Research Project

NLGN’s Ostrom Project

in partnership with the Centre for the Study of Governance and Society at King’s College London, Power to Change, and Local Trust.

In brief:

The scholarship of Nobel Prize-winning economist Elinor Ostrom lies at the heart of NLGN’s work on the Community Paradigm. Her celebrated research established the need to prioritise localism in democracies, to create the conditions for experimentalism and layered institutions to get the most out of services, and to make the space for communities to sustainably manage their own resources and set their own rules.

This project seeks to draw out some of the most important ideas from Ostrom’s long career and distil a set of new design principles for those working to further localism and community power in the UK today. It will also use these insights to take a fresh look at some of the community-led projects and community businesses that are already up and running around the country and find new ways to understand the challenges that they face.

Context and outputs:

Ostrom’s celebrated work embraced institutional complexity. At different scales, and in response to different problems, a society’s many communities might settle on public-sector and state-centric solutions, private ownership and markets, or – as Ostrom demonstrated – the wholly viable alternative of resource governance and regulation by communities themselves, without the need for either privatisation or imposed, top-down rules from the centre.

In the UK, the first two types of institution – state and market – are found everywhere. The third kind, showcasing something like Ostromian self-governance, is much more elusive. As argued by NLGN’s Community Paradigm, successive generations of public service reformers have defaulted to one or the other polar end of the private vs. public binary, crowding out most efforts at self-governance. But things are changing. Local governments, community businesses, and citizen action groups are starting to experiment with group ownership of resources and localised, tailored public service provision.

This project aims to build a bridge between Ostrom’s academic work and the contemporary experience of community power in the UK. An innovative symposium in April 2020 will seek to bring together scholars, politicians, policy experts, and practitioners to share ideas and discuss the state of UK localism and self-governance from an Ostromian perspective. This will also help to inform the project’s final report, which is planned for publication in June 2020.

Elinor Ostrom: The Economist who Proved Community Power Works

An uncommon revolutionary: Why Elinor Ostrom holds the answers for our times

Why Elinor Ostrom is the future of public services

Why we must make room for self governance in a post pandemic uk

For more information, please contact Simon Kaye