On 5 June, on behalf of the Open Spaces Society I received the international Elinor Ostrom Award for the society’s work on commons. This was at the 14th global conference of the International Association for the Study of the Commons (IASC) in Kitafuji, Japan.
The late Elinor (Lin) Ostrom of Indiana University, USA, won the Nobel Prize in economics in 2009. She was an exceptional academic leader on commons and was mentor to thousands of students of commons. The award, which was established by 15 institutions in her memory, is to promote the work of practitioners and scholars who are involved in commons, and celebrates Lin’s writing on the value of common resources and international collective action.
There were three winners in the practitioners section: the Foundation for Ecological Security in India, Grupo de Estudios Ambientales AC in Mexico, and OSS. There were also three winners in the senior scholars section and two in the young scholars.
The citation on our certificate is: On the 5th of June 2013 the Council of the Elinor Ostrom Award on Collective Governance of the commons grants the present recognition to the Open Spaces Society for their outstanding contribution to the practice of commons governance and to their understanding, as well as their long-term stewardship of the commons.
When I received the award I had the opportunity to say a few words to the assembled gathering. You can watch the video here and I have summarised my speech below.
‘The Open Spaces Society is proud to have received the award and grateful to the University of Gloucestershire for nominating us.
‘Lin had a phenomenal influence over a wide field and with countless scholars. In particular she was an optimist, she believed in problem solving and that anything is possible, that people will collaborate. As a campaigner I admire those attributes because campaigners must stay positive and believe that anything is possible.
‘Lin understood the symbiotic relationship of scholarship and practical action, and that research and evidence underpin, reinforce and inform campaigning and collective action.
The OSS feels a bond with this view, because it is vital that campaigners stay positive and believe in their ability to achieve. My organisation has promoted collective action for the last 150 years, we were founded in 1865 to save the commons. In 1866 we took direct action, when we pulled down fences which had been illegally erected on Berkhamsted Common near London. Today we protect the commons with campaigning, advice, and collaboration. We welcome the recent formation of the Foundation for Common Land which brings together many interests on pastoral commons, and we are pleased to be involved.
It is so important that IASC follows Lin’s lead and embraces practitioners and activists as well as academics, to extend its influence, attract new members and grow.
Since we are in Japan, I should like to pay tribute to two great Japanese scholars who were also members of the OSS: Professor Hiramatsu and Professor Kaino.
And finally, in tribute to Lin, I can assure you that we shall keep up our vital work of championing the commons through campaigning and collective action, as we have done for the last 150 years.
IASC has produced a brilliant video about OSS which you can watch here.