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The Workshop in Political Theory and Policy Analysis


Y673 Seminar

Y673 Seminar — Spring 2015

Political Science Y673: Institutions and the Governance of Natural Resources
Thursdays, 4:45 – 6:45 p.m.; 513 N. Park Avenue
Professor William Blomquist (email:

Y673 Syllabus (Spring 2015)

This seminar will address the roles that institutional arrangements, and especially the interactions among institutions, play in human efforts to govern and manage natural resources sustainably. A particular focus of the seminar in Spring 2015 will be on polycentricity. We will explore, converse, and write about the concept of polycentricity and how it has been defined, operationalized, and observed in natural resource governance situations. Polycentric institutional arrangements have been a core concern of the Ostrom Workshop since its founding, and we still have plenty to do as we work on identifying, analyzing, and evaluating polycentricity at work in natural resource (as well as many other) settings.

We will draw upon many readings, ranging from some that predate the Workshop to works in progress today. We will also engage several scholars from within and beyond Indiana University who have worked on, debated, applied, and critiqued the concept of polycentricity.



Training scholars lies at the core of the Ostrom Workshop’s educational mission. The culmination of each Y673 seminar is a mini-conference. Students and visiting scholars write papers to be presented before their colleagues, by another colleague. This unusual practice is a locally grown institution of the Ostrom Workshop, and we have found that this procedure ensures that the author receives quality comments and suggestions from several faculty members, fellow seminar participants, and other participants.

Paper presenters are assigned by the instructor based on paper topic and faculty willing and available to devote the time needed to carefully read a paper and participate in a mini-conference session. Papers are organized into panels including three or four papers. In each panel, each paper presenter has ten minutes to provide a sympathetic overview of the paper, and then five minutes to make constructive changes for improvement in the author’s argument, analysis, or style. The paper author then has five minutes to respond to specific questions or to highlight themes that did not come through as clearly to the presenter. Another ten minutes is allotted for general questions from other session participants after each paper presentation, as well as 10–15 additional minutes at the conclusion of each panel. Panel chairs are assigned the task of keeping that session flowing smoothly and on time.

Most paper authors find that listening to someone else carefully summarizing their own line of argument to be a unique and rewarding experience, one that frequently helps the author make improvements in the next revision of that paper. And it gets them into the habit of careful reading and close listening to comments, essential skills for their future professional development.

The mini-conference is an intense but interesting event. Experience shows that this process can work well only if presenters are given sufficient lead time to read their assigned paper and prepare their presentation, so deadlines for completion of papers will be strictly enforced. It is strongly preferred that all session participants stay for the full session and potentially other sessions that may be of interest.

Selected Papers from previous mini-conferences are available here.



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 Spring 2010  Fall 2010