Each begins with the words: “Commons are forms of governance and governance strategies for resources created and owned collectively. Commons are a reality today.”
The longest video, at four-and-a-half minutes, focuses on the newly created Workshop on Governing Knowledge Commons, which bills itself as “a collaborative, interdisciplinary research project based on studying cases of commons governance for knowledge and information resources. The Workshop and its methods are inspired by the work of The Vincent and Elinor Ostrom Workshop in Political Theory and Policy Analysis at Indiana University.”
Professor Michael Madison of the University of Pittsburgh School of Law is the host of the website. The Workshop is a collaboration among prominent academic scholars of the knowledge commons such as Brett Frischmann (Cardozo School of Law), Charlotte Hess (Syracuse University), Charles Schweik (UMass Amherst), among others.
The International Association for the Study of the Commons (IASC) is considering developing one or more training programs on the commons, in cooperation with Countryside and Community Research Institute of the University of Gloucestershire (UoG); the Instituto de Investigaciones Sociales-UNAM; and the CGIAR Program on Collective Action and Property Rights Program (CAPRI).
Before moving ahead, the organizers want to learn more about student interests and needs. You can help them out by taking part in a short online survey in either English or Spanish. It only takes about five minutes. The course organizers are tentatively thinking of offering courses on the following commons-related topics:
I. Introduction to the Commons.
II. Biodiversity and forests. Covering issues such as: ecological principles, biodiversity as a “commons”, forest rights, indigenous utilization, and the capacity for multi-functional use, Valuing biodiversity and influencing policy, and Carbon sequestration and the role of forests in climate change and environmental management.
III. Water. Covering issues such as: water as a finite and shared resource, application of commons concepts to water management under different conditions (trans-boundary management; inter-basin movement; within catchment management), legal regimes, water rights, and ‘markets’ for water.
The world lost a brave, creative mind when Elinor Ostrom died this morning from cancer. She was 78, a professor at Indiana University, and the first woman to be awarded the Nobel Prize for Economic Sciences, in 2009. Without her pioneering work and global outreach, it’s doubtful that the commons would have survived the “tragedy of the commons” myth that Garrett Hardin inflicted on it in 1968. Nor would the commons have gone on to become a respected paradigm of governance, let alone an orienting framework for the current surge of commons policy advocacy and social activism.
In the 1970s, economics was quickly veering into a kind of religious fundamentalism. It was a discipline obsessed with “rational individualism,” private property rights and markets even though the universe of meaningful human activity is much broader and complex. Lin Ostrom pioneered a different, more humanistic way of thinking about “the economy” and resource management. She originally focused on property rights and “common-pool resources,” collective resources over which no one has private property rights or exclusive control, such as fishers, grazing lands and groundwater. This work later evolved into a broader study of the commons as a rich, cross-cultural socio-ecological paradigm. Working within the social sciences, Ostrom proceeded to build a new school of thought within the standard economic narrative while extending it in vital ways.
As important, Ostrom built a global network of colleagues and a vast literature that explores how people can actually cooperate in managing resources. At Indiana University, she and her husband, political scientist Vincent Ostrom, in 1973 founded the Workshop in Political Theory and Policy Analysis, a crucible for much seminal thinking about the commons. Internationally, she helped start the International Association for the Study of the Commons, an academic network whose hundreds of members have developed a rich literature documenting howordinary people create fair rules and institutions for managing shared resources in sustainable ways. Much of this literature can be found at the Digital Library of the Commons, which is affiliated with the Workshop at Indiana University.
After more than ten years of thinking and writing about the commons, I decided that it was time to strike off in some new directions, with some new partners, projects and ways of engaging the world. I plan for my new blog, Bollier.org, to be the place where I can share my adventures and insights from my work on the commons. A lot is going on that needs to be brought into focus, interpreted, shared and debated. I hope that this site can serve that function.
Never before has there been so much diverse leadership and innovation in developing the commons paradigm. The recent International Commons Conference in Berlin, Germany, on November 1-2 was a landmark convergence of many different approaches to the commons, from efforts to fortify traditional natural resource commons and pioneer "peer to peer urbanism" to new digital commons that aspire to develop a privacy-friendly alternative to Facebook, reinvent money and relocalize the economy.