Saturday, October 17, 2009

Bollier on Ostrom

David Bollier recently did a presentation on the notion of commons, drawing heavily on the work of Elinor Ostrom, who has just won the nobel prize for economics.  What he didn't know in advance was that Professor  Ostrom herself would be in the audience.
"Last weekend I traveled to Bloomington, Indiana, to speak at a community-organized conference on the commons. As I got up to speak, I paused and gulped: there in the audience was the pioneering scholar of the commons, Elinor Ostrom.
It was not an academic conference, but rather a gathering of 125 regular citizens at the local Unitarian-Universalist Church. Several slides in my presentation drew upon her work or mentioned her. Would she agree with my interpretations? Would I get something wrong?

Ostrom, a long-time political scientist at Indiana University, is a tremendously warm and generous-spirited person, so it was not her personality that gave me pause. It’s that she has spent several decades studying how real-life commons work, especially in managing natural resources. From Nepal to Switzerland and from Turkey to Los Angeles, Ostrom has done painstaking field work and attended scores of conferences to probe the inner dynamics of commons. She knows a few things.

Now Professor Ostrom has won the Nobel Prize for Economics, the first woman to be so honored. It is a well-deserved recognition. Professor Ostrom holds a special place in the history of the commons because she has done so much to make it visible in our time — first to academics, and then to many policymakers and now to the general public.
Bollier goes on to explain Ostrom's work in a really accessible way in the piece. Recommended.

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