The Commons Library exists to make social movements smarter and stronger.
We are an online library for the change makers of the world and for those interested in activism, advocacy and justice.
We support the power and effectiveness of progressive social change efforts by collecting and sharing resources from Australia and around the world.
What We Do
1. The ‘Go to Portal’ for Social Change
The Commons library is the ‘go to portal’ for social change resources. We gather and share resources from many different sources and organisations from all around the world in a user friendly, accessible portal. We also create resources to help change makers stop reinventing the wheel and support them with what they need.
2. Partnerships & Projects
The Commons works in partnership and provides customised services to organisations and networks engaged in social change activities. This includes collating resource kits, hosting collections, developing curriculum, writing case studies, researching issues and building new resource libraries. Check out some of our projects.
3. Respond to ‘Movement Moments’
The Commons Librarians monitor trends and needs in social movements. At times of crisis and opportunity the librarians gather and distribute relevant resources to assist campaigners and community builders to seize the moment.
4. Respond to Queries and Provide Advice
The librarians respond to queries on a wide range of social change topics. Our quick response resource recommendations enable change makers to get what they need and jump back into their work quickly. Other queries catalyse bigger research projects resulting in new resources.
5. Share Lessons and Inspiration
Social movement history proves change can happen! It provides inspiration, insights about strategy, lessons learned and a vast toolbox of tactics. The Commons gathers historical resources with a particular emphasis on Australian stories.
6. Amplify the Impact of Conferences
Conferences are an important sources of knowledge and innovation but without intential curation their impact can be transitory. The Commons team works to make the insights of conferences available to a larger audience for the longer term.
How to Use the Commons Library
Who We Are
Holly directs the Commons Library: developing and implementing strategy, overseeing library operations, tracking social movement needs, forging project partnerships and building the financial sustainability of the organisation.
She is one of Australia’s foremost activist educators.
Antje Dun Librarian
Antje maintains the library, creates and adds new content, supervises volunteers, does graphic design and contributes her information management expertise to special projects.
She has worked in many specialist libraries and is also a graphic designer.
Historian & Researcher
Iain brings past social movements stories to present day change makers through social media posts, articles, campaign case studies and research projects.
He is a social movement historian and author of several books.
Aoife Carli Hannan
Aoife develops engagement pathways for Commons supporters. She plans and delivers social media outreach, fundraising appeals, and events. Drawing on many years of grassroots fundraising, Aoife is interested in identifying and expanding on new and existing opportunities.
Sophie is a researcher on the Movement Monitor project, helping to measure the impact of the Australian climate movement.
She draws on her years of experience researching climate activism and working in various community organising and activism roles.
What Our Users Are Saying
Frequently Asked Questions
What is a ‘social change library’?
The Commons Social Change Library exists to make activism smarter and stronger. We gather the collective wisdom of people engaged in social change in one accessible online place. All of our materials are free, digital, and directly available.
The Commons Library includes educational resources on campaign strategy, community organising, digital campaigning, communications and media, working effectively in groups, fundraising, diversity and inclusion and much more. Resources are available in a range of formats including videos, podcasts, manuals, case studies, articles, practical how-to guides, and training materials.
The Commons Library is a public library for the benefit of the Australian public, informing and equipping people to influence public policy and engage in political structures. This online library also has many global inputs and visitors. We collect, curate and distribute the key lessons and resources of progressive movements around Australia and across the globe. See what our users have to say.
Why ‘the Commons’?
The name ‘the Commons’ references the common good, the shared property of all people. The Wikipedia entry on the commons states:
“The commons is 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 (communities, user groups) manage for individual and collective benefit.”
We view the collective intelligence of people as part of the commons so we gather and share the best thinking of people involved in social change to support future action.
Guided by this concept the Commons:
- Is free of cost to use and does not operate for profit
- Is equitable, inclusive and accessible
- Aims to be beneficial to many
- Reflects inputs from many
- Has a culture that celebrates cooperation and collaboration
Please note that all additions of materials to the Commons Library have been made with good will, with the intention of appropriate acknowledgement and respect for licenses. If you have any concerns about the inclusion or presentation of materials on the Commons please contact us to discuss.
For more information about the Commons Library Limited or any of our resources or projects, please contact a Librarian.
How do I use the Commons Library?
There are lots of different ways to find resources in the Commons including:
- Watch this video which explains how to use the library.
- Use the Search box on the home page.
- Visit the Browse page to view the topics, collections and formats on the Commons Library. Click on what interests you and navigate from there.
- Refine your search by using the filters (Refine by Format, Refine by Topic, Refine by Author, Refine by Collection).
- Explore the A – Z tags.
- Access our curated guides – New to Activism, Organising and Campaigning? Start Here!
- Have a look at our Easy Read Guide – What is the Commons Library? (PDF), (Word version)
- Contact the Librarians if you can’t find what you need.
How can I republish or reference Commons resources?
At the bottom of each resource page you will see a box with a yellow border. This box includes information about the resource including author, organisation, referencing information and licensing. Pay attention to the licensing information. Many resources in the Commons use Creative Commons licenses which require you to only use them for noncommercial purposes and ensure attribution. Make sure when you are referencing a resource that you attribute it to the original author and source. We welcome you promoting the Commons Library but sharing a link to the Commons is unlikely to be the full reference information you need to include when republishing or quoting a resource.
How do I find out what's new at the Commons?
I am new to activism and campaigning. Where do I start?
There are lots of resources in the Commons library and we understand it can be quite overwhelming. We have created 2 resources to get you started.
2. How to Make a Difference: 5 Steps to be an Effective Change Maker
A short guide to get you started and support you on your social change journey.
What do people find useful about the library?
See what our users have to say.
What kind of social change resources do you have?
There are many ways to create social change. The Commons Library contains resources which reflect those many approaches, such as digital campaigning, community organising, nonviolent direct action and lobbying.
Publishing a resource on the Commons Library doesn’t mean the Librarians endorse a particular approach. However you choose to make change, we want you to have access to information that will help you be more effective.
If you see a gap in the Commons please contact the Librarians with your suggestions.
How can I get involved in the Commons Library?
We welcome your involvement! The first step is to subscribe to the Commons newsletter and follow us on social media. This will keep you up-to-date on new resources, projects and events.
You might like to write for the Commons. Please note that we only accept content with a social change focus. We do not accept promotional material or articles designed to increase traffic to other sites for commercial benefit. For guidance see Writing for the Commons Library and contact the Librarians.
If your organisation has several resources to add to the Commons we may be able to set up a collection. See the current collections listed on the Browse page. We appreciate financial contributions from organisations to help keep the Commons free and available for everyone.
Volunteering is a really valuable way to be involved with the Commons. We have an annual intake at the beginning of each year with orientation sessions in February or March. If you’re interested in getting involved outside that timeframe just contact the Librarians.
Of course we would love it if you could make a donation or join the Commons Community by signing up for monthly giving. Members of the Commons Community get a special quarterly newsletter and priority access to the Librarians for advice sessions.
Who contributes resources to the Commons Library?
The Commons Library is made up of several collections contributed by capacity building and campaigning not-for-profit organisations. See our Browse page for an overview of collections. We also host materials contributed by hundreds of individuals engaged in social change.
If you are interested in contributing resources to the Commons Library contact a Librarian. Please note that we only accept content with a social change focus. We do not accept promotional material or articles designed to increase traffic to other sites for commercial benefit.
For guidance see Writing for the Commons Library.
Who runs the Commons Library?
The Commons Library is staffed by a nimble part-time team made up of Holly Hammond, Antje Dun, Iain McIntyre, Aoife Carli Hannan and Sophie Hartley.
The Commons Library is governed by a board of experienced community leaders. See our annual report for staff and board details.
Volunteers are a crucial part of the Commons team. Find out more about what our volunteers do and how to join our volunteer team.
The website was developed by Glenn Todd from ActionSkills.
Who funds the Commons?
The Commons Library is a charitable organisation with Deductible Gift Recipient status. We operate with philanthropic support, grants, project partnerships, and donations. See our Annual Report for more details.
If you are a philanthropist interested in supporting the Commons, or an organisation with a potential partnership, please contact the Commons Librarians. We are happy to provide briefing sessions and discuss options for collaboration.
The Commons Library is committed to providing quality services to you and this policy outlines our ongoing obligations to you in respect of how we manage your Personal Information.
Is the Commons accessible?
The Commons is committed to being accessible to the breadth of the Australian public and beyond. We aim to overcome barriers to access including those related to ability, education levels, language, income, racism, sexism, homophobia, transphobia and any other oppression or systemic disadvantage.
If you have feedback, questions or require resources in a different format contact us via the contact form or email directly librarian(at)commonslibrary.org and we’ll do our best to assist.