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IASC (International Association for the Study of the Commons)


At the recent “unconferencing” IASC (International Association for the Study of the Commons) meeting in Tempe, Arizona,“Working on the commons”, a group of scholars met to discuss where research on polycentric governance (PG) stood, what were obstacles to its further development and how they could be overcome. The group was quite heterogenous which benefitted the meeting; the underlying reason was that as a result of Corona many of the parallel high-level events at the workshop were canceled and with the help of ZOOM the PG workshop was one of the last ones that actually took place that specific day. Despite all troubles associated with Corona one needs to acknowledge this as a positive side-effect for work on PG because the diversity of people in the room clearly benefitted the discussion.

One important result of the workshop was that research on PG increasingly cohered around the Bloomington School of Political Economy, that it was on the up and getting more sophisticated, also methodologically. On the other hand, this strand of work lacked a clear set of research questions. The most visible patterns of research developed on the role of PG for adaptive governance. As important strategies to further develop work on PG the following issues were advised: rely on young scholars, define few core questions, promote infrastructure that helps to bring students of PG together. A particular gap in research on PG seems to be work that address long term change dynamics in PG and the role of agency within it. The organizing group of the Workshop, Elizabeth (Liz) Baldwin, Mike McGinnis, and Andreas Thiel were impressed by the outcomes generated and the outstanding interest of the community in this work.

To everyone member of this website, this should be an encouragement to continue work on PG as well as promote its consolidation. As important elements to this agenda recent articles by McGinnis (2011), Carlisle and Gruby (2017) and books by Cairney, Heikkila and Wood (2019) and Thiel, Blomquist and Garrick (2019) and a Special Issue in Environmental Policy and Governance (2019) were named as much as miscellaneous articles in Ecology and Society, Environmental Science and Policy and Policy Studies Journal and the existence of the polycentricity website: A tighter affiliation of this agenda to the IASC as home to studies that follow the footsteps of the Ostroms’ work in general and the Bloomington Workshop were much welcomed. Encouraged by the outstanding feedback of the workshop, all of these issues will be continued to be worked on. Please, anyone who had a further interest in the outcomes of the workshop, and further advice on how to develop our resources and agenda, please, get in touch with Liz, Mike and Andreas and anyone affiliated with this website.
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