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The Workshop in Political Theory and Policy Analysis


Ostrom Memorial Wall

Photo by Chris Meyer, IU

A "Celebration of Life in Honor of Elinor and Vincent Ostrom" was held in the IU Auditorium at Indiana University on October 15, 2012 (program). An archived broadcast of the memorial is available for viewing at: A photo slideshow presentation from the memorial is below.

In his closing remarks, President McRobbie announced that the new School of International and Global Studies, scheduled to begin construction in spring 2013 on the IU Bloomington campus, will include a room dedicated to Lin and Vincent and will house some of their handmade furniture. In conclusion, President McRobbie and Provost Robel unveiled a portrait of Lin Ostrom, painted by IU Professor Emeritus Bonnie Sklarski, which is now on permanent display at the Indiana Memorial Union East Lounge as “The Women of Indiana University.”

Photo by Chris Meyer, IU

On October 16, 2012, Workshoppers from around the world gathered at the Indiana Memorial Union for "Reflections on the Ostroms," sharing professional and personal remembrances about Lin and Vincent. The 17 speakers were: John Baden, Dusti Becker, Robert Bish, Salvador Espinosa, Konrad Hagedorn, Charlotte Hess, Larry Kiser, Derek Kauneckis, Sudhir Kodati, Jianguo (Jack) Liu, Anas Malik, David O'Brien, Robert Sain, Edella Schlager, Sarita Soni, Catherine Tucker, and George Varughese. Halfway through the program, Sergio Villamayor Tomas played an eloquent violin rendition of “You Are My Sunshine.” Below are some of the remarks that were delivered at the event, and others submitted by those who were unable to attend (see also published "Selected Obituaries and Tributes" at:

Following the "Reflections" event, Workshoppers planted a memorial Bur Oak (Quercus macrocarpa) tree in honor of Lin and Vincent in the front yard of the Ostrom Workshop at 513 N. Park. The tree is part of the IUB Memorial Tree Program and is marked with a dedication plaque: In Loving Memory of Elinor and Vincent Ostrom from the Workshop Family.

For more information about Elinor and Vincent Ostrom, see Founders—The Ostroms.

Reflections on the Ostroms

Krister Andersson, Department of Political Science, University of Colorado, Boulder, "In Memory of Lin and Vincent"
As we celebrate the lives of Lin and Vincent, I’d like to reflect on one aspect of their lives that has made a deep impression on me. I am referring to the absolute joy they took in working together with their colleagues, especially their students.

Lin and Vincent really loved to work. And man, did they work! It was really hard to keep up with them, even as they got older. They worked all the time it seems. In the summertime, they didn’t take vacations—they went on writing retreats. They did try taking a week of vacation once—back in the 1970’s but according to Lin “they didn’t enjoy it very much”. I can see how not being able to work was probably in some way too stressful for them. So they didn’t try that again.

Why did they love to work so much? Of course, they were very passionate about the content of their work: the intellectual puzzles of how people organize themselves to solve common problems. But I don’t think that the content of their work is the whole story. They also loved to work because of the ways in which they pursued new knowledge: through a collaborative process with other scholars and students. They loved to share their ideas with colleagues—think together, work together, challenge each other’s ideas, in short—to collaborate. They not only loved the study of collaboration and collective action, they also loved to practice collaboration.

I think we have much to learn from the ways in which Lin and Vincent engaged in teamwork. For one, they set an excellent example by always contributing more to the group effort than any other team member. As co-author, Lin’s contributions were always on time, always constructive, and often completely transformative of the joint work. Lin and Vincent were also incredibly optimistic about what the team could accomplish, supporting individual team members so that they could flourish in their tasks. And they smiled, winked, and laughed a lot. It was really fun to be a member of their team.

For me personally, working in this environment and being part of the Ostrom Workshop Team changed my life. Not just professionally but also personally. Their support and encouragement helped me overcome some of the fears and insecurities about academic work that I have faced, especially as a student.

So to me, one of the greatest lessons from Lin and Vincent is not just about the study of collaboration it is also about the practice of collaborative work: The fantastic possibilities of working together as a team.

Let me conclude by saying that we have lost two irreplaceable members of our team. But Lin and Vincent have left us with a solid foundation for continued collaborative work—we have the Ostrom Workshop, CIPEC, and IFRI among other platforms for continued collaborative work. May Lin and Vincent’s love for teamwork remind us of the power of thinking and working together.
Mansee Bal, PhD researcher, Erasmus University Rotterdam, "Ostrom n' Myself—A Tribute to Lin Ostrom"

Dr. Dusti Becker (Workshopper 1993–96), "Memories of Lin & Vincent Ostrom"

Robert Bish, Professor Emeritus, University of Victoria and Academic Chair of the Board, Tulo Centre of Indigenous Economics, "Remarks"

Minoti Chakravarty-Kaul, "Apprenticed to the 'Habits of the Heart and Mind' with Vincent and Lin"

Teh-Kuang Chang, professor of political science; chair of Research Committee on Asia and Pacific Studies of International Political Science Association, Ball State University
I am sorry for the loss of my respected Professors Vincent and Elinor Ostrom. I was a graduate student of Vincent Ostrom's at UCLA. I listened to Elinor Ostrom’s lecture at Ball State University and her address in the World Congress of International Political Science Association. I enjoyed talking with both of them. I congratulated Elinor after she received the Nobel Prize. I respect them as great teachers and political scientists. They will be remembered in the academy and in the world for their contribution to mankind. Please forward my most sincere condolences.
Professor Terry Nichols Clark, Department of Sociology, University of Chicago
Watching Lin at these meetings I was impressed with how she worked with people generally and how productive she and Vincent had been. I asked if I could visit their Workshop and see how they worked in Bloomington. They were most cordial hosts and gave me a flavor of some secrets. Many were transferable; others were more uniquely theirs. Key were Lin’s personal charm, her enthusiasm, her support for everyone working together, along with Vincent's intellectual honesty and long-term insight. Their hard work and obvious productivity, their willingness to help others, especially younger scholars and persons from less advantaged countries and surroundings, were essential foundations. All this is clear in the newsletters of their Workshop. Behind these is their own energy, which has a physical enthusiasm grounded in activities they continued for decades. Vincent came from the American Northwest where walking in woods and mountains were leading pastimes, as were serious work habits. He enjoyed cutting wood and combined this with an environmental sensitivity to reduce consumption of electricity, coal and normal fossil fuels. So they found nearby forests where he could take his chainsaw and cut up the wood which they would cart back to their home near Bloomington. They used small wood burning furnaces for much of the winter for heat.

Combine next the Northwest with the Southwest where they had both worked at UCLA. Lin in particular loved swimming long laps. But to fit in a daily swim with many other activities was not easy, so they created a home swimming pool, unlike any I've ever seen before or since. It was not the big wide deep expensive sort that would cost a fortune to maintain. Rather it was perhaps 2 1/2 feet wide and just deep enough to swim in. But it must have been 40 or more feet long, to provide a good lap before turning around. And to protect it from Indiana winters, it had a glass surrounding and roof with wood-burning furnaces on the sides to keep the water from getting too cool in January.

Vincent and Lin spent many summers high in the Canadian Rockies, without electricity or communication with the outside world. They thought and wrote, inspired by nature. This gave them more distance to innovate more deeply.

At a small conference on urban politics in Fort Collins, Colorado, we heard NYC Marxism anecdotes from Peter Rossi who sported huge sunglasses, an Ugly American tourist shirt, and two large shoulder cameras. Ken Prewitt told stories of being a boy preacher at 12, then breaking with his fundamentalist past and forging new political perspectives. The Ostroms told stories of small towns in the West, cowboys, and logging. They were much more concerned with interpreting people and places they visited, and seemed remarkably self-effacing compared to most others. I found them charming.
Gustavo Gordillo (, "Remembering the Ostroms"
Who was that nice lady sitting in the corridors of the FAO building in Rome? I passed by and then returned to ask her if she had been attended by someone. She told me she was waiting for the Forest group to end an internal meeting. My, my, she added, they must be deciding crucial things. Although I didn’t know this woman, I was a bit embarassed of her being kept waiting so I decided to start a conversation. I had just arrived at FAO that year (1995). We soon engaged in a powerful exchange based on the very sharp questions she made about my previous engagements as an activist, a peasants’ associations organizer, and finally a public officer first in the Mexican government and then in the UN system. At some point she asked: in your opinion what makes people cooperate? I said a few things based on my experience and suddenly I remembered a book that had made a strong and lasting impression on me. I asked her have you read Governing the Commons? At first she was surprised. Then with her contagious laughter she added: I must have since I am Elinor Ostrom. I was flabbergasted. As a result I invited her for dinner at a nice Roman restaurant and a great friendship started. Profesionally we worked on various enterprises being one the meetings at Helsinski UN university and then in Santiago de Chile at the FAO regional office which outcome was a collective book coordinated by De Janvry and Sadoulet from Berkeley, Platteau from Namur, and myself. Lin’s text on "The Puzzle of Counterproductive Property Rights Reforms" was a superb piece of analysis (Access to Land, Rural Poverty, and Public Action, Oxford University Press, 2001).

One of the first of many times I came to the Workshop as the FAO regional director for Latin America, she introduced me to Vincent. We had an incredible discussion over dinner on the diferent alternatives that Latin American countries had on their transitions towards democracy. At the end of that dinner, both made me promise that when I retired from FAO I would consider coming to the Workshop. I did that at the end of 2006 and until 2008. With Vincent I had the privilege of being his student for two semesters. Almost every other Tuesday we had a one-to-one meeting to discuss progress on my texts on the democratic transitions in Mexico and in other Latin American countries. On Friday, I would send him a memo on the issues I would want to discuss with him the following Tuesday. Those discussions were crucial for me to understand concepts such as polycentricity and equity jurisprudence. With Lin, I worked on the constitutional reforms of the Mexican land tenure system. Both books will be ready for publication next year.

In Elinor Ostrom's Governing the Commons, she dedicates her book to Vincent “for his love and contestation.” In measuring the legacy both leave to students, friends, colleagues, and in general enlightened citizens of the world, one could certainly say Thank you Lin and Vincent for your contestation.
Steve Hackett, professor of economics and associate dean of professional studies, Humboldt State University, Arcata, CA
In 1989, I joined the tenure-track faculty in the Department of Economics at IUB. My specialties at the time included experimental economics, applied microeconomics, and new-institutional economics with applications to common-pool energy resources. From the very beginning Elinor Ostrom served as a supportive mentor. She invited me to become part of the Workshop in Political Theory and Policy Analysis, which greatly expanded my research relationships and exposed me to the rich interdisciplinary intellectual community that Elinor and Vincent brought together. Lin was a tireless senior colleague with a deep commitment to understanding and resolving commons dilemmas. While it has been more than 18 years since I was last at the Workshop, Lin's influence continues to shape my research, teaching, and appreciation for interdisciplinary collaborations.
Indiana Daily Student, October 16, 2012, "Elinor, Vincent Ostrom remembered at celebration"

Derek Kauneckis, Department of Political Science, University of Nevada
I had the great fortune of being a student of Lin Ostrom’s. I want to offer a couple of illustrations of the importance of the Ostrom’s work. I came across Governing the Commons in a rural village community center in India while doing fieldwork in my master’s program on water management. The only book in English, it was situated on a shelf apart from all the others. I was puzzled why an academic text would be in a village center dedicated to basic health, literacy, and local development. As I came to realize, not only was the work groundbreaking in challenging the underlying assumptions of Hardin’s and showing how common-pool resources can be successfully managed, but it offered pragmatic lessons for those who were struggling with those issues in their everyday lives. Both Lin and Vincent worked with the community of practitioners, as well as that of theoreticians. Having their hands in the world of implementation and looking at how those focused on problem solving in the field improved the development of their own theory, and forced continued empirical testing of underlying assumptions. The Ostrom’s focus, as we were always reminded as students, was on the theoretical or empirical puzzle, not on what is important to a particular discipline. Lin was one of a handful of people who understood what “interdisciplinary research” involves and was able to overcome its significant challenges. Through the Workshop, they developed a global network of scholars able to use the same language, exchange and contest each other’s ideas in respectful and rigorous ways, were enormously productive and engaged scholars. The Ostrom’s work has ramifications for a broad array of fields, far beyond that of constitutions and commons. I believe their work will mark the beginning of a new science of self-governance.
Professor Robert O. Keohane, Princeton University, September 10, 2012, "Personal Recollections of Lin Ostrom"
When I think of Lin Ostrom I think first of her ebullience and her generosity of spirit. They went together. Although she was deeply involved in her own work, she seemed equally enthusiastic about the work of others – students and colleagues. Lin would articulate her own point of view and would disagree with others, but she never projected a sense of status competition or rivalry.

Lin’s enthusiasm for ideas created our relationship. I read Governing the Commons in 1990 on a trip to Norway that prevented me from hearing her speak at Harvard (I had never met her). Its emphasis on reciprocity as a path to cooperation resonated so closely with my own work that I immediately wrote to her on my return to Cambridge—in those far-off days, by U.S. Mail. She responded with interest, and our correspondence led to two conferences, a volume of essays, and, most important, a friendship that lasted for over twenty years.

Of course, who could think of Lin without recalling her enormous energy? I well remember seeing her in Cambridge after she had returned from a long trip to Nepal, where she had been sick and dehydrated; but even in that condition her zest for work—we were working on our book—was remarkable. I thought I was an early riser, but I well recall that on the occasional moments when I would send her a message at 5:00 a.m., it seemed that I would always receive an instant response—engaged, thoughtful, and generous.

Ken Arrow, Si Levin and I have written a more professional memorial for Lin, which we have shared (see PNAS 109(33) (2012): 13135-36). These are my own personal thoughts about Elinor Ostrom: great scholar, warm person, and role model.
Larry Kiser, Emeritus Professor of Economics, Eastern Washington University, "Remarks"

Professor Gary Libecap, Bren School of Environmental Science and Management, University of California, Santa Barbara
Regarding remembrances—Lin is naturally known for her tremendous contribution to scholarship on natural resource management, communities, and the range of institutional options for avoiding the losses of open access. Indeed, my students have repeatedly stated that they have found her insights of greatest use in exploring common property resources. Beyond all of this, however, are Lin's optimism, enthusiasm, and appreciation of people. At the 2010 ISNIE conference in Sterling Scotland, for instance, she attended every session, stayed up with graduate students and young scholars who crowded around her, and genuinely enjoyed the exchanges with them, even when they seemed never to have an end to their questions. This is just one of so many examples where her generosity, spontaneity, and intellect were infectious. You always came away from a meeting with Lin ready to delve more deeply into how people cooperate (or fail to) to promote their welfare and that of the resources on which they depend. She was a dedicated empiricist whose analysis was framed by theory and carried out with care. And she was a lovely person. We all benefit from her and her work. No one could ask for a greater legacy.
Jianguo (Jack) Liu, Rachel Carson Chair in Sustainability & University Distinguished Professor; Director, Center for Systems Integration and Sustainability, Michigan State University
Lin was a dear friend, excellent collaborator, insightful advisor, and great hero. I had the good fortune to collaborate with Lin on a couple of papers, including one published in Science magazine. The paper laid a good foundation for establishing the “International Network of Research on Coupled Human and Natural Systems” (, for which Lin was a member of the Advisory Board. The network is supported by the National Science Foundation (NSF) and based at Michigan State University (MSU). The purpose of CHANS-Net is to facilitate the communication and collaboration with among the CHANS community. With help and encouragement from people like Lin, CHANS-Net now has more than 1,000 members from a variety of disciplines around the world.

My home institution MSU was honored to honor Lin with an honorary doctorate of science. Our university president Dr. Lou Anna K. Simon asked me to host Lin. Because so many faculty, students and administrators wanted to meet Lin, Lin was happy to squeeze as many people as possible into her packed schedule. Even though Lin just returned from Nepal and suffered a huge jet lag, she was always full of smile and fully energetic. Our commencement ceremony was in the Friday evening, and did not end until around 9:00 p.m. Lin’s commencement speech was very inspiring. Then she was having late dinner with a number of my colleagues, talking and debating until almost midnight. She got up early Saturday morning to leave for the Detroit Airport because she wanted to see Vincent as soon as possible. I sent Lin to the Detroit Airport. When Lin was checking in at the security, even the security person recognized her as the first woman to win the Nobel Prize in Economics.

Although I have never met Vincent, I have enjoyed reading many of his publications and Lin spoke of him most highly on many occasions, with deep love and affection.

I am leaving for a workshop sponsored by the National Science Foundation, on social sciences for sustainability. I know if Lin were still with us, she would continue to be a powerful driving force for such interdisciplinary research.

Lin and Vincent are truly amazing giants and will be deeply missed! Other remembrances of Lin are available at: and
Professor David J. O’Brien, Rural Sociology, Division of Applied Social Sciences, University of Missouri (
I was a graduate student in Sociology at Indiana University in the late 1960s when I was looking for some courses in Political Science to fulfill the requirements for a minor. I had signed up for a course but the professor left for another university and somehow, by default, I took Lin’s course on “Political Calculus.” Like so many others in my discipline at the time I saw the world from a zero-sum conflict perspective. At the beginning of the semester I felt like I was in intermediate Chinese and had not taken the basic course. Riker’s Theory of Political Coalitions and Buchanan and Tullock’s Calculus of Consent were among the many readings that baffled me. What I remember most about Lin’s teaching was her enthusiasm and the fun she was having in doing her work. There were a lot of serious, somewhat dour, professors around in the late 1960s and not many women in teaching positions in the social sciences. So Lin stood out by her demeanor as well as her intellectual gifts. She had genuine concern for other human beings, including someone like me who did not have a clue as to what was going on and she persistently nudged me to keep an open mind about how I would approach the world as a social scientist. She did something very unusual in those days, which was to suggest that the boundaries between disciplines were artificial.

I did not fully appreciate Lin Ostrom’s influence on my scholarly life until many years after I left IU. Her encouragement to look beyond the disciplinary walls led me to use Mancur Olson’s Logic of Collective Action, one of the books assisgned in the Political Calculus course, as the theoretical foundation of my first work on urban neighborhood organization. Her encouragement for working across disciplines encouraged me to work in partnership with psychologists, political scientists and economists on a variety of research projects find a comfortable home in a Division of Applied Social Sciences.

I thoroughly enjoyed my conversations with Vincent, who became a member of my dissertation committee. He helped me to understand how collective action challenges that we face in our day are analytically similar to those faced centuries ago. I am especially grateful to Vincent for introducing me to the importance of constitutions and federalism, but also to Tocqueville’s observations of the relationship between “association” and “habits of the heart.” Vincent’s insightful observations on the complex relationships between formal and informal institutions have had a significant impact on my approach to household and village adaptations to post-command economy transitions in the former Soviet Union and East Africa.

Most important, Lin and Vincent led by example. They were genuinely kind human beings who were always willing to listen to others and encourage them, engage in spirited debate and thoroughly enjoyed doing applied scholarship.
Professor Kunle Oyerinde (Indiana Wesleyan University), et al., "Tribute to Elinor and Vincent Ostrom: Farewell to Intellectual Giants"
It is a great privilege for us as Nigerian scholars (list of signatures attached) to know Elinor and Vincent Alfred Ostrom. We send our heartfelt condolences to the Ostrom’s family, friends, associates, colleagues, students, and their entire Indiana University community in Bloomington.

To many of us in Nigeria, our first encounter with the couple was their 1990 visit to Obafemi Awolowo University, Ile-Ife, Nigeria. Their signature generosity has made it possible for several Nigerian scholars to be invited for mutually productive intellectual exchanges at Indiana University’s Elinor and Vincent Ostrom Workshop in Political Theory and Policy Analysis. We will fondly remember Elinor and Vincent Ostrom for their hospitality, friendliness, passion, and love for African scholars; their intellectual and professional mentorship; and their desire to upend African governance crisis.

Elinor and Vincent Ostrom’s support for African scholars has spawned remarkable research outputs, such as the book edited by James Wunsch and Dele Olowu, The Failure of the Centralized State (1990). Wunsch and Olowu followed this up with Local Govenance in Africa (2004). Meanwhile, Vincent Ostrom initiated the idea of Village Administration. Matthew Okotoni presented two papers on the proposal at the mini-conference held in Fall 1993 and Spring 1994.

The embroynic research was fine-tuned into a broader proposal submitted to the Research Group on Local Institutions under the leadership of Professor Bamidele Olowu. The Reseach Group adopted the initiative, and it metamorphosised into books and journal publications including the book, Indigenous Governance Systems in Nigeria, edited by John Erero and Dele Olowu, and a special issue of the African Journal of Institutions and Development edited by John Erero.

With more support from Elinor and Vincent Ostrom, Professor Bamidele Ayo expanded the idea of Village Administration into the book, Public Administration and the Conduct of Community Affairs among the Yoruba in Nigeria (2003). A follow-up study, The Constitution of Order among the Yoruba of Nigeria, culminated into Kunle Oyerinde’s PhD dissertation (2006) at IU under the supervision of Elinor and Vincent Ostrom. S. R. Akinola later leveraged the initiative into a polycentricity research program, which has resulted in books and journal articles worldwide.
Prachanda Pradhan, FMIS Promotion Trust, Nepal, "Elinor Ostrom: From a Nepal Perspective"

Sarita Soni, vice provost for research, Indiana University Bloomington, "Remarks"

Catherine Tucker, Chair, Department of Anthropology, Indiana University Bloomington, "Remarks"

George Varughese, Country Representative, Nepal, The Asia Foundation, "Remarks"

Jianxun Wang, China University of Political Science and Law, Beijing, China
About two weeks ago, we held the second annual meeting of Chinese Ostrom Society, together with Chinese Hayek Society, at Renmin University, and around 50 scholars and students attended the meeting. We will continue remembering Lin and Vincent and disseminating their works by holding meetings and engaging in other activities.
Professor Runsheng Yin, Department of Forestry, Michigan State University, "A Tribute to Professor Elinor Ostrom"
During September 2011–April 2012, I had the great fortune to spend my sabbatical leave visiting the Workshop in Political Theory and Policy Analysis at Indiana University and working with Lin and her colleagues. As of result of that opportunity, I have benefited a lot from her wisdom and scholarship, including the institutional analysis and development framework and the social-ecological systems framework she championed in formulation and application. I have benefited even more from her personality – always humble and accessible, willing to help colleagues, speaking with a smile and modesty, and tirelessly pursuing a research, instruction, and advising agenda that seemed bigger and more important than her life. She will be dearly missed and forever memorized as an intellectual giant and a role model by all the workshoppers and many others who are engaged in studying natural resource commons and ecosystem sustainability.