Life and Work of Elinor Ostrom

10 October 2016

She believed that instead of privatization or government involvement, it is better for a country to have common pooled ownership of natural resources, with the assumprion that decision-making process is transparent and democratic. Her studies “showed that when individuals have to answer for their actions to others depending on the same resources, ex. fishing grounds or common pastures, their approach to shared responsibility changes. Elinor Ostrom has demonstrated how common property can be successfully managed by user associations and that economic analysis can shed light on most forms of social organization. (nobelprize. org) In her late life she worked as Distinguished Professor at Indiana University Bloomington, where in 1973 together with her husband Vincent Ostrom, founded the Workshop in Political Theory and Policy Analysis. In addition to her positions at Indiana University, she also works as Research Professor and founding director of the Center for the Study of Institutional Diversity at Arizona State University. In 1963, Elinor Ostrom had a successful marriage with Vincent Ostrom. Together they made numerous contributions to the field of political science as co-worker..

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Elinor passed away in june 2012 in Bloomington at the age of 78 after a battle with pancreatic cancer, just two weeks after his husband’s death. After Elinor Ostrom’s death, Lauren Robel, IU Bloomington provost and university executive vice president said that “Beyond her incredible achievements as a scholar, she was also remarkable for her humility, kindness and boundless curiosity. Although she will be deeply missed, we take comfort in knowing that her work on the campus will carry on through the Workshop that now bears her and Vincent’s names. ” Early Life and Education

Elinor Ostrom, was born in Los Angeles, California, on August 7, 1933, as Elinor Claire Awan. She was the only child of a poor family. Her mother, Leah (born Hopkins) was a protestant woman, while her father Adrian Awan was a jewish man. Things in the family got even worst when her father left her mother and Elinor had to spend a lot of time with her father’s sister, attendint the protestant church. Elinor grew up during the Great Depression. Her family managed to live by planting vegetable garden and fruit trees in the backyard. She grew up learning ”how to grow vegetables and how to can apricots and peaches during the heat of summer. (nobelprize. org) During World War II, Elinor learned how to knit scarves for the “boys overseas. ” About her early years, Elinor Ostrom said that ” My childhood was spent learning and doing the traditional activities of a girl during the last century. My major recreational activity was swimming, and I eventually joined a swimming team and swam competitively until I started teaching swimming to earn funds that I could save to help put me through college”. (nobelprize. org) As her family’s house was situated in Beverly Hills, she attended the Beverly Hills High School, where she graduated in 1951.

Here, trying to overcome her speech impediment she attended the debate team and took part to various speech contests all around the state. Elinor said that „Learning debate was an important early impact on my ways of thinking. You are taught that there are always at least two sides to public policy questions, and you have to learn a good argument for both sides as well as knowing how to critique both sides. Participating in team efforts including my debating experience and being on a swimming team was also important. ” (nobelprize. org)) Being a poor kid in a rich kids’ school was tough, but it gave her better future perspective.

As it was perfectly normal for Beverly Hills students to go to college after graduating, Elinor took it as a must. Even though she was the first in her immediate family going to college, and she got no support from her mother she decided to study political sciences at University of California Los Angeles (UCLA), where she graduated with honors in 1954. Without any financial support, she managed to finish college without any debt by working in the library, in a bookstore and in a dime store. Therefore, she had a big advantage as the tuition fees al UCLA was extremely low in that time period.

After graduating, in a time period when women were seen more suitable working as a secretary, or as a teacher, she obtained a position of Assistant Personnel Manager for a business firm in Boston that had never hired a woman in anything but a secretarial position. It gave her hope and courage, and 3 years after she went back to UCLA. “Then I decided I would take one course a semester and get my master’s of public administration,” she says, “and I got trapped. My courses were so fascinating that I decided to quit my full-time job and go back to graduate school, at a time when women didn’t go to graduate school. In 1961, in her graduate work she took part in a research team with Vincent Ostrom, Charles Tiebout, and Robert Warren, studying the water industry in Southern California. She had to study the West Basin, and without realising she went into studying a common-pool resource problem. In this way, in 1962 she was awarded an M. A. by UCLA Department of Political Sciences. About her Ph. D. admission Elinor Ostrom said that “My initial discussions with the Economics Department at UCLA about obtaining a Ph. D. in Economics were, however, pretty discouraging.

I had not taken mathematics as an undergraduate primarily because I had been advised as a girl against taking any courses beyond algebra and geometry in high school. While the Economics Department encouraged me to take an outside minor in economics for my Ph. D. , they discouraged any further thinking about doing a Ph. D. in economics. [… ] I was, however, admitted in a class of 40 students with three other women. ” (nobelprize. org)\ In 1965 she got her Ph. D. from UCLA Department of Political Science, and her Ph. D. and her dissertation thesis was called “Public Entrepreneurship: A Case Study in Ground Water Basin Management”.

Her „dissertation research on Los Angeles’ West Basin groundwater resource introduced Ostrom to the study of common-pool resources, in which multiple users have access and potentially compete for a limited supply of goods or services. ” (newsinfo. iu. edu) In the same year she got her Ph. D. , her husband accepted a job offer from Indiana University’s Department of Political Science. This is how in 1965, she and Vincent moved in Bloomington, Indiana, where she started ”looking for her own employment at the university and notes it was fortunate that Indiana University did not have any nepotism rules as in the University of California system. (ncbi. nlm. nih. gov) Career After moving in Bloomington, Indiana, she started her teaching career together with her husband, but it was harder for her to get the job. ”I tagged along as it was very hard for any department to hire a woman in those days. Fortunately, the Department of Political Science later needed someone to teach Introduction to American Government on Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Saturday mornings at 7:30 a. m. They appointed me as a Visiting Assistant Professor to do that.

Maybe one of her most famous books is Governing the Commons: the Evolution of Institutions for Collective Action (1990) where she develops a series of empirical studies of groundwater basins to provide a “broader theory of institutional arrangements related to the effective governance and management of common-pool resources” (p. xiv). In the very beginning of the book she sets out three models often used to provide a foundation for recommending state or market solutions. These 3 models are: * Hardin’s tragedy of the commons t refferss to the general problem of overpopulation * the prisoners’ dilemma model it reffers to people’s willingness to commit themselves to a cooperative strategy for better payoffs rather than they themselves will do * Olson’s logic of collective action a theory of collective inaction where she focus more on those who do not participate in collective actions regarding the commons 2. Early work Ostrom’s early work emphasized the role of public choice on decisions influencing the production of public goods and services.

As she arrived at Indiana University in 1965, the first project she started working on was about the examination of an urban common resource of high importance for the community: the police. The project started modestly, but Ostrom worked for about 15 years on it, but her research ”revealed several important conceptual processes of urban policing and turned widely held presumptions on their head ”. ”The first 15 years of my research career at Indiana University were focused on studying police industries across the United States”, she said.

In this research she said that they never found in any metropolitan aera in the entire USA a police department of more than 100 oficers able to outperform a smallor or medium-size police department when about public services such as patrol, criminal investigation, or traffic control. 3. Later work Her later, and more famous, work focused on how humans interact with ecosystems to maintain long-term sustainable resource yields. Elinor Ostrom said that ”After fifteen years of extensive research on police industry structure and performance, I returned to studying the commons, but this time with the recognition of what I was studying.

The National Research Council created a special committee in the mid-1980s to review the empirical research written about common-pool resources”. Her research has considered how societies have developed diverse institutional arrangements for managing natural resources and avoiding ecosystem collapse. Ostrom and her many co-researchers have developed a comprehensive “Social-Ecological Systems (SES) framework”. All these assumptions were based on ”extensive field research experience in Nepal, Nigeria, and Kenya and research visits to Australia, Bolivia, India, Indonesia, Mexico, Philippines, Poland, and Zimbabwe. , but also in countries as Norway, Sweden, Poland or California. (Elinor ostrom’s CV) Nobel Prize Source:www. nobelprize. org /nobel_prizes/economics/laureates/2009/ostrom. html The 2009 Sveriges Riksbank Prize for Economic Sciences was basically concerned about where best to conduct transactions; * in the open market, within firms, * or among self-regulating groups of individuals In 2009 the economic prize was divided equally between Elinor Ostrom, “for her analysis of economic governance, especially the commons”, and the american economist Oliver E.

Williamson “for his analysis of economic governance, especially the boundaries of the firm”. (nobelprize. org) . 1. Small review of Elinor Ostrom research The Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences awarded Ostrom as her research had shown how groups of people can successfully manage common property they all take advantage of. Her extensive research was showing the contrast between 2 entities as illustrated in the picture below: She found that those who are better at regulating those resources are those with a vested interest in the resources they manage rather than the publicly-appointed management bodies would be.

Best sollution!!! Her research reveals that in many, but not all, cases, allowing users to develop their own rules to regulate the use of common property results in the most efficient solution for managing those resources. ”For instance, her studies of the lobster fisheries off the coast of Maine in the United States show that self-imposed rules can often be better, and better-followed, than imposed ones. In short, self-governance can be successful. Her work incorporates both case studies of numerous real-life examples and laboratory experiments testing the ways people interact.

The experiments reveal that people seem more willing to regulate others’ behaviour than predicted, and also that the development of efficient rules for regulation depends critically on good communication between the people involved. ” (nobelprize. org) 2. Prize lecture Elinor Ostrom’s Nobel Prize lecture called ”Beyond Markets and States: Polycentric Governance of Complex Economic Systems” sums up all her intellectual journey, starting with 1950s when she tried to understand the polycentric water industry in California.

She conducted several studies with her husband Vincent Ostrom and Charles Tiebout, trying to solve the ”problem of an overdrafted groundwater basin on the coast and watching saltwater intrusion threaten the possibility of long-term use. ” (ncbi. nlm. nih. gov) Later on, in the 1970s she took part to the polycentric police industries serving U. S. metropolitan areas areas to find that the dominant theory underlying massive reform proposals was incorrect. These early empirical studies, lead later on to the development of 409 case studies on common-pool resource systems around the world.

In this way, ”large studies of irrigation systems in Nepal and forests around the world challenge the presumption that governments always do a better job than users in organizing and protecting important resources. ” (elinorostrom. indiana. edu) Elinor Ostrom’s prize lecture is divided in different parts as following: 1. The Earlier World View of Simple Systems It reflects the mid-twentieth century general trend to ”fit the world into simple models and to criticize institutional arrangements that did not fit ”. It had 3 basic assumptions: a.

Two Optimal Organizational Forms: The marker A single governmental unit b. Two Types of Goods: Pure private goods: are both excludableand rivalrous Public goods: are both nonexcludable and nonrivalrous c. One Model of the Individual: The general assumption accepted in economical research and game theory that all individuals are fully rational. 2. Early Efforts to Develop a Fuller Understanding of Complex Human Systems It reflects the mid-twentieth general view of symple system adapted and transformed as a result of empirical research and development of game-theory models by: a.

Studying Polycentric Public Industries with special regards to the way citizens, local public entrepreneurs, and public officials engage in various ways of providing, producing, and managing public service industries b. Doubling the Types of Goods by studying how people cope with public problems in the world. The figure below ”provides an overview of four broad types of goods that differentially affect the problems individuals face in devising institutions to enable them to provide, produce, and consume diverse goods”. (nobelprize. org) Keep in mind that every broad type of good contains many subtypes of goods thay may duffer.

As an example, a river and a forest are both common resources, but they differ from a lot of points of view such as the mobility or time for regeneration. 3. Developing a Framework for Analyzing the Diversity of Human Situations As we can see in the picture below Elinor Ostrom developed set of ”external variables that conduct to an action situation to generate patterns of interactions and outcomes that are evaluated by participants in the actionsituation (and potentially by scholars) and feed back on both the externalvariables and the action situation. 4. Are Rational Individuals Helplessly Trapped in Social Dilemmas? In this chapter Elinor Ostrom tries to figure out to what extent the rational individuals act rational and how they manage to solve the classical dilemmas such as the overharvesting of common-pool resources and the underprovision of local public. This analysis propose to perceive the human beings and the way they act as being trapped inside perverse situations. A suggestive ilustration of people social dillemas is availavle below.

The topic is largely developped in chapter 7. 5. Conducting Experiments to Study Common-Pool Resource Problems ”Experiments on CPRs and public goods have shown that many predictions of the conventional theory of collective action do not hold. More cooperation occurs than predicted, “cheap talk” increases cooperation,and subjects invest in sanctioning free-riders. ” (nobelprize. org) 6. Studying Common-Pool Resource Problems in the Field Having conducted a lot of empirical research, this part reffers to the pragmatic field study.

Getting the opportunity to visit Nepal in 1988, she found a maintained irrigation system and some government-constructed and managed system. She developped a great case study about her research in Nepal, but this is only one exemple out of hundreds studies and observations in the field. She also conducted research in India, Sri Lanka, and Japan. 7. Current Theoretical Developments Ostrom identified eight “design principles” of stable local common pool resource (CPR) management as follows: 1. Clearly defined boundaries (effective exclusion of external un-entitled parties); 2.

Rules regarding the appropriation and provision of common resources that are adapted to local conditions; 3. Collective-choice arrangements that allow most resource appropriators to participate in the decision-making process; 4. Effective monitoring by monitors who are part of or accountable to the appropriators; 5. A scale of graduated sanctions for resource appropriators who violate community rules; 6. Mechanisms of conflict resolution that are cheap and of easy access; 7. Self-determination of the community recognized by higher-level authorities; 8.

In the case of larger common-pool resources, organization in the form of multiple layers of nested enterprises, with small local CPRs at the base level In theory, thinks would go well if everybody would follow some simple rules. People,are using rules they learned that work relatively well in a particular situation. They also learn norms, which are internal assumptions. In her theoretical research, Elinor Ostrom assumes that people are more effective if they count in internal values and norms than external imposed rules. 8. Complexity and Reform

In her last chapter of her prize lecture, Elinor Ostrom points out that people have to be willing to deal with complexity instead of rejecting it. Both eaconomical and social sciences developped a lot during the last decades and people have to be open to changes. She believed that people are not aware on new discoveries made in the field, and there are still many common properties badly managed by public governance just because of people’s unawareness and ignorance. Conclusion To sum up Elinor Ostrom’s research work, after her death, Wyn Grant. rofessor in the Department Politics and International Studies at the University of Warwick appreciates that she was ”A former president of the American Political Science Association, who worked across different disciplines in the social sciences and also influenced work in the physical sciences relating to environmental management. ” (blogs. lse. ac. uk ) As mentioned before, her entire research activity can be divided in 2 parts: 1. Early work where she mainly concentrated on the role of public choice on decisions influencing the production of public goods and services.

Here we took the example of the 15 years long research project “studying police industries across the United States”. 2. Later work that was better appreciate where she focused on how humans interact with ecosystems to maintain long-term sustainable resource yields. In this time period, together with her co-researchers developed a “Social-Ecological Systems (SES) framework”, based on ”extensive field research experience in Nepal, Nigeria, and Kenya and research visits to Australia, Bolivia, India, Indonesia, Mexico, Philippines, Poland, and Zimbabwe. , but also in countries as Norway, Sweden, Poland or California. Just a few of some most important discoveries Elinor Ostrom made are pointed out as following: * Most efficient sollution when managing the commons: allowing users to develop their own rules to regulate the use of common property! * Principles, not rules!!! Self-imposed rules can often be better-followed, than imposed ones, as it makes people act more responsible * She also appreciates that ”The most important lesson for public policy nalysis derived from the intellectual journey I have outlined is that humans have a morecomplex motivational structure and more capability to solve social dilemmas than posited in earlier rational-choice theory” .

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