Sept 30th – Oct 9th

Close this search box.

Governing the Commons, 30 Years Later – An inventory of good advice for commoners

[Note: This will be a special World Commons Week 2020 keynote webinar for IASC’s North America region, streaming live as part of the Indiana University Ostrom Workshop’s 30th Anniversary celebration of the publication of Lin Ostrom’s seminal work Governing the Commons.] 


For me, Governing the Commons has always represented a uniquely well-working account of down-to-earth case descriptions & analyses on the one hand, and elegant, sophisticated theory-building, on the other. The icing on the cake consists of what to me feels like a very practical set of rules-of-thumb, that I have always imagined non-academic, real-world commoners can actually work with (I’m talking about the design principles, of course).  At the surface, the puzzle that lies at the heart of the book doesn’t appear to be all that complex: How can groups of people best govern a shared resource, sustainably? This seemingly simple question contrast sharply with the enormous amount of energy that has been poured into answering it since 1990. It is hard to imagine a book that has prompted more scientific endeavor than Governing the Commons has. In the last 30 years, countless careers – mine included – have been built on it, and many libraries have been filled with studies that spun off the book. In my lecture, I will explore if and to what extent these combined efforts have led to the formulation of real-world solutions to real-world problems experienced by real-world people. I will scan the approximately 350 articles that have been published in the International Journal of the Commons between 2007 and 2020 to take stock of what the respective authors recommend based on their respective analyses. My objective is not to do a meta-analysis to validate the design principles. Others have already done that, and much better than I could ever hope to do. My ambition is more modest. Think of this lecture as an inventory of good advice for commoners. How has the research that was triggered by Governing the Commons helped commoners to make better decisions? How can we proceed to further improve our service to the people for whom we are doing this? 

About the Speaker

Frank van Laerhoven – Associate professor Copernicus Institute of Sustainable Development, Utrecht University (Netherlands), and co-editor-in-chief, International Journal of the Commons

Webinar recording

Completed on
October 1, 2020

Click here to see the recording of the webinar.

The talk begins at about minute 31:43.