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The Workshop in Political Theory and Policy Analysis


Working Groups

Community Commons

Coordinators: Ryan Conway and Carrie Lawrence

The Community Commons working group is intended to provide a forum for research and discussion of community-based and applied research methods, designed to engage communities and catalyze social change for the creation and preservation of commons. We invite academics, practitioners, commons enthusiasts, and local community members to come together to discuss both implications and applications of the cutting-edge scholarship developed by the Ostrom Workshop and by commons scholars around the world. By inviting a diverse audience to explore a diversity of commons concepts, we seek to cultivate synergies in the interface between commons research and commons practice, bringing citizen science to policy science and Workshop wisdom to commons sense. To these ends, we sponsor the Friday afternoon COMMUNITY COMMONS COLLOQUIA and work to build relationships with other commons-oriented campus and community groups.

Electric Energy

Coordinators: Elizabeth Baldwin and Keith Taylor

The Electric Energy Working Group is dedicated to understanding the governance systems at play within the US electric grid system. Recent attempts at electricity deregulation, and re-regulation, as well as various collective action and ecological dilemmas at a number of levels—the end consumer, the distribution network, the transmission lines, and the energy generators—make the electric grid a highly complex socio-technological construct. Limited understanding of the grid further separates the potential for public engagement on issues related to aging infrastructure, energy rates, and environmental externalities.

Health Commons

Coordinator: Carrie Lawrence

Managing the health care commons is a mounting challenge for our nation and our world; however, we believe that the Ostrom Workshop toolkit is uniquely adaptive and qualified to dig deeply and insightfully into this challenge.
      “The Fannie E. Rippel Foundation's support [has made] it possible to explore the application of a totally different set of proven economic theories that could have profound and practical application to health care. . . . The challenge of using well our common shared resources in health and health care is of utmost importance if we are to reach the goal of a healthier population and a sustainable health system.
      The project will include in-depth studies of four diverse regions: Cedar Rapids, Iowa; Grand Junction, Colorado; and Bloomington and Bedford, Indiana. Each of these communities has differing experiences with collaborative models of governance, many of which have been focused on health. In cases where sustained collaborative management practices have been in place, the result seems to be higher-than-average quality of health care at lower-than-average costs.
      Among the project's outcomes will be insights into new economic models, as well as surveys, assessments and other measurement instruments that can be used in regions across the country, if these communities can first be understood." (IU News Room, 11/18/10, "Rippel Foundation Awards Grant to Ostrom, IU Research Center, to Apply Insights to Health Care).

Institutions, Behavior, and Policy Outcomes

Coordinators: Salvador Espinosa (San Diego State University) and Saba Siddiki (IUPUI)

This group is interested in the effect of alternative institutional arrangements on behavior, and its possible impact on policy outcomes. Our goal is to uncover important theoretical relationships between these intertwined factors. We use the IAD’s approach to institutional analysis as a foundation, but we draw leverage from other theoretical and methodological approaches, such as behavioral law and economics, behavioral finance, experimental economics, sociology, among others. The group will discuss readings, share ideas, and explore topics for joint collaboration. The members of the group will interact online, using tools like Twitter, Dropbox, Google Docs, and videoconferencing. One of the objectives of this group is to organize a panel for the Workshop on the Ostrom Workshop (WOW5) conference that will take place in Bloomington in 2014. Note: The group will start meeting in January 2014. Please contact Dr. Espinosa ( or Dr. Siddiki ( if you want to participate.

Integrating Ecological Perspectives with the Social-Ecological System Framework

Coordinator:  Graham Epstein

This working group will focus on integrating ecological perspectives with the social-ecological system (SES) framework developed by Elinor Ostrom. The SES framework underlies an ambitious research agenda that adopts a diagnostic approach to investigate the relationship between a large number of potentially relevant variables and outcomes in the commons. This research agenda further proposes to break down disciplinary boundaries by providing scholars with a shared tool for studies of the commons. While the framework has taken steps from its institutional analysis origin to incorporate insights from ecology, gaps remain that may limit adoption by ecologists. The goal of this group will be to construct a working paper that identifies these gaps and proposes possible changes to the framework. As a starting point we will look at the models that ecologists and hydrologists use to examine these systems, and the variables that are used to construct these models. Throughout this process we will identify missing variables for inclusion in the SES framework, and seek to determine whether ecological models are compatible with the action situation at the center of the framework. Note: The group is finalizing existing projects, and looking for new leadership to work in existing or new directions.

Property, Sovereignty, and Jurisdiction

Coordinator: Daniel Cole

The Working Group on Property, Sovereignty, and Jurisdiction studies those three concepts as intertwined aspects of control, in the sense of decision-making authority, including informal, formal, official, and unofficial authority, over both people and resources. The Workshop has a long history studying property systems, but not in the context of systems of sovereignty and jurisdiction. Whether the source of property, sovereignty, and/or jurisdiction lies in legal/constitutional, religious, or other texts, the determination of who has property (and who does not), who is sovereign (and who is not), and who has jurisdiction (and who does not) profoundly influences political power relations within society. Areas of applied interest include, but are not limited to: (1) property as sovereignty (and vice versa); (2) property as jurisdiction (and vice versa); (3) sovereignty as jurisdiction (and vice versa); (4) explicit or implicit combinations of property, sovereignty, and jurisdiction in historical (e.g., feudal) societies; and (5) relations property and sovereignty in contemporary religious communities (e.g., Muslim societies).

Radical Commons

Coordinator: Ryan Conway

This working group will create a forum for dialogue and study of collective commons management situations, as they pertain to social change and activism. Scholars, practitioners, and community members will collaborate to understand and synthesize commons frameworks, including the many theoretical and methodological implements in the Workshop toolkit. This group will seek pragmatic application of commons theory, especially with respect to solidarity economies, horizontal polycentricism, social activism, and community self-organization. Current research and discussion interests include: institutional evolution and decay; the effects of discursive framing on collective ideation, network signaling, and the development of shared strategies; the incidence of Temporary Autonomous Zones and other spatially or temporally dynamic commons; and pedagogical considerations relevant to the accessible translation of commons theory for diverse audiences.