitution provides a framework that allows the local articulation of the territories; local governments are the best legal institutions through which citizens can exercise participation. However, it is necessary that civil society is strengthened in order to achieve the autonomy and independence that will allow community members to generate commons-knowledge for their communities and territories according to their needs The following policy recommendations go on this sense:

1- Development of local and regional knowledge communities:

Related strategies and actions:

  • Strengthening and valuing of local identities and knowledge
  • Campaigns to value, support and promote local knowledge and local institutions that offer goods and services oriented to the commons
  • Use of public and community media for promoting local and regional knowledge.
  • Education to enhance people’s skills on how to organize themselves to produce local knowledge
  • Facilitation of access of spaces for knowledge development/ knowledge exchange
  • Strengthening of social action: creation of an ecosystem of instruments that will empower citizens to become active participants and creators of a social knowledge economy.

2- Promotion of knowledge generated by communities

Related strategies and actions:

  • Systematisation, potentialization, valuing of knowledge generated by communities
  • Creation of local centers for “Knowledge Recovery and Preservation”, managed by local communities
  • Training to the community to systematize their own knowledge
  • Provision of conceptual instruments so citizens can formulate their own public policies
  • Stimulation of a continuous creation of knowledge to / from community.
  • Mechanisms to legally protect community generated knowledge
  • Recognition of a diversity of knowledge - scientific knowledge should not be the only valued, nor the most predominant.
  • Promotion of “Knowledge dialogues” communication spaces, where scientific, non-scientific, indigenous, afro-ecuadorian, etc knowledge can be communicated among themselves

3 - Strengthening of local, regional and national alliances of organizations who work towards the Commons and who work under ethical values

Related strategies and actions:

  • Definition of criteria to be part of such alliances. Recommended criteria shoulds involve ethics, sustainable development, production of commons and community-oriented goods and services
  • Mapping of existing initiatives. A preliminary list of identified initiatives can be seen in Annex A. This list is to be continuously updated by the community.
  • Creation of a website listing all of these initiatives, allowing Ecuadorians to continuously input new ones.
  • Creation of a Chamber of the Commons (Bauwens 2014)
  • Creation of an Alliance of the Commons (Bauwens 2014)
  • Awareness campaign to educate communities on the value of supporting local institutions that promote the Commons.
  • Use of public media and community media for promotion
  • Government subsidies to enterprises/institutions that promote commons knowledge
  • Creation of benefit mechanisms (coupons booklets, discounts, etc) for those who are part of these alliances, as well as for customers who choose to supply themselves from the institutions belonging to these alliances

4- Creation of an Observatory for Local Knowledge Creation and Preservation: the observatory will have the task to make sure the laws referring to the promotion of local knowledge at different legal instances: the Constitution, the National Plan of Good Living, COOTAD, GAD, etc, are being implemented

Related strategies and actions:

  • Training citizens so those can create their own public policies at local levels
  • Mechanisms to enhance local participation

5- Empower citizens and communities to formulate knowledge-related public policies

Related strategies and actions:

  • Provision of training to citizens
  • Provision of physical spaces and digital platforms where such actions can take place

6- Promote territory-related knowledge: guarantee that territories and lands are used according to their intrinsic characteristics.

  • Stimulate territory activities according to their intrinsic characteristics.
  • Establish concepts to use the lands according to their characteristics and keep a holistic view of the cycles of nature when doing so.

Concluding remarks

The proliferation of collaborative initiatives that stimulate the creation and exchange of knowledge, based in solidarity and reciprocity, is one of the signs that civil society is looking for alternative models to interact with their peers and with nature.

Ecuador presents a favorable environment for the establishment of a Social Knowledge Economy; the country already has a legal framework supporting its implementation and solidarity and reciprocity practices, such as the minga and ranti-ranti[26], are part of the Ecuadorian culture.

Glocal approaches can bring the best experiences of knowledge-communities around the world and be adapted to local Ecuadorian realities: these experiences are focused in the traditions, cultures and expressions of local communities, while linked with a wider global network that can provide complementary knowledge and support when needed.

The presented case studies show that cooperative communities are capable of self-organization and are able to produce systems of knowledge-exchange through creativity and collaboration.

Local initiatives of knowledge creation and expansion can be carried out through Autonomous Decentralized Governments (GADs), which provide several mechanisms of citizen participation and organisation through the Organic Law of Citizen Participation (LOPC).


[1] The concept of sumak kawsay - or buen vivir - has been well conveyed by Walsh: “In its most general sense, buen vivir denotes, organizes, and constructs a system of knowledge and living based on the communion of humans and nature and on the spatial-temporal harmonious totality of existence. That is, on the necessary interrelation of beings, knowledges, logics, and rationalities of thought, action, existence, and living. This notion is part and parcel of the cosmovision, cosmology, or philosophy of the indigenous peoples of Abya Yala” (Walsh 2010: 18)

[2] Although the translation of sumak kawsay into English has usually been “Good Living”, it seems that “Harmonious Coexistence”, as it has been used by some authors (Gudynas, Acosta 2011; Hidalgo, 2011 ) better reflects the broader idea of the term as understood within indigenous traditions.

[3] Article 275:“The development structure is the organized, sustainable and dynamic group of economic, political, socio-cultural and environmental systems which underpin the achievement of the good way of living (sumak kawsay). The State shall plan the development of the country to assure the exercise of rights, the achievement of the objectives of the development structure and the principles enshrined in the Constitution.” (2008 Ecuadorian Constitution)

[4] [1]

[5] [2]

[6] [3]

[7] Indigenous knowledge was acknowledged in the Fourth Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) as ‘an invaluable basis for developing adaptation and natural resource management strategies in response to environmentaland other forms of change’. This recognition was reaffirmed at IPCC’s 32nd Session (IPCC, 2010a) and consideration of traditional and indigenous knowledge was included as a guiding principle for the Cancun Adaptation Framework (CAF) that was adopted by Parties at the 2010 United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) Conference in Cancun (UNFCCC, 2010).

[8] according to a survey conducted in 2012 by Desmag [4] [9] [5]

[10] A hackerspace is a physical, autonomous place where people gather around tech-related projects. The goal is to create tools that can be reappropriated and replicated by everyone, freely distributed, and which can be modified and improved upon

[11] Hackerspaces - or makerspaces - are spaces where people create and share resources, knowledge and services.

[12] [6]

[13] [7]

[14] Some European cities that have been using open data for the benefits of their communities include: Amsterdam, Barcelona, Berlin, Bologna, Helsinki, Paris and Rome. Information on some of the projects developed by these cities using open data can be seen at http://opencities.net/node/22

[15] [8]

[16] [9]

[17] [10]

[18] [11]

[19] [12]

[20] [13]

[21] [14]

[22] [15]

[23] The original area of the Comuna was of 180 hectares. However, the expansion of the cities and inconsistencies of some of the land titles diminished that to 105 hectares.

[24] [16]

[25] [17]

[26] [18]

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