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Workshop honors Ostroms’ work


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By Alexis Daily




For two decades, Vincent and Elinor Ostrom gathered political aficionados to mire in the realms of political thought. But this year, ideas in memory of the duo are what’s on the table.

The fifth Workshop on the Ostrom Workshop, or WOW5, took place June 18-21 at the Indiana Memorial Union.

The conference allows students, researchers and alumni from the Vincent and Elinor Ostrom Workshop in Political Theory and Policy Analysis to reconnect for presentations and discussions of their work.

The workshop has taken place about every five years for the past quarter century.

This is the first conference to take place after the Ostroms’ deaths in June 2012.
Burney Fischer and Tom Evans, co-directors of the Ostrom Workshop, said WOW is open to anyone, but many of the participants are long term “workshoppers.”

Evans said that, for the first time, this year’s workshop was opened up to scholars, researchers and practitioners who did not have a prior affiliation with the Ostrom Workshop.

The main goal of the workshop is for various scholars and “Working Groups” to put together panels at which new scholarship is presented, most of which revolving around the “Bloomington School of Political Economy” the Ostroms and their workshop colleagues developed, said Dan Cole, chair of the Ostrom Workshop Advisory Council and IU professor in the School of Public and Environmental Affairs and Maurer School of Law.

The program consists of organized panel discussions as well as informal meetings among the participants.

“The panels are self-organized by groups of scholars and the conference agenda is then put together and run by the workshop’s excellent and highly dedicated staff,” Cole said.

Fischer said a record 250 people attended this year’s program.

“The Ostroms would be thrilled with the size and diversity of the attendees,” Fischer said. “The energy level is extraordinary.”

It’s a bittersweet occasion, Cole said.

“No doubt there was a lot of reminiscing and reflecting on the past, but the record turnout for WOW5 is also an indication of just how vibrant the workshop remains,” he said.

The Ostroms, longtime IU faculty members, co-founded the Workshop in Political Theory and Policy Analysis in 1973, serving as co-directors for decades.

The workshop brought together scholars and researchers to investigate how institutions shape human behavior and how public policies affect people’s lives.

The Ostroms received the University Medal, the highest award bestowed by IU, and the Herman B Wells Visionary Award in 2010.  

Elinor was included on Time magazine’s list of the world’s 100 most influential people in April 2012 and is the only woman to receive the Sveriges Riksbank Prize in Economic Sciences in Memory of Alfred Nobel, which she shared with Oliver Williamson in 2009.

 Vincent received the American Political Science Association’s John Gaus Distinguished Lecturer Award and the Daniel Elazar Distinguished Scholar Award.

Evans said the Ostrom Workshop is a bridge that enables students and researchers from multiple disciplines to work in teams on problems that cannot be solved by a
single disciplinary perspective.

Cole said WOW displays the continuing importance and relevance of the Ostrom Workshop despite the loss of their founders.

“WOW demonstrates the immense potential of truly interdisciplinary social-scientific research,” Cole said.
 
Cole said that based on the panels and discussions he has attended, he’s confident the Ostroms would have enjoyed WOW5 immensely.

“The Ostroms were quite humble, and for them, it was always about building a collaborative network to tackle hard problems,” Evans said. “They’d be thrilled and inspired to see how vibrant the community is.”

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