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What Is Commoning, And What Is a Meent?

On the top of this website it reads that we are a housing cooperative based on the principles of commoning. What does that entail? And what is a ‘Meent’, the Dutch word in the name of our cooperative? This is something not even every Dutch person might know.

The Origin of The Word ‘Meent’

‘Meent’ is the Dutch word for commons. The commons are the cultural and natural resources accessible to all members of a society, including natural materials such as air, water, and a habitable earth. These resources are held in common, not owned privately. Commons can also be understood as natural resources that groups of people manage for individual and collective benefit. Since the 12th century these communal undivided properties existed in the Netherlands and were also called ‘gemeynt’ or ‘marke’. 19th century marke-laws aided in the disappearing of these commons. 

The old Dutch word ‘meent’ was used to describe a piece of land used by many farmers together. If anyone would overuse it, it would lose its value as a shared resource. Therefore it needed to be cared for responsibly in respect of the shared interest to keep it alive for future generations. 

At de Nieuwe Meent we want to create a modern version of a ‘meent’ or commons. The housing that will be built in 2022 by Science Park train station in Amsterdam will not have any individual owners and there will be no profit. This way we also exclude ourselves from real estate market speculation.

It Don’t ‘Meent’ A Thing if We Ain’t Commoning

The term commoning has been made popular as a way to describe closeness to the commons and to describe the commons as an actionable idea, not just a place. With commoning, rather than having everything decided for by markets or governments, it is possible to take matters in one’s own hands according to shared visions. For example, should there be an empty lot in a city, a group of people could decide to develop a project such as a community garden there.

Commoning could also provide the opportunity to define self-worth in a different way, where one’s value isn’t merely measured by one’s own individual accomplishments. Instead, value can be placed on achieving a common goal that everyone will benefit from and also feels valued in.

At de Nieuwe Meent, a system of consensus decision making is used, and various working groups oversee different decisions. Read more about how we work in this article. To look into our layers of governance, go to our community page here.

In Conclusion

While in the Netherlands ‘Meents’ have disappeared a while ago already, there is an alternative to depending solely on the whims of the government and markets when deciding to organise together as a commons. Not only can the commons be a shared place, but commoning can be an action undertaken together and a philosophy from which to envision the world we want to live in.

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