Social Threefolding and Commonweal

Britain is in a constitutional, political, economic,cultural and environmental crisis-triggered by Brexit, by global warming, by living beyond its means, by the loss of trust in government over the 2003 Iraq war lies, by rising poverty and inequality. We see the erosion  of public services such as providing affordable social housing,  and the privatisation of public services such as education and the national health service. We see government and business leaders pushing ‘the market’ as a magic silver bullet solution,  amidst ‘market’ and ‘government’ failure’. And sometime soon there may be another unforseen financial crisis.

Behind these phenomena we see the rule of the rich, or plutocracy. For example, according to Oxfam, just 62 people own over half the world’s wealth. Many members of the plutocracy may also be kleptocrats, wanting to own more and more, not to invest in the productive economy or to give their wealth away for the common good, for the arts, education or the environment. You can also see the rule of the corporations, the corporatocracy, and the bankocracy who with the plutocrats have largely captured our government through campaign donations, through relentless lobbying for tax breaks and favourable regulations, through the revolving doors between corporations and government, and the capture of the media, education and of culture which ‘delivers’ people’s minds by ‘manufacturing consent.’

One way to destabilise the powerful partnership between government and the corporations is to  assert the countervailing cultural and normative power of civil society and cultural organisations-a whole rainbow of free standing churches, associations, unions, social movements, charities, communities, educational, health, environmental, media, arts and science organisations, NGO’s,   families, communities, voluntary organisations. economic-political-cultural-systems

When government and business are confronted by civil society, it upsets the cosy  business/government marriage  with a three way dynamic, where the boundaries between the business/economic, the government/political and  the civil society/cultural sectors need  respecting. Hence Thomas Jefferson once saying that, ‘There needs to be a wall(ie boundary) between politics and religion’. Hence President Eisenhower wanting to reassert democratic control in 1959 by unpicking ‘the military, industrial, government complex ‘which had blurred the boundaries between government and business.

Just as the US founding fathers wrote a Constitution that was based on the threefold separation of powers between the legislature, the judiciary and the executive or government, so Rudolf Steiner proposed in 1917 that society was not ‘unform’ in texture, but emerged from the interaction of three distinct countervailing social powers, each with their own dynamic narrative and unique contribution. These are the economy,  the state or politics,  and culture.  So Steiner thought that running government as a  business, or running a school  or family as a business was a bad idea. Equally running a business like church, or government like a school or cultural organosationwas not a good idea.

So social threefolding can help unpick the muddles we  now see….by helping undertstand healthy boundaries and fences, how to build healthy partnerships betwen the three sectors to solve ‘wicked’ issues like global warming, how to get ‘the market’ out of government and ‘things money just cant buy’, and how to free politics from business and plutocratic capture using campaign funding and overwhelming lobbying..and more… (We have the best democracy money can buy’….)

Here is an article which develops social threefolding further….






US Lecture and Research Tour :Building Commonweal 1st-2nd November 2016 Dates and Venues


November 2016 US Lecture and Research Tour by Martin Large

 Hope, Fear and Building Commonweal: Rudolf Steiner’s Threefold Vision for Society

 What social future do we want and how do we get there?

This lecture and research trip is an opportunity to learn from positive US social, economic and political develoments, meet people similary engaged,   and also share questions arising  with those  working practically with Rudolf Steiner’s social ideas and vision for a threefold commonwealth or society.

Visiting the USA in October/November 2003 on a Winston Churchill travelling fellowship, I was inspired by New York guerrilla gardeners and by community land trust pioneers across the USA such as the Fellowship community at Spring Valley, Burlington Vermont CLT and Temple Wilton Biodynamic Farm. This led to working with others on  CLT National Demonstratioon Projects to help set up many UK community land trusts for social housing, changing UK law, innovative co-op community financing and farm land trusts in Britain, including the Biodynamic Land Trust.

At a time of great change and challenge, amidst the mess of market fundamentalism, I will ask, ‘How does Rudolf Steiner’s dynamic social thinking inspire us to build a more free, equal, mutual and earthcaring commonwealth…… One biodynamic farm, vibrant school and social business at a time?’ … However the starting point is, ’ What are your burning social questions?”

I work as a facilitator and live in Stroud, UK. Books include, Social Ecology (1981), Futures that Work (2002), Common Wealth (2010), which draws on Steiner’s social threefolding to map an emerging commonwealth society. Asked when working in civil war torn former Yugoslavia in the 1990’s, ‘What, then, is the alternative to communism and capitalism?’ I have been action researching this question ever since..

Dates, Venues and Times of Talks and Workshop

3 November; Anthroposophical Society  138 W15th St   New York NY 10011 . New York City 7pm: Hope, Fear and Building Commonweal: Rudolf Steiner’s Threefold Vision for Society-How do we get there?

More information:

4/5the November talk/workshop in Spring Valley: Hope, Fear and Building Commonweal: Rudolf Steiner’s Threefold Vision for Society: How do we get there?

More information:

Sunday 6 : Restoring Hope: 

Rudolf Steiner’s Social Vision of a Threefold Commonwealth: 7pm Hawthorne Valley Waldorf School, Music Room

518-672-4465, x223 


Thursday 9: Temple Wilton, New Hampshire evening talk Hope, Fear and Building Commonweal: Rudolf Steiner’s Threefold Vision for Society and Community Farm/Land Trusts


Friday, Nov 11, 7:30pm – 9:15pm; Rudolf Steiner College, Sacramento: Evening Talk: Hope, Fear and Building Commonweal: Rudolf Steiner’s Vision for a Threefold Commonwealth- What social future do we want and How do we get there?

Saturday Nov 12, 9:30am – 4:30pm , Rudolf Steiner College: Threefolding Conference

2016 Biodynamic Conference: Tierra Viva: Farming the Living Earth

November 16-20, Santa Fe, NM



Open Food Network for Developing Fair Farm to Fork, Buyer-Supplier Relations

How do we develop fair, farm to plate, buyer supplier relations? This burning question  will be posed at a Workshop that I will be attending at the upcoming Biodynamic Association Annual Conference from November 16-20 2016 at Santa Fe, New Mexico.

So often, farmers and growers see in the shops a big price mark up of the food they grow. At the same time, they are barely making a living. In the UK, aggressive supermarket buyers have sometimes forced the price of milk, for example, below the economic cost of production. So one response is for producers use various methods such farm gate sales points, community supported agriculture (CSA)  or  running a farmers market stall to reach the consumer directly, and bypass the middleman distributor, wholesaler or retailer. Not surprisingly, there has been a huge growth around the world in both famers’ markets and in CSA’


And great oaks form small acrons can grow! In Sweden, Salta Kvarn, one of the largest Swedish box schemes,  is run from Jarna near Stockholm and is biodynamic. They have now set up stores in Stockholm. The Salta Kvarn  bakery started in the 1930s in the basement of a treatment center for young people with mental disabilities, because they wanted to bake bread from organically grown grain. In 1964 they bought the mill next to the treatment center, and Salta Kvarn was founded. Several products have the Demeter label . In 2008 the company was rewarded with the award Newcomer of the Year, awarded by the Farmers’ National Association and Food Federation. In 2013 it  produced about 150 products sold in shops and health food trade. The company is owned by a number of Foundations.

However, in Stroud, Gloucestershire where I live, we have both a thriving Saturday Farmers Market, Stroud Community Agriculture Farm-a 290 member CSA co-op , and StroudCo which was set up several years ago by a group of local food activists as a distribution platform to link local buyers and suppliers who for various reasons wanted something different. It is a food hub.

As a food hub StroudCo sources local produce from local farmers, bakers, growers, beekeepers, preservers, fermenters and other suppliers. Through their website members can order from all these different producers and collect their shopping in one place. Many producer members are also shopper members and vice versa. The aim is to create a market place that facilitates a direct link from producer to consumer.

Nick Weir, one of the founding directors of StroudCo  food hub (  is working with other UK food markets, co-ops and hubs to introduce a UK instance of the innovative and amazingly practical, timely Open Food Network, which originated in Australia.


What is OFN? Open Food Network (OFN) is an open source (free) web infrastructure to decentralise the food system. OFN national “chapters” collaborate and have non-profit principles. The OFN enables producers to offer food and drink for sale direct to the public or through any kind of hub, market or retail outlet (collectively called shopfronts). Producers and shopfronts can then cross sell each other’s’ products and establish distribution arrangements. OFN also provides some sales reporting and and accounting functionality. By creating a “group” users can link various producers and hubs, where one hub manages a catalogue of products and coordinates logistics for other hubs. This allows for lower transport costs and reduced CO2 emissions. OFN also enables visibility of the food ecosystem on a map, allowing the actors to identify and create new links and partnerships.

Why OFN? The current food system produces many negative externalities (health issues, loss of biodiversity and topsoil, antibiotic resistance, low-nutrient food, waste, high suicide rates in the agricultural community, etc.). All these externalities are the symptoms of a sick food system. But what are the root causes behind this disease? All these problems are caused by two major root causes:

The growing distance between producers and consumers, primarily physical (urbanization, globalization, accumulation of intermediaries) and psychological (we no longer know where our food comes from or how it is produced, and we give little value to our food and easily waste it)

Increasing trends of centralization, concentration and vertical and horizontal integration during recent decades has shifted the power from producers to agribusiness, and now a handful of multinational agro-industries control the food system (seeAgropoly report) .

OFN addresses these root causes by facilitating the creation & administration of local food ecosystems and by providing transparent information, thus bringing producers closer to consumers and enabling the decentralization of the food system.

The OFN guiding values are:

Land: we support farmers and producers using regenerative agricultural practices

Global Commons: all members of OFN co-create and share the responsibility for the Commons.

People first: we are building a human system, which defends at its heart mutual respect and empathy, as well as diversity, inclusion and tolerance.

Transparency: we are deploying transparency both on the platform we are building as well as in the operation of our organisation.

Constant evolution: we live in a world of perpetual change, which requires continuous adaptation and agility.

Empowerment: our project empowers individuals to create their own activity, and gives the freedom to choose the food system they desire.

Subsidiarity: decisions are most effective when they are taken at the most local level appropriate.

Systemic change: we believe in a global transition that addresses the root causes of a broken food system, not its symptoms.

Who for?

Farmers, market growers, artisans, breeders wishing to sell their products

Producer groups or farmer’s markets who wish to distribute their products collectively

Distributors and wholesalers who want to restore transparency in their supply chain

Grocery stores, independent shops, restaurants and cafeterias wishing to source directly from producers

Consumers who collectively purchase direct from producers (Community Supported Agriculture, buying clubs, cooperative grocery stores)

To find out more about the global OFN community visit

To join the global OFN discussion forum visit

If you want to follow this up, then Myriam, based in France,  is  a “global community gardener” for the OFN. She supports people who want to set up OFN in their country or region. She is an entry point for any info about the project (community, values, international development, etc.).

In the USA, Mike Kilmer, has  started investigating  the OFN for the USA, but there is not yet an official entity leading the project there. Mike has set up a US staging server and some other local people interested have started to play with it (


Finding and Celebrating London’s Hidden Orchards

Planting fruit trees and looking after  community orchards is one way of building commonweal. The community orchard movement is spreading rapidly as people connect to the often forgotten, neglected and secret orchards in their locality. One of the most moving, classic children’s book, The Secret Garden, by Frances Hodgson Burnett, describes how  two  traumatised and lonely children, Mary and Colin, come back to life through looking after a secret, special garden, with the help of Dickon who is totally at home with nature.


The Orchard Project was brought to my attention by a friend Ella Hashemi, who has started working for them, and is fired up by the potential , not just for developing community orchards, but for community building. Her colleague, Stephanie writes that,

The  Orchard Project  believes that, ..” orchards in London are worth preserving because they connect people with their heritage and environment, act as oases of calm in a hectic city, promote health and wellbeing, are an attractive focus for engaging people and developing skills, and provide refuges for wildlife. If they are actively managed by community groups they are more protected from development threats, and more likely to thrive.

Today’s renewed interest in orchards in the urban environment may be traced to an upsurge in the environmental movement over the last 30 years or so. Common Ground, a charity founded in London in 1983, has promoted orchards and established Apple Day as an annual community event. As part of that movement, orchards are again being planted in London – no longer as private spaces but as community resources.

London is a mosaic of private and public land, housing developments, brownfield sites and green spaces, rivers and canals, roads and railways. The city’s orchards reflect that patchwork. They are tucked away behind school playgrounds and in pub beer gardens, or forgotten in overgrown woodland or the corners of parks. No part of London is wholly urban or rural, so even when orchards are situated in the heart of the city, surrounded by busy roads and buildings, such as Olden Gardens in Holloway or Ferry Boat Inn in Tottenham, they are close to the wildlife corridors of railway lines or canals.

Once a common sight within the landscape, orchards are now under threat, mainly because of land development pressure, neglect, a lack of skills and the absence of legal protection. Our old orchard trees are dying and they will soon be lost unless they are preserved through restoration and veteran tree management. London has already lost more than 98% of orchards since last century, and the conservation of the remaining orchards is a high priority. In recognition of this, orchards were made a priority habitat in the UK’s Biodiversity Action Plan.’

One concern however, is how securely Community Orchards are protected from development, from the land being sold off and privatised? How does the  Orchard Project make sure that such orchards are held in trusteeship bodies that  capture and protect the community  value and benefits of such orchards in perpetuity as open spaces and commons?



The Challenge of Common Weal to Capitalism

Cows grazing on Rodborough Common, Stroud

“In times past Britain had the concept of the Commonweal – actions taken for the common good and contributions to the ‘Common Wealth’- which not only developed the limits on the power and privileges of the wealthy and powerful and increases in the political power of the common people but also to the community benefits of social housing (such as the Peabody Trust), safe drinking water and sewage systems and fairly impartial justice. The challenge of the capitalist system is to develop systems that are recognised as being contributors to the Commonweal not as parasites on the wealth and well-being of the wider community.”

The Era of Global Transition: Crises and Opportunities in the New World
By R. Davies

Building and Losing Common Weal

Commonweal means the health, wellbeing, common good, happiness and safety of people as a community.

Commonweal means the health, wellbeing, common good, happiness and safety of people as a community. It is connected with the old word ‘commonwealth’ meaning a country or state. For example, the Commonwealth of Australia or of Massachusetts. Common wealth can also mean our natural commons of air, water and land – what economists drily call ‘common pool resources’, as well as socially created commons like language – and country parks – that we all share.

I saw the building up, and potential losing, of commonweal while walking at Lydiard Country Park, Swindon on Wednesday 24th August. My friend Richard Keating was showing me where Swindon Council and his Community Forest team had planted 2 million trees, created four beautiful country parks, green open spaces, pathways, cycle paths, community facilities all around the ancient railway town of Swindon. One feature was providing accessible playspaces no more than 44o yards from houses.

Michael Heseltine, the former Conservative Environment Secretary, loved trees and after the 1987 gales championed the creation of such community forests, and the building of ‘family silver’ for common good. Walking round the lakes, the church, play areas, picnic spots, tree adventure playspaces, cafes, we saw families enjoying themselves, children playing, runners, cyclists. William Morris, the one time editor of the newspaper, Commonweal, would have loved the park and the community forest, as straight out of his News from Nowhere utopia.

Lydiard Park, Swindon
Lydiard Park, Swindon
Privatising Lydiard Park
Privatising Lydiard Park

However, we were shocked to find that Swindon Council had decided to sell a 75 year lease on the open market. The official notices said that community groups could bid – if they could find the money and do a plan at short notice.

This fired me up to start this Building Common Weal blog to ask what social future we want and how to get there, so we build together our common wealth for commonweal – and care for our heritage.

Mike had worked forty years there. He was heartbroken at the prospect of losing Lydiard Park and was very concerned that the recent introduction of parking fees might put off those who needed the park the most… and the next priority of Swindon Council was closing up to 16 public libraries…