Say goodbye and stay connected


It was with great pain that we learned that Silke Helfrich died in an accident during a mountain hike. We are infinitely sad and cannot believe it.
What a loss. For the family. For us as friends, Commons Institute and Commons movement. For the world.

Silke was one of the most important voices in the German-speaking and international commons debates, an inspiring thought leader and practitioner of commoning, and a wonderful personality. She has been the author and editor of numerous books, blogger, researcher, speaker and activist.

The Commons Institute was formed from the circle of participants in the first two Commons Summer Schools organized by Silke. The shared experience reached so deeply, and intellectually as well as politically so far, that the desire to continue on this path found its form in institutional stabilization. From this grew the Commons Institute in its current form: a lively network of scientists, practitioners and activists. For us, Silke has been a highly esteemed colleague, pacesetter and pioneer as well as extraordinarily devoted and cordial friend.

Silke first came into contact with the Commons in Mexico, as an employee of the Heinrich Böll Foundation. She teamed up with David Bollier and Michel Bauwens to create the Commons Strategies Group and translated works by Nobel laureate Elinor Ostrom into German. She significantly shaped the commons debate with her blog, numerous books and articles, lectures and workshops. In 2012 and 2015, she published anthologies on the subject of commons, in which she vividly depicted and classified the global diversity and the multifaceted commonality of commoning.

Probably her most important work is also her most recent. In Free, Fair and Alive: The Insurgent Power of the Commons she created a theoretical basis inspired by Christopher Alexander: a ‘pattern language’ of commoning. Through this, she formulated generalizable cores of concrete, practical responses to recurring challenges of joint action. Taking into account the respective context, patterns in a pattern language can be mobilised in practice to point beyond the particular instances of commons association. They thus serve to deepen and broaden commoning. Some patterns will certainly remain inseparably linked to Silke’s name and her affinity for language, such as “Aligning oneself together in diversity“, “Working on conflicts in a relationship-preserving manner“ or “Making decisions in a common voice“.

Silke’s sudden death leaves the impression of the unfinished, since so many ideas and projects are still in the making: the continuous further development of the pattern language, the GrundausCommon, commons public partnerships, the three paths of the Network of Economic Change. The quiet restlessness of this tireless advocate of the common, of free, fair and lively togetherness, this great visionary – she will be missed, as well as the sharp, courageous and (compassionate) thinker, the inspiring speaker, the local and global networking artist, the encouraging creator of new paths.

Mortality is also part of liveliness, and as passionately alive as Silke was, so powerfully does her death hit us. With a grateful heart and in deep sorrow, we say goodbye to the wonderful and beloved Silke, knowing full well that we will continue to be closely connected with her and her work in the future.

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In memory of Silke and to continue her work for the Commons, it is planned to establish a foundation. Donations are provisionally managed in trust by the non-profit Commons Institute e.V. and its assets are to be transferred when the foundation is established.

Donation account:

  • Commons Institute e.V.
  • IBAN: DE04 4306 0967 2048 8912 00
  • Purpose: Stiftung für die Commons

Donors from Switzerland can also donate to:

  • Foundation Freie Gemeinschaftsbank
  • IBAN CH26 0839 2000 0282 2031 5
  • Purpose: Gedenken Silke Helfrich/Commons Stiftung

These latter donations will initially be managed in trust by the Freie Gemeinschaftsbank Foundation and transferred to its assets when the new Commons Foundation is established.

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Further tributes, obituaries and memories (German, English)

(Thanks for translating the German tribute into English to Mike)