I just returned home from a one-day conference in Berlin organized by the Ostrom Workshop (OW) at Indiana University's European Gateway center. Six OW representatives, including myself, met with more than 20 of our European "Affiliated Faculty" members from eight different European countries, as well as representatives of European organizations, some of which have long-standing formal or informal relations with the Workshop and a few, such as UNESCO and the Land Economy Department at University of Cambridge, with which the Workshop is hoping to develop working relations. The meetings, organized by OW Director Scott Shackelford and Asst. Director Emily Castle, were extremely important because, between 2015 and 2020, many of our European affiliates felt alienated from the Workshop (as did I) largely because of Scott's predecessor as Director who had ignored them in restructuring the Workshop, narrowing its focus, eroding connections with longstanding affiliates, and generally marginalizing the Ostroms and associated Bloomington School theories, methods, and projects.
My impression was that the meeting was a great success, though it might have been expanded over two or even three days to allow for more extensive conversation. In any case, the OW's European affiliates seemed genuinely grateful that we had come to "reconnect" with them. And the newly represented European organizations appreciated learning more about the OW, the Ostroms' approach to analyzing collective action problems, and the kind of interdisciplinary culture the OW's current management is working hard to reinstill. All participants seemed positively energized to start "working together" (to quote the title of one of Lin Ostrom's last books).
Personally, I knew more of the attendees than anyone else -- so many friends and colleagues with whom I've worked over the past couple of decades, in many cases as professor, mentor, and/or research collaborator. I have ongoing projects with several of them. My only regret is that I did not plan to stay in Europe for another week to spend more time working on those projects with them.
I am much more hopeful now than I was even a week ago about the OW's future prospects, though so much depends on the choice of the next Director after Scott steps down. IU needs to select someone who really understands the OW's values and culture, as well as foundational elements of the "Bloomington School" of Political Economy.
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