Vale Silke Helfrich, 1967 – 2021

Silke Helfrich

Members of the Community Economies Research Network (CERN) and the Community Economies Institute (CEI) have been saddened by the sudden death of our friend and colleague Silke Helfrich.

CERN members reflect that Silke was brilliant and warm, a magical commoner and friend.

Silke crossed many of our paths in different places and networks. For example, she played a crucial role in a two-day workshop in November 2019 for the writing of the interdependence charter. Her contribution was characterised by her sharp questioning and creativity with language.

There is a glimpse of this incredible gift in a short video with David Bollier, in which they are brainstorming new languages for commoning.

David Bollier had worked closely with Silke for a decade and a half, and together they had published three books on communing: the anthologies The Wealth of the Commons (2012) and Patterns of Commoning (2015); and their recent reconceptualization of the commons as a social system, Free, Fair and Alive: The Insurgent Power of the Commons (2019).

In his remembrance of Silke, David writes of Silke’s “signal strength—her probing, synthesizing mind; her talent in making friends; and her zeal for practical action.”

Along with her works with David, Silke wrote “Who owns the world? The rediscovery of the commons” (in German and Spanish; Mexico City 2008 and Munich, 2009). She co-founded the Commons Strategies Group and the Commons Institut with Michel Bauwens (of the Foundation for Peer-to-Peer Alternatives) and David Bollier.

From 1999 to 2007, Silke worked for the Green Political Foundation, Heinrich Böll Stiftung, as the Regional Director for Mexico, Central America and the Caribbean, and the foundation has written a tribute to Silke (in English, German, Spanish ). There are also tributes by the Commons Institute (English, German).

Additional tributes can be found here (or through the Commons Strategies Group), and people are invited to contribute their memory of Silke to this page by emailing silke at

Members of CERN and the CEI extend our thoughts to Silke’s family, friends and colleagues.


Jenny Cameron