Ogallala Commons, Inc., is a 501(c)3 nonprofit education and leadership organization that reinvigorates commonwealth to build vibrant Great Plains communities.

Our service area is centered over the High Plains-Ogallala Aquifer (see map and state boundaries to the left), but also extends west into the Rocky Mountains region, and east to the river-braided prairies. The Ogallala Aquifer is a groundwater commonwealth that unifies all human and natural communities living in a region spread over more than 176,000 square miles, even though it is divided between eight different Great Plains states.

Ogallala Commons is governed by a 9-member Board of Directors and managed by a small team of Staff Contractors—leaders who share a vision and work collaboratively to carry out our organization’s mission.


What Does Ogallala Commons Do?

Ogallala Commons works to reinvigorate the commonwealth that forms the basis of our assets. Simply put, Ogallala Commons helps communities “to do together what no one community can do alone.” Our mission is carried out through a 4-part approach:

  • Weaving a collaborative network of diverse partners
  • Building an education outreach through our core programs, workshops, and digital tools
  • Fostering a sense of place to instill meaning and inspire stewardship
  • Rebuilding commonwealth communities to sustain our people and lands.

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Our Background

Ogallala Common’s mission is heavily influenced by a concept called the commons, an idea originating in late-medieval European societies—as well as practices that are utilized in communal resource management around the world. Ogallala Commons was initiated in 1999 as a resource development project for reinvigorating the depleted commonwealth in the High Plains region of the Great Plains. Ogallala Commons became a 501c3 nonprofit education and leadership nonprofit organization in 2008.

To learn more, read “A Region Reforming”—this paper delves into the philosophies that inspire Ogallala Commons, a definition of the commons, and a brief summary of how Ogallala Commons functioned in its first five years, 1999-2003. Also, here are two books that offer essential information about the commons:

  • Our Commonwealth: The Hidden Economy That Makes Everything Else Work by Jonathan Rowe
  • All That We Share: A Field Guide to The Commons by Jay Walljasper (The New Press, NY, 2010)


What is Commonwealth?

  • Gifts of the natural world and human society that have monetary and non-monetary value in supporting life and well-being for both human and natural communities.
  • Wealth we inherit or create together…which we desire to pass on, as undiminished and regenerative as possible, to our children and future generations
  • A sector of the economy that compliments but is also distinct from the market and government sectors
  • Communal assets that increase or decrease depending on management

OC focuses on commonwealth as the foundation for all communities, both human and natural.  Commonwealth consists of local and regional assets that must be preserved, enhanced, and invested in to generate sustainable resources.  Every community has access to these 12 Key Assets regardless of its current economic and social conditions.

Since 2004, Ogallala Commons has referred to 12 Key Assets of Commonwealth:

    The application of creativity to capture, memorialize, and express the beauty of a place, the emotions of the people, and to tell the stories of our past and present or to imagine our future.

    The local resources for learning. Vibrant communities require the compilation and transmission of skills, information, and knowledge.

    The production, processing, and distribution of food from and within the region.

    The resources and opportunities for people to relax, connect, play, and have fun – individually and together.

    The regional availability as well as the local harnessing of natural energy to support the community.

    The shared stories of our past times, people, places, artifacts, and experiences that give context to a community.

    The resources for physical, mental, social, and spiritual wellness that exist in the community or region.

    The web of relationships, connections, and practices that nurture the soul.

    The ecological process that transforms, stores, and exchanges the nutrients/minerals necessary to support the overall life cycle.

    Civilization has always organized around water, we can’t live without it. The healthy functioning of the water cycle is essential for the future of our communities.

    The living organisms that inhabit our region, the non-domesticated animals, plants, and insects that are native to our region.

    The features and experiences of our geography that define it as unique and uniquely our home.