FLOK Society: Pro-commons in Ecuador (a conversation with Michel Bauwens)

by Digital Rights LAC on May 29, 2014

Flok1Last April, we received in Colombia the visit of Michel Bauwens, P2P Foundation founder and Research Director of the Ecuadorian FLOK Society project. Bauwens conducted a series of workshops and conferences in Medellin and Bogota, and in its way through Karisma Foundation, he talked about the FLOK project and what means opting for a pro-commons-based economic model in the Latin American context.


By Pilar Sáenz and Maria Juliana Soto. In collaboration with Carolina Botero. Karisma Foundation*

FLOK Society (Free/Libre and Open Knowledge) seeks to be “investigative process that will define and create policies and regulatory principles in order to guarantee the success of a productive model based on the open commons of knowledge.” In other words, it aims “to change the productive matrix towards creating a society based on common, free and open knowledge in Ecuador.”

It certainly is a political and economic interest by Ecuador. It is a project of the National Institute of Advanced Studies, in cooperation with the Coordinator Ministry of Knowledge and Human Resource and the National Secretary of Higher Education, Science, Technology and Innovation. It deals with a topic of interest for all pro-commons activists, who participated in an investigative and participatory design process that will result in a series of policy documents, to be discussed at the ‘Summit of the Good Living’ in late May, which will bring together activists and well-known national and international researchers.

Below you will find some passages from our conversation with Michel Bauwens, following his lecture at the Javeriana University on April 30, 2014.

Karisma Foundation (KF): What is next after the Summit of the Good Living in developing the FLOK project?

Michel Bauwens (MB): After the Summit, it should be a commitment by government institutions in 12 lines of actions, in which they agree to become part of the project. From my point of view, this is a breakthrough, good news, because never before had there been a government that would have proposed a transition project like this.

In this sense, I am cautiously optimistic about what will happen. The most important for me, as a global activist, is establishing a global minimum standard. It is no longer a thing of grassroots organizations, it has become a political fact and it is great news. It raises the impact of the pro-commons and P2P movements.

What I would like to see is that FLOK becomes a global, open political platform for participatory policy-making in this field. I would imagine, for instance, FLOK Medellin or FLOK Seoul. Having someone from the team saying “It was already done in Ecuador, why not now Medellin or Seoul or a province?” I think the process was good: gathering people, investing in wages so that people can make a living thinking about policies, open participation, formulating proposals; it is a good model of taking commitments from the authorities to move forward with it. For me, the ideas are as important as the results, going out to networks and having references. It does not mean being right, having done everything right, but at least there is a reference, something to which people can react and build on that.

K F: What does it take to make, for instance, a FLOK Medellin?

M B: In particular, political will, a mayor who wants to do it, gets funding, and makes agreements over the future for transforming them into laws. In other words, there are two models: a particular model and a more holistic one, the latter is in which we believe. For instance, we do not think we can say, “Let’s provide broadband”, if it is not accompanied by literacy and cooperative culture. Without that culture, then you have teachers who lock up the computers in a room and this will not work. If you work at the same time with teacher and student capacities, in addition to bringing more computers, video cameras, broadband, then, there are actually an infrastructure and is more likely to work. To change a country, we look at everything at the same time. A single person does not have to do all. We are talking about mobilizing a country, and, if there is political will, there is enough people within a country for achieving this.

K F: What do you consider is Ecuador’s political interest, or what is the place you want to fill in the region to do a project like FLOK Society?

M B: The problem is that I do not know how they think. What I know is what they say, but surely there are several answers. But I do think this gives Ecuador a distinctive identity and a way to reassert itself in regional policies. Brazil has its own way; Venezuela has its own way; and by implementing FLOK, Ecuador develops a very regional way of acquiring an identity with its neighbors and of gaining influence.

K F: How people are engaged in the FLOK project?

M B: We had a first phase in which participation was made; we have a methodology that we have applied with some success. We now have a second phase in which the documents are online, where people can leave comments and criticism. The third phase will be the Summit with government officials and international experts. So, the three phases are open to participation, but the response has not been massive.

K F: What the FLOK project means for the region?

MB: If we see it from the free software view, it is a first draft, open to scrutiny for development.

To learn more about FLOK Society, see the following links:




*Karisma Foundation is an organization of civil society to support and spread the good use of technology in digital environments, in social processes and public policies in Colombia and Latin America