Chicago Chamber of Commons


Here’s an intriguing idea I’d like you to join me in exploring.

The idea is to create a Chicago Chamber of Commons.

The Chicago Chamber of Commons recognizes, supports and highlights the green shoots of Chicago’s budding Generative Economy.

We see signs of it everywhere but we’ve not been using a framework to understand what we are seeing so we can better support it.

In her book, “Owning our Future,” Marjorie Kelly discusses the Generative Economy.

“It’s a corner of the economy (hopefully some day much more) that’s not designed for the extraction of maximum financial wealth. Its purpose is to create the conditions for life. It does this through its normal functioning, because of the way it’s designed, the way it’s owned.”

For me, the Generative Economy is fueled by compassion, enables material and happiness conditions for living a good life and honors our interdependence with the global environment.  Think sustainable generative systems. The focus is on the triple bottom line — the accounting framework that favors three parts: social, environmental (or ecological) and financial, or what’s known as the three Ps: people, planet and profit.

In her book, Thrivability, friend and colleague Jean Russell points to hopeful  green shoots for a new economic way forward – these include solutions-based media, hybrid social purpose organizations, impact investing, maker spaces, slow food and slow money, socially responsible investing , the go-local movement and collaborative housing models.

The concept of the Chamber of Commons emerges from the work of Michel Bauwens and his p2p Foundation. I was introduced to Bauwens and several hopeful peer-to-peer organizations at Cooperation2015, a convening at the Institute of Cultural Affairs in February.  You can learn more about that day.  Bauwen’s work on peer-to-peer networking says new structures and philosophies in many areas of human interaction have been inspired by the peer-to-peer networking enabled by the Internet. Think of Napster as an originator. Enabled in this way, we are now transitioning to a Social Knowledge Economy. He lays out the framework here.

In a nutshell here’s what ‘s emerging.

“The old way is this. Here’s a problem. We need resources to solve that problem. We create a hierarchy to direct resources at the problem,” Bauwens says.

“Here’s another way.  There are enough people in the world with time, skills and energy who would be willing to work to solve that problem.  The new solution is to create a commons and a platform that allows people to self aggregate and collaborate to solve that problem. “

Forming around these Commons is an entire economy created by new types of businesses engaged in market activities, but in an ethical way. These include fair trade organizations, solidarity organizations, B corps and social entrepreneurs, Bauwens said. (see notes.)

We are seeing the Commons approach everywhere.  Enabled by the Web and technology it is tumbling deeply entrenched hierarchies in all sectors worldwide. The Chamber of Commons and ideas forming around the Generative Economy pinged with me in part because they feel connected to the ideas I have been floating since 2009 for a crowdfunded newsroom.

You might also want to check out the Capital Institute, which takes a similar holistic approach and has laid out a framework it calls the Regenerative Economy.

To get this conversation started, I and co-host Terry Edlin, founder of New Communities Vision, whose passion is housing alternatives, are inviting all interested parties to join us May 12 for a conversation about establishing a Chicago Chamber of Commons at the Red Lion Lincoln Square. We’re holding our conversation there because the owner is deeply committed to community and thriving local businesses are a big part of the equation.

It’s part of the Chicago Community Trust’s 100th Anniversary 0n the Table 2015 event. The time is ripe to have this important conversation and we hope you’ll join us.

Here’s my reading shelf of affinity titles for this event and onward. Read along with me, won’t you?  Let’s learn together what a Chicago Chamber of Commons might look like.

Deep Economy by Bill McKibben

Natural Capitalism by Paul Hawken, Amory Lovins and L. Hunter Lovins

Owning our Future by Marjorie Kelly

PtoP and Human Evolution by Michel Bauwens

Slow Money by Woody Tasch

Staying Alive by Vanadan Shiva

The Mission Driven Venture by Marc Lane

Thrivability by Jean Russell

and for fun, I’ll add some great teachings from a wonderful Tibetan Buddhist teacher Yongey Mingyur Rinpoche, The Joy of Living.

I and Terry Edlin are co-hosting an On the Table discussion inspired by Michel Bauwens’ Cooperation 2015 workshop on the peer2peer economy.  Our #OnTheTable Discussion topic is the Chamber of  Commons

At this conversation, we’re holding space to explore the creation of a Chicago Chamber of Commons and other ways to amplify the work of those in the peer2peer economy here in Chicago. We hope that you will join us. Using the #OntheTable2015 as a platform to discuss the Chamber of Commons melds the  ideas that community discussions spawn energy and interesting ideas.

We will submit notes of our discussion to the Chicago Community Trust for input into their programming for the year, the Chicago Community Trust’s 100th anniversary! Last year, some hosts were invited to speak at Chicago Ideas Week. Our goal in making this event part of On the Table is to heighten visibility AND to put the idea on the table with a general influential public. Who knows what could happen?

We are sending this invitation separately from CCT’s online interface and hope that signing up isn’t too complicated. If it seems so, please direct questions to either Sally ( or Terry (

An easy way to sign up, click as instructed: “We hope you will join us. Please click here to learn more about our event and please RSVP at your earliest convenience.”


Head on over to Meet Sally Duros  Sign Up from the drop down at the top. It will ask for your name and email address. Look for the event at the Red Lion Lincoln Square and mark that you will be attending.

CCT’s boilerplate is: That day and evening, thousands of Chicago-area residents – from Alsip to Zion – will pull up a chair at gatherings like ours to discuss the future of our communities while sharing a meal together. We will be one of thousands of locations across the Chicago region hosting similar events where community residents from all ages and backgrounds will come together to put real issues and solutions “on the table” and share their commitments to helping shape our collective future.

Date:                                     Tuesday, May 12

Time:                                     6 p.m.

Location:                              Red Lion Lincoln Square, 4749 N Rockwell, street parking

Location Details:               Free. Food is available for purchase but it is not required. Please don’t bring in food from the outside however.

Host email: or


We hope you will join us. Please click here to learn more about our event and please RSVP at your earliest convenience.

If you are unable to attend but want to be on the list of people to follow up with, please click here.


Sally Duros, Independent Journalist  | Terry Edlin, Healing the world, one household at a time

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Sally Duros believes good writing is a superpower. You can connect with Sally on , and on Twitter.