Elinor Ostrom was awarded the 2009 Nobel Prize in Economic Sciences for her groundbreaking research on managing collective resources, or “the commons,” such as pastureland, water systems, fish stocks, and air.
Ostrom is a past president and founding member of the International Association for the Study of the Commons (IASC), a long-time IDRC partner.
The first woman economics laureate, Ostrom challenged the prevailing wisdom that the free market or government is best suited to manage the commons. In her celebrated book, Governing the Commons, she draws on examples from Kenya to Nepal to show how communities successfully managed communal resources by establishing their own rules.
The Nobel jury commended her work for its significance in light of the growing threat of global warming. “If we want to halt the degradation of our natural environment and prevent a repetition of the many collapses of natural-resource stocks experienced in the past, we should learn from the successes and failures of common-property regimes," the jury said.
She shares the award with Oliver E. Williamson.