Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Elinor Ostrom

 Complexity is not the same as chaos
Having managed a complex programme of adult education, I would have loved to have beaten that sentiment into the minds of managers who looked only for neatness and a managerial structure of command, control and obedience. The words are those of Elinor Ostrom, Nobel laureate for economics in 2009, who died yesterday.

Her best known book is Governing the Commons: The Evolution of Institutions for Collective Action, which uses empirical research to examine how, given the right conditions, self-management of what she calls "common pool resources" by their users works better than either state or private ownership for conservation and effective management of those resources. The key to allowing this to happen is good reciprocal communication and trust - possibly the two elements most frequently lacking in modern managerialism.

Her work on complex systems, ecology and common property regimes, together with her stress on inter-disciplinarity, flexibility and diversity, has widespread applications and consequences. You can get a sense of her work through listening to her impressive Nobel lecture here. Whilst what follows is an eight-minute talk on sustainability.

There is also a fascinating personal interview with her here.

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