Elinor Ostrom Award on Collective Governance of the Commons - 2021 | Land Portal

Nominations Open Now!

Deadline for Nomination - 28th February 2021


“The most important lesson…derived from the intellectual journey I have outlined…is that humans have a more complex motivational structure and more capability to solve social dilemmas than posited in earlier rational-choice theory…(which) leads me to argue that a core goal of public policy should be to facilitate the development of institutions that bring out the best in humans.”

Elinor Ostrom, Nobel Prize Lecture, 2009


Elinor Ostrom’s words summarise a lifetime’s research on common resources. A mere decade on, at a time of multiple catastrophes from the impacts of climate change to the Coronavirus Pandemic along with all the social and economic upheaval these problems entail, we would do well focus a little of our attention on how to put her insights into practice. After all, both climate change and the Pandemic have demonstrated the centrality of shared resources to our wellbeing. In the case of climate change the impacts we are starting to experience illustrate how we all share global climatic systems, and the viral Pandemic sweeping the world reveals, in real terms, how the behaviour of individuals can affect, in either positive or negative ways, the lives of others. We are not individuals isolated from each other, we share a common planet, and health of the social and ecological communities affect us all.

The Elinor Ostrom Award is an opportunity to bring some recognition to those involved in developing, operating, or studying “institutions that bring out the best in humans”, and also an opportunity to demonstrate (hopefully to a wider audience) what can be achieved when people work together in innovative ways to manage ‘their commons’, or provide new insights through diligent scholarly research.


The Elinor Ostrom Award - 2021

The Elinor Ostrom Award on Collective Governance of the Commons is made every two years and coincides with the IASC biennial global conferences on commons. Due to the Pandemic, the 2021 IASC Conference will be the first fully online global commons conference, organised through Arizona State University in the USA.

The Award is now open for nominations for the 2021 round. There are three categories of the Award made to recognize the work of both practitioners and scholars of commons:

1. Practitioners

Awarded to individuals, communities, or groups involved with the creation, protection, sustainable use, and management of common resources.

2. Junior Scholars

Awarded to those involved in commons studies, community-level management, or policy and governance, associated with research, teaching, or advising commoners.

3. Senior Scholars

Awarded to those involved in commons studies and to acknowledge commitment to, and impact on, training and/or advising new generations of commons scholars and/or practitioners.



The Elinor Ostrom Award Winners - 2019


Left to right: Ruth Meinzen-Dick, Giuseppe Micciarelli, and Liliana Pechene Muelas


The Elinor Ostrom Award Winners - 2019

In 2019, the Awards were presented at the IASC Conference in Lima, Peru to:

Liliana Pechene Muelas (Practitioner) - Leader of the Misak people who has worked collaboratively to assert indigenous collective rights under Colombian law;

Giuseppe Micciarelli (Junior Scholar) - Whose scholarship and advisory work focus on developing legal infrastructures and governance approaches in connection to urban spaces for cultural and social innovation; and,

Ruth Meinzen-Dick (Senior Scholar) - Who has led research on various types of commons in water, forests, rangelands, fisheries and genetic resources, under the CGIAR Program on Collective Action and Property Rights (CAPRi).


“Building trust in one another and developing institutional rules that are well matched to the ecological systems being used are of central importance for solving social dilemmas…To explain the world of interactions and outcomes occurring at multiple levels, we have to be willing to deal with complexity instead of rejecting it.”

Elinor Ostrom, Nobel Prize Lecture, 2009


In making the Award, we are looking for those who are grappling with complexity, in whatever form that takes. This may range from undertaking research to try to understand how to design institutions for addressing problems of global commons, to grappling with how to create governance mechanisms that address the interactions and power relations among social actors, economic activity, and ecological processes at the local level.

If you know a person, a group, or a community working with commons that you think deserves recognition then this is your chance to nominate them for an Award. The Award is open to all areas of the world.

The call for nominations is open till the 28th February 2021. See the Ostrom Award Website elinorostromaward.org for more information on the evaluation criteria, the application and selection process, past winners, and the Award itself.


Are you a commons scholar or practitioner? If you aren’t already, consider becoming a member of the International Association for the Study of the Commons. Visit https://www.iasc-commons.org/ for more information.

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