Elinor “Lin” Ostrom (born Elinor Claire Awan; August 7, 1933 – June 12, 2012) was an American political economist whose work was associated with the New Institutional Economics and the resurgence of political economy. In 2009, she shared the Nobel Memorial Prize in Economic Sciences with Oliver E. Williamson for “her analysis of economic governance, especially the commons“. To date, she remains the only woman to win The Prize in Economics.
Elinor Ostrom shared the Nobel Prize in Economics in 2009 for her lifetime of scholarly work investigating how communities succeed or fail at managing common pool (finite) resources such as grazing land, forests and irrigation waters. Ostrom’s achievement effectively answers popular theories about the “Tragedy of the Commons”, which has been interpreted to mean that private property is the only means of protecting finite resources from ruin or depletion. She has documented in many places around the world how communities devise ways to govern the commons to assure its survival for their needs and future generations.
Based on her extensive work, Ostrom offers 8 principles for how commons can be governed sustainably and equitably in a community.
8 Principles for Managing a Commons:
- Define clear group boundaries.
- Match rules governing use of common goods to local needs and conditions.
- Ensure that those affected by the rules can participate in modifying the rules.
- Make sure the rule-making rights of community members are respected by outside authorities.
- Develop a system, carried out by community members, for monitoring members’ behavior.
- Use graduated sanctions for rule violators.
- Provide accessible, low-cost means for dispute resolution.
- Build responsibility for governing the common resource in nested tiers from the lowest level up to the entire interconnected system.