For the first Rural Commons Assembly, participating initiatives created drawings of their local working contexts including all relevant human and non-human actors that inhabit them. Additionally, the participants were asked to formulate five questions that speak about issues, problems or challenges they see their initiative confronted with. These questions made visible shared urgencies, desires and concerns as much as interests and activities. They range from theoretical considerations to practical concerns and were gathered in a collective questionnaire. Both the drawings and the questionnaire then served as a foundation for a collective mapping which was produced during various workshops of the assembly in order to get to know each other, learn from each other and discuss potential links between localities. The mapping is currently on display at Openspace in Innsbruck, Austria.
→ Resources and Money
● What is a fair pay for work done to create and maintain commons?
● How can commoning not be equated with unpaid work or volunteering? How can we avoid that commoning becomes a precarious practice for the “commoners”?
● How to contribute to the development of alternatives capable of subverting economic primacy? How to foster new models of sharing resources and establishing a context of radical trust?
● How to balance finances, so that the cultural institutions like us, which promote fair work conditions for the external partners, artists and community, could also have fair work conditions internally?
● Which strategies can be adopted to start new projects that generate income in a moment were public funding is being undergoing serious cuts?
● How can cultural projects and research revolving around care and commoning become financially sustainable in a context so strongly based on capitalist market logics?
● Which strategies can we develop in order to ensure the economic sustainability of the projects and the people involved? How to survive?
→ Governance, Organisation and Structure
● How can hierarchies be flattened and responsibilities shared more equally when bureaucratic/structural limitations enforce them?
● How to define a structure to a project that grew from very organic and spontaneous beginnings?
● How does the decision making look like in other associations with flat hierarchy (especially in associations inviting people from outside)?
● What new collective, subversive power- and responsibility-sharing “arrangements” could be designed so that concerns do not have to be borne by individuals?
● We are an ecosystem made up by different modules. Which possible governance systems to manage this structure?
● How can the strategic and operational work of the team be improved?
→ Modes of Situating
● Is having a space (infrastructure) the answer to the need to further root our work?
● Do we always need a community to make our projects work?
● How can the impact of local cultural work be increased in the light of sparse time resources and the “knowledge gap” between part-time employees and volunteers?
● How to maintain a context specific practice, in the sense of meaningful work with the territory?
● Which impact is more relevant: the processes we desire to develop? or the single actions we put in practice?
● How to look for a broad spectrum of gazes/contributions (as e.g. artists from abroad) without forgetting your specificity and immersion in place. In your acting/thinking/interpreting/reflecting in the place, how to universalise topics without generalizing them?
● How can we meaningfully and sustainable situate artistic and curatorial praxis in a local context?
→ Conceptual Questions
● What are emerging and resisting commoning practices in rural regions?
● What kind of “art” we are interested? Is the term “culture” to general for what we do?
● Which pillars and values should commons be based on, in order to contribute to such a vision in action?
● How important is it to reclaim public space in general?
● What are the main contents contemporary art should deal with these days?
● What are needs and desires that should be taken care of through the commons?
● How can social questions, economic activity and cultural impulses be intertwined best?
● What kind of “art/culture” is needed these days for a more fair society and a healthier environment?
● How to imagine the future?
● How can we best communicate great and alternative narratives?
→ Personal Questions
● Are we activators or activists?
● How to balance between collective and individual spaces/needs/desires/commitments/responsibilities?
● Is it worth the effort doing culture work as a “solo-show” ?
● How to keep a radical ecological approach viable in the everyday?
● How to deal with the “always be innovative” rhetoric?
● How to make our format replicable and possibly how to scale it up to transform it into a driver for change towards collective and collaborative societal models?
● How cultural activities can affect on a political level? How our local activities can have an impact on different scales?
● How to control growth, that happens naturally for similar institutions? How to detect which growth and expansion is good for keeping ourselves open and innovative, which one is already invasive?
● How can we strengthen collaborations among partners on the same territory to face together common challenges? (and not to work simultaneously on the same things)?
● How to be deeply imbedded into a local context and at the same time build up also a international net of relations?
● How can we organise and finance an international platform of initiatives working in the area of societal transformation?
→ Community Engagement
● How can the skills and knowledge of the local inhabitants be used to develop the local community and its self-perception?
● How can we involve a bigger part of the local community in feeling this place really theirs and shaping it according to their needs?
● How can commoning practices with varying “commoners” be perceived not as a service but as a reciprocal practice of care?
● How can people be stimulated to take self-responsibility in collective processes?
● In rural contexts what defines a community and what can we do to engage people where there isn’t one?
● How could our co-design phase become more effective by reaching a higher number of actors, being more inclusive and transparent, and giving voice to the many souls of a community?
→ Inclusiveness, Representation and Diversity
● How to make feminist ways of working and organizing tangible in our spaces?
● How can the care and attention for a more-than-human world be more rooted in our institutional practice?
● What happens to our ways of organising when we consider also earth others – such as plants, animals, microbes – as part of our community?
● How can engaging in commoning and community economies not be(come) a privileged practice in a commodified environment?
● How to keep the perfect balance of going more professional and also not becoming elitist and not exclusive?
● How can we be a more inclusive space? (inclusiveness meant in a broader sense and to make our initiative a more inclusive space to work, for events, for artist residencies…)
● How to build a bridge that you can transmit and communicate important ideas to everyone? Because now there are many initiatives that are doing a wonderful job and have the capacity and resources to change things, to spread new ideas, but it always stays in the same bubble.
● How to create an antiracist space and really get into organizing with black people in our area?
● How to nurture the community, even if the members are not sharing everydaylife in the same place? How to reach the feeling of communtiy also for those members living far away.
● How to empower inclusive communities? How to affirm difference?
→ Negotiations and Stakeholders
● How can the classical understanding of a cultural association (usually focussing on leisure activities, uncritical, harmless) be widened within local politics and the village community itself?
● What needs to be done that the organisation is taken seriously by local politics, seen as a partner in local and regional development and endowed with the necessary resources?
● How can relations to local politics be improved in order to hold space for collaborations, without becoming dependent on the politicians’ arbitrariness?
● How is it possible to be sustained by private investors involving them in the structure of the project but maintaining autonomy?