Document Type


Publication Date



Eberly College of Arts and Sciences


Social Work


Elinor and Vincent Ostrom spent most of their careers working in fields other than third sector studies. Even so, a significant amount of their work has implications for our field. Together they founded the Workshop on Political Theory and Policy at Indiana University and with students and colleagues built a large body of research and theory on a range of topics including self-governance, collaboration, co-production, polycentrism, federalism, and commons. The Ostroms, the Workshop and their networks of students and colleagues, also constitute an interesting example of one of their latest and most recent contributions, the knowledge commons. Their highly regarded contributions to interdisciplinary institutional theory are largely compatible with the third sector model, especially in the focus on governance, voluntary action and associations. The emphasis on institutions in their work is driven by an important shift from act utilitarianism, with an emphasis on decisions, to rule utilitarianism and a fundamental role for rules in institutional structuring. The research design they labeled Institutional Analysis and Design (IAD) has been fundamental to shaping an already large and coordinated body of research.


Please note that the original title under which the pre-print was submitted for review, "Vincent and Elinor Ostrom, The Workshop and The Bloomington School: A Polycentric Knowledge Commons" is different from the final title the editors attached for publication, "The Ostroms' Commons Revisited.".



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