© 2022 The International Association for the Study of the Commons

Conference Panels

Below we list all accepted panels organized by conference sub-theme. Click on Abstract to expand.

  1. Our common SDGs?
  2. Commons towards urban transformation
  3. Indigenous peoples and globalisation
  4. Commons between colonial legacies and the Anthropocene
  5. Modelling and multi-methods approaches in polycentric commons systems
  6. The drama of the grabbed commons
  7. Global health commons between pandemics and glocal health
  8. Opportunities and challenges of digital commons
  9. Conservation, environmental justice and the commons
  10. Local institution building and radical futures for the commons
  11. Advances in Frameworks and Theory

1. Our common SDGs?


Sanctioning Grabs or Grabbing Opportunities for Collective Action from Below? Challenges and opportunities of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) for the Commons

Co-Chairs: Tobias Haller1, Peter Larsen2, and Ilkhom Soliev3
1University of Bern, Switzerland, 2University of Geneva, Switzerland, 3Martin Luther University Halle-Wittenberg, Germany

The commons, especially common property regimes, are absent in the SDGs. Common property rights are not recognized in this guiding framework, and as the SDGs are implemented by governments and the private sector, there is a danger that the goals can be used by these actors to legitimize and sanction ‘green’ commons grabbing (see Larsen et al 2022). First, this panel calls for case studies showing how the SDGs provide governments and the private sector with new options, discourses and financial means that undermine local common property institutions. Contexts, including local responses, might range from protected areas and conservation efforts (see SDGs 14,15), to (green) energy policies (wind, solar, biofuel, SDG 13) and mega-infrastructure projects (SDG 9). Second, the panel explores cases of commoner’s organisations and communities using the SDGs strategically, trying to reinforce their claims and strengthening the commons management. Examples may include engaging with the state implementation process, selecting specific SDGs for their aim (institutional shopping), building coalitions and other. We invite contributions with case studies which explain how, why and under which conditions this is possible. Submissions with case studies should aim to illustrate various trends and practices in relation to commons grabbing via SDGs or using SDGs strategically. The panel will explore similarities and differences between these two dynamics and their corresponding drivers. In addition, theoretical and methodological contributions on better understanding the intersections between SDGs and commons discourse in the context of achieving equitable and sustainable development will be equally considered.


“The food systems we want”: Justice in food systems transformations

Co-Chairs: Sabin Bieri and Theresa Tribaldos
Centre for Development and Environment, University of Bern Switzerland

Food systems are both at the heart of a safe and dignified human life and take a central stage in the SDGs. They substantially impact on environmental, social, and economic aspects in society, and therefore provide a strong entry point for SDG implementation. To respond to food system challenges, profound changes in the governance of food production, processing, distribution, and consumption are needed. Furthermore, food is not only an essential element of our wellbeing but also an expression of lifestyles, belonging, and social distinction, which requires an integration of these aspects into the debates on and successful implementation of food system transformations. Whereas mainstream debates on food security and systems often tend to eclipse questions of social justice, we argue, that framing food systems as common goods can help to not only taking the social dimension of food systems into account, but also works as a catalyst to building the ground for synergies that improve food systems, environmental, social, and economic dimensions of the SDGs.
As a perspective for this panel session, we propose to frame food systems from a justice perspective. We call for both conceptual and empirical contributions on the nexus of food system transformations and social justice. We are interested in the following questions:

  • How can framing food systems as common goods contribute to strengthening a justice lens in food system transformation?
  • How does this framing enable synergies between food systems and other key objectives of the SDGs?
  • What social, environmental, and economic implications does this framing have for food system governance?
  • What are successful examples of justice and human-rights-based framings in SDG implementation?


“Territories of commons in Europe”: a European research network to unveil the “invisible reality” of the European commons

Co-Chairs: Nevenka Bogataj1, Cristina Dalla Torre2, Pablo Dominguez3,4,5 Yanka Kazakova-Mateva6,7, Marianne Penker8, Mateja Smid Hribar9, Mimi Urbanc10, and Chris Short11,12
1Slovenian Institute for Adult Education, Slovenia, 2Eurac Research and University of Padova, Italy, 3Laboratoire de Géographie de l’Environnement (GEODE), UMR 5602 CNRS – Université Toulouse 2, France, 4Departament d’Antropologia social i cultural (AHCISP), Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona, Spain, 5Laboratoire Population-Environnement-Développement (USAGES), UMR 151 IRD, Aix-Marseille Université, France, 6University of National and World Economy, Bularia, 7Society for Territorial and Environmental Prosperity, Bulgaria, 8BOKU University of Natural Resources and Life Sciences, Vienna, Austria, 9Anton Melik Geographical Institute, Research Centre of the Slovenian Academy of Sciences and Arts, Slovenia, 10ZRC SAZU, Slovenia, 11University of Gloucestershire, UK, 12Countryside & Community Research Institute, UK

According to EUROSTAT (2013), approximately 9 million hectares of EU land is identified as common land. Besides, in the last decades, several examples of innovative commons have been flourishing all over Europe to reinforce and revivify the still existing ones (e.g., Iniciativa Comunales, ICCA Consortium, CSAs, etc.). Common lands and its associated governance offer a more sustainable, socially inclusive, and resilient alternative to intensive agriculture and private/state property. For example, most common lands across Europe are officially protected (e.g., under the Natura 2000 Framework, or as national parks, biosphere reserves, etc.) and they have governance systems that reflect the multiple use and interests active in these spaces. Despite these considerations, there is not even a single mention to the common lands neither in the incoming Common Agricultural Policy (2023-2027) nor in the EU Green Deal. We claim that the “invisible reality” of the European commons cannot be ignored anymore, especially considering the new EU agri-environmental targets for the achievement of the UN SDGs. To this end, we built the “Territories of commons in Europe” research network. Through the involvement of about 65 scholars from 24 European countries, in the last two years, we have been collecting reports on the quantitative and qualitative extent of the commons, with the goal of providing a more systematic and complete picture beyond the scattered EU statistics. Different case studies from various European regions will be presented, as well as how all these different findings have been put together for a transversal and “pan-continental” analysis.


Cultural Heritage as a Commons: Governance Challenges through the lens of UNESCO Heritage Conventions and the Sustainable Development Goals

Co-Chairs: Peter Gould1 and Hanna Schreiber2
1University of Indiana, USA, 2University of Warsaw, Poland

The 1972 UNESCO World Heritage Convention initiated a period of global expansion in government-sponsored protection of natural and monumental cultural heritage sites. Three decades later, the 2003 UNESCO Convention on Intangible Cultural Heritage revolutionized heritage governance by advocating that practices, traditions, or skills transmitted between generations constitute “heritage” and that communities, groups, and individuals are main subjects in heritage governance. Both Conventions contributed to the dramatic growth in global tourism premised on heritage as a driver of development. A similar spirit is reflected in the UNESCO MONDIACULT 2022 conference, which concluded that “culture is a driver of development” but also “culture is a global public good.”

Cultural heritage thus has become problematic new commons, raising local, regional, national, international, and global governance challenges. Substantial financial resources and reputational rewards are at stake in heritage protection, energizing competition for control of heritage sites or practices. National and international institutions are neither designed nor equipped to resolve these governance challenges and are subject to political contention at every level. The struggle to incorporate non-state actors (indigenous peoples, communities, NGOs) in existing global heritage regimes is widely seen as unsatisfactory, resulting in increased tensions related to political disempowerment, site enclosures, cultural appropriation, and maldistribution of economic rewards. Heritage is inadequately represented in the Sustainable Development Goals, even though effective heritage governance could substantially contribute to their achievement.

This panel will explore when “commons” is an appropriate analytical frame for assessing heritage governance and its challenges, how cultural heritage governance meshes with Sustainable Development Goals, how commons tools and analysis can contribute to addressing the inequities in global heritage governance, what lessons can be gleaned from existing governance of UNESCO tangible heritage sites or of intangible heritage practices, and how commons theoreticians and practitioners from outside of heritage can contribute to improving global heritage governance. Scholars and practitioners are invited to share their challenges and ideas.


Energy as a commons

Co-Chairs: Thomas Bauwens1 and Tine De Moor2
1University of Edinburgh, UK, 2Rotterdam School of Management, The Netherlands

Human societies heavily rely on fossil fuels for their primary energy supply, posing major threats to their very survival. Historically, the rise of fossil fuels coincided with the development of a highly centralized socio-technical configuration, with hardly any community involvement in energy production. To provide a sound foundation for the transition towards sustainable energy systems, the mere replacement of fossil fuels by renewable energies led by market forces will likely not be sufficient and that the very nature of energy as a pure private good has to be contested. This panel proposes a reconceptualization of energy as a common good, a necessary narrative for the redesign of the dominant energy system that merely sees energy as a tradable commodity. The panel convenes contributions that apply the idea of the commons to energy, deconstructing it as a private good and reconstructing it as a commons that can be better produced and distributed by a hybrid, tri-centric governance system involving collective actions initiated by communities, public regulations and market rules. It also welcomes contributions that illustrate how the development of community-based energy initiatives and renewable energy cooperatives in many parts of the world prefigure a just, green and democratically managed transition towards the energy commons.


Role of informal property rights and community relations in sustaining global food, land, and ecosystem commons

Co-Chairs: Yugank Goyal1, Pranab Ranjan Chaudhury2, and Ranjan Kumar Ghosh3
1FLAME University, India, 2Center for Land Governance, India, 3Indian Institute of Management Ahmedabad, India

Restoring and sustaining global food and land use commons is key to several sustainable development goals such as SDG 2, 6, 7, 12, 13 and 15. The Global Commons Stewardship Framework [Ishi et al. 2022] cautions that unless we transform our economic and social systems to safeguard the commons, we will cross the threshold of irreversible tipping points. This discourse routinely assumes formal institutional mechanisms can address the emerging challenges, even when the bulk of food, land and ecosystem commons is owned and managed by smallholders and local community systems [Gnych et al. 2020]. The prevailing property regimes are largely informal and rules-in-use determined by land-people relations. Yet, the policymakers and think tanks are predisposed to believe that formalization and regularization is the way to reduce perverse incentives for overexploitation and herald such interventions as the key to achieving sustainability. This fixation with institutional form is being increasingly challenged by scholars who emphasize functionality of institutions and show that credibility of an institution is not dependent on how formal it is, or on individual acceptance but on the aggregate perceptions about a common agreement (Sjaastad and Cousins, 2009; Ho, 2014; Goyal at al. 2022). In this panel, we invite papers that examine a variety of issues related to informal property rights relevant to restoration and management of food, land and ecosystem commons and push the frontiers of understanding their functions, credibility, persistence and necessary transformations – through cases and empirical arguments that explore grounded narratives and/or conceptual frameworks.


The Alaska Model

Chair: Ian Laing
Institute of the North, USA

Alaska’s founders built upon the lessons of the America’s westward expansion, adopting a unique model of resource governance. As consultants to Alaska’s 1955 constitutional convention, Elinor and Vincent Ostrom were responsible for drafting the constitutional provisions for resource management, ensuring the state’s resources remained in the public domain and were managed in the best long-term interests of its people. This Institute of the North believes this framework can serve as a model for nations in Africa and other parts of the developing world.


Sustainability: People, Power and Planet Nexus

Chair: Parita Sureshchandra Shah
Department of Geography, Environmental and Population Studies, University of Nairobi, Kenya

The world grapples towards the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) by 2030. The Sustainability concept has been based on ecosystems – where people and planet and their commonly owned resources are involved. This concept has missed a major component, which is power and resource property rights. People and power are the main links towards sustaining planetary health. This panel focuses on how people in developing countries relying on their commons are placed under the evolving game of power relationships in the context of achieving the SDGs. The SDGs in consideration are no poverty (No.1), climate action (No. 13), life below water (No. 14), life on land (No. 15), peace, justice and strong institutions (No. 16) and partnerships for the goals (No. 17). In many parts of the developing countries, the indigenous and poor communities end up suffering as they do not have any connections to powerful people to help them grapple out of poverty and retain sustainable justice. However, as they are at the mercy of evolving power wrangles, they are often pushed to the edge from their common homelands where they have been staying for centuries in the name of sustainability. This makes them poorer as they lose their natural wealth, and this worsens their sustainability concept. The panel calls for papers addressing the issue of power relations nexus lacking in the SDGs to help the people grapple with their own well-being and how to bring in local people’s voices related to sustainability considering justice in form of human rights under the heading three Ps – people, power and planet.

2. Commons towards urban transformation


Shaping Africa’s Urban Futures: Planning and Governance Dilemmas

Chair: Geoffrey Nwaka
Abia State University, Uturu, Nigeria

Urban planning and governance in Africa are still tied to the colonial tradition, and have not adapted fast enough to the reality of rapid urban change in the post-colonial period. UN-Habitat estimates that Sub-Saharan African cities have close to 200 million slum dwellers, most of who work in the informal sector where they simply do not earn enough to afford a high standard of shelter and services. These slums contrast sharply with elite neighborhoods where the affluent few enjoy high quality housing and residential environment. What does sustainability mean for such cities and townspeople? Many planners and government officials tend to dismiss the informal sector as ‘a chaotic jumble of unproductive activities’ that should be removed through forced eviction and other forms of repression. We argue that while these officials have the responsibility to uphold the law that protects public health and the urban environment, current research suggests that the path to urban peace and sustainability in Africa lies in building more inclusive and socially equitable cities “where everybody, irrespective of their economic means, gender, age, ethnic origin or religion are enabled and empowered to participate productively in the social, economic and political opportunities that cities offer”. The Panel invites papers that provide fresh insights on pathways to sustainable African urban futures, and on appropriate urban planning and governance models and visions for the continent; ways to rethink and re-envision the cities in response to rapid urban growth and extensive informality, even as we rightly as we seek to modernize.


Collective property and urbanisation: challenges and opportunities

Co-Chairs: Barbara Lipietz, Alexandra Panman, and Michael Walls
University College London, UK

Across the world, urbanisation is advancing into areas where land is held collectively. In some cases, this property is divided and sold-off to highest bidder; in others, sale is prevented by law but land uses are nonetheless transformed. While each of these cases is unique – land is, by definition, rooted in ‘place’ and cannot be separated from its context – in all cases, the relationships that constitute property rights come under pressure as the promise of lucrative new uses of land arise, populations expand and diversify, and jurisdictional boundaries collide. Yet collective property regimes play a critical role in the production and protection of both market and non-market goods for communities. In this panel, we explore the conditions in which they play this role in urban areas. Looking beyond the state-market dichotomy of urban land, we ask: What makes some collective property regimes more resilient to the changing nature of urban life than others? What does this resilience look like? And what does it mean for the wellbeing of communities and the cities that surround them? We encourage participation from researchers and practitioners working with various forms of common and collective property regimes in and around urban areas, for example, from indigenous peoples’ lands to community land trusts.


Commons Towards Urban Transformation of Open Space and Informal Economy

Co-Chairs: Timothy Adams1, Philipa Birago Akuoko2, and Deniz Ay2
1SNF Fellow, Department of Geography and Environment, Switzerland, 2Institute of Geography, University of Bern, Switzerland

Open spaces in sub-Saharan cities are occupied by informal sector workers who contribute to over 30 percent of the GDP of countries and are a metonym of the African economy. Yet, they are often the target of exclusion in attempts to enhance the urban infrastructural capacities for economic development. City governments’ policy implementation through recommendations by international organisations results in infrastructure growth and urban space redevelopment through partnerships with multinational corporations by targeting the so-called informal settlement areas and designated open spaces. The informal workers, primarily women, depend on these spaces for their livelihood. Still, they are excluded from national labour laws and regulations and displaced or forcefully evicted. Even so, they find various pathways to remain in cities. By discussing open spaces or so-called forms of common pool resource towards sustainable development. This panel proposes an interdisciplinary approach to studying open spaces. We invite theoretical and empirical papers from all social science disciplines to respond to but not limit the discussion to the following questions:
1. Is there a sustainable approach to transforming Africa’s urban common open spaces?
2. How and why does common open spaces’ governance affect sustainable development?
3. What are the social, political, and economic outcomes of governing common open spaces for city development?
4. What constitutes and informs policy implementation in the governance of common open spaces?
5. What does the governance of common open spaces in African cities mean for gender, work, and well-being?


Urban Commons in Drylands

Co-Chairs: Nurit Hashimshony-Yaffe1 and Qian Zhang2
1The Academic College of Tel Aviv-Yaffo, School of Government and Society, Israel, 2Department of Human Geography, Stockholm University, Sweden

Dryland cities have received little attention among rich research on urbanization. There is both limited empirical knowledge and under-conceptualization of the dynamics of dryland cities – how they are connected to or different from urban trends, characteristics and concerns elsewhere including urban commons. Although throughout history urban centers existed at the margins of drylands, their growth seems to accelerate upon shifting socio-economic and climate contexts. Recently drylands are increasingly inserted into the global circuits of capitalist productions through new forms of extractivism such as renewable energy projects. Concurrently, climate change effects entangled with conflicts in resource use are driving people to move to cities. These people are differentially located and positioned to common resources in the city. While rural commons are being challenged by ongoing land grabs, turning people into idle labor looking for livelihood opportunities in the city, emerging studies also highlight rural commons remain the common and strong supports to livelihoods in cities.
We consider dryland cities as carries of social-ecological-spatial relations. This session welcomes presentations that empirically, methodologically and theoretically offer new ways of understanding urban commons in the dryland city context. They may explore but not limited to the following topics/questions:

  • What urban commons mean in dryland cities;
  • How urban commons in drylands are linked to rural commons, e.g. from relational and translocal perspectives;
  • Whose urban commons, e.g. drawing on intersectional perspectives;
  • What role the commons can play in shaping the imaginaries of future dryland cities as lived space and in making sustainable dryland cities.


Advocating for Policy Change in Urban Commons

Co-Chairs: Forrest Flesichman1 and Meghan Klasic2
1Department of Forest Resources, University of Minnesota, USA, 2Minneapolis-St. Paul Long-Term Ecological Research (LTER) program, University of Minnesota, USA

Urban commons are important sites for contestation and transformation. They are a site for civic expression and collective identity on the one hand, and for an overarching authority to coordinate and formalize decisions on the other hand. The formal and informal institutions at play in urban commons can constrain or expand this tension. In this panel, we seek papers that examine the political mechanisms that people use to contest and transform urban commons through local governance processes. While much research on the commons focuses on how social movements and/or local community-based organizations form, our goal is to understand how these movements and organizations interact with broader political and governance structures to shape socio-environmental outcomes. In doing so, we also aim to understand the variable forms of advocacy within urban commons. Other key actors often ignored in the commons literature, such as government officials or business groups may play crucial roles in shaping urban commons. Finally, we seek to understand the topics and approaches that different groups prioritize to advocate for change.


Green cover, urban development, waste management

Chair: Keshav Lahoti
APS, India

Unscientific urban expansion, zero urban planning, zero waste management and negligible efforts to reduce energy consumption is posing a serious threat to urban living ecosystem. Consumerism has led to spurt of production which demands energy leading to waste at the end and redemand for new products. Zero awareness about managing waste from source till end prevails in citizens as well as administrators. Nexus between govt and businessman exploit land resource leading to loss of green cover. Legal system is too poor to address environmental issues in India. Ultimately, if leaders are correct, from Central till ground level(panchayat), then the ecological crisis can be managed efficiently.

3. Indigenous peoples and globalisation


Towards Decolonizing Africa's Development Futures: The Place of Local Knowledge and Institutions

Chair: Geoffrey Nwaka
Abia State University, Uturu, Nigeria

Global inequalities today derive in part from the unequal power relations in the way knowledge about development has historically been produced and applied. African knowledge systems have been undervalued because of the dominance of Eurocentric mindsets and practices. As a result, critics blame state failure and the development crisis in Africa on “the structural disconnection between formal institutions transplanted from outside and indigenous institutions born of traditional African cultures”. How can Africa engage with globalization and modernization, and address the continent’s many development challenges by drawing on local human and material resources for greater self-reliance and sustainable development? We argue that the science and practice of development in Africa should integrate the traditional knowledge of local communities in the continent, and that Africa should search within its own knowledge systems for appropriate ideas and approaches to many of its development problems. We recognize that with growing global interdependence, Africa stands to gain from global science and international best practices, and that indigenous knowledge and global science should be made to complement and enrich each other. But the panel stresses that researchers, policy makers and practitioners should appreciate the value of different knowledge systems, and tap into the time-tested resource of indigenous/local knowledge for locally appropriate ways to achieve more inclusive, participatory and sustainable development. We welcome papers that deal with various aspects of the ‘decolonial’ and indigenous knowledge movements, and on indigenous knowledge as local response to globalization and Western knowledge dominance.


Self-recognizing Indigenous Peoples’ Self-government for Responsible Territorial Management

Chair: Ke Jung
Chiang Mai University, Thailand

Human history informs us that indigenous peoples have lived self-governed and self-determined long before forming modern nation-states. Their self-government systems were based on humanistic values and emancipative characters guided by customary laws and institutions. Despite centuries of colonization, both internal and external, Indigenous Peoples continue to maintain a certain degree of their self-government systems through traditional processes and consciously self-recognized, which is ‘informal governance’ in the language of the states. It continues to exist parallel to the state’s systems despite systematic suppression and control of the states. The coercive interventions of the states through militarized ways compelled Indigenous People to defend themselves with armed resistance. The acceleration of militarization from both sides often caused the misappropriation and excessive exploitation of resources in indigenous areas. On the other hand, the imposition of the state administrative systems, enforcement of modernity, and penetration of major religions have changed the worldview and the meaning of territorial governance of Indigenous Peoples. The new rationale developed along with colonized worldviews in the post-colonial contexts has disrupted the land-based indigenous relational values and principles of self-government systems of Indigenous Peoples, which led to adapting to the modern way of life. Traditionally, self-government systems are often functioned and exercised at the communal level. However, the new rationale and understanding of self-recognized autonomy and self-government transcend to the monolithic forms by devising modernized political mechanisms and narratives. Considerably, articulating Indigenous self-government systems is an adaptation of the concept of modern political and territorial autonomy systems and new ways of life in the contexts of post-colonial settings. From the Indigenous Peoples’ perspective, the assertion of Indigenous self-government is self-recognition, movement building and redefining their social norms and institutions to prevent losing control over their territories and establishing stable and responsible territorial management systems for everyone.


Commons beyond resources: Indigeneity, Sovereignty and Ecological Care

Chair: Lara Giordana
Dept. of Cultures, Politics and Society, University of Turin, Italy

This panel invites contributors to reflect on the potentialities of ‘ecological care’ to acknowledge Indigenous ontologies in governing the commons.

Indigenous societies express an ecological relationship to their environments in which humans and non-humans are interdependent subjects. Excising indigenous peoples from these same ecological and ontological relations was part of colonial policies around the world. Today Indigenous peoples are still facing the ongoing consequences of this violence, which is at the same time physical and epistemological.

One of the limits of the classical theory regarding the commons is precisely that nature is reduced to a pool of resources governed by humans. Thus, the categories of environmental commons and common-pool resources replicate the separation of society and nature that characterizes the dominating Western ontology. Instead, both indigenous ontologies and feminist theories highlight the potential role of ‘care’ in acknowledging a more symmetrical relation between humans and non-humans.

Contributors are invited to address one or more of the following questions: What is the role of indigenous practices of ‘ecological care’ in governing the commons? How are indigenous peoples expressing their ontologies in the processes to care for the commons? What kind of institutions have been created by the indigenous peoples to exercise their sovereignty based on interdependence and mutualism between humans and non-humans? Can ‘ecological care’ provide a useful set of theoretical and practical tools to acknowledge indigenous ontologies?


The Arctic – commons and the diversity of (de-)colonial configurations

Chair: Gertrude Saxinger
University of Vienna, Austria

The Arctic is geopolitically often considered as ‘commons’, depending on interpretation of contemporary international law, international political configurations and shifting interests of states across the globe to claim their share of what Arctic states consider ‘their’ geopolitical estate. At the same time, ‘commons’, as coined in the context of this conference, describe ways of Indigenous engaging with the land in multiple forms through the passage of time, in particular highlighting that land and all what ‘land’ entails has social meaning and ordering beyond commodification and capitalist mobilization. Indigenous people across the North who have been colonized in different forms and during different times by different/shifting states and empires, have in common the history of expropriation and inclusion of ‘resources’ into capital(ist) accumulation. Nevertheless, Indigenous self-determination, decolonization movements and politics, cultural revitalization, or, new and radical forms of indigeneity that are embedded in the contemporary political economy, challenge (international and national) political institutions, states and, public mainstream understanding of difference, values and, in particular, of the commons.

Bearing in mind the extreme diversity of Indigenous societies across the (sub-)Arctic, this panel wants to introduce configurations of contestation, resilience, conflict and new forms of intersected economies that have emerged through the course of time in different political histories.
A broad variety of paper contributions are welcome in order to highlight concerns and debates on commons from an (sub-)Arctic perspective as well as works on methodology in a decolonial setting and theory building around studying the questions of ‘commons’ in the North.


What 'Territories of life' have in common: Exploring linkages between ICCAs and the commons under threat

Chair: Tobias Haller
University of Bern, Switzerland

Indigenous Peoples and local communities play a central role in the governance and sustainable use of what is perceived as the world’s biodiversity and ‘nature’. They actively protect, maintain by wise use and conserve an astounding diversity of globally relevant species, habitats and ecosystems, providing the basis for clean water and air, healthy food and livelihoods. The basis of their governance is their form of collective ownership of territories that is rooted in their deep relation and identity with their land and sea. It is more than a material relation but the link to past and future generations as well as with other species and the spiritual world, with which they co-exist. Together, territories and areas conserved by Indigenous Peoples and local communities are abbreviated as “territories of life”, or as “ICCAs” in international law and policy. While ICCAs include many elements of the common property institutions debate, Indigenous Peoples and local communities’ visions of institutions are broader and based on views of the more than human and the spiritual environment.

However, mainstream conservation policies and the capitalist expansion of industrialisation pose a main threat to ICCAs and their inhabitants as well as to biodiversity. Nevertheless, Indigenous Peoples and local communities try to counter these violent processes. They show an astonishing ability to resist by different strategies of adaptation and claiming self-determination against what can be called commons grabbing. Many of them also demonstrate or are considering radical alternatives in political, economic & social spheres, towards direct and bioregional democracy, sustaining or reviving production and exchange based on caring and sharing instead of profits such as cooperatives, and equity in gender-sexuality relations.

In dialogue and collaboration with local and indigenous grassroot movements and the ICCA consortium (an association supporting the movement for territories of life) we look for papers that discuss a) differences and similarities of ICCAs and the commons, b) relationships between ICCAs and NGOs/civil societies and commons researchers who seek to support them and c) strategies of collective responding, legal property rights recognition and radical futures against commons grabbing of capitalist expansions and new conservation attempts affecting ICCAs.


Pastoralist communities in the glocal world; Towards protecting the historical legacy of common resources conservation in the Anthropocene

Co-Chairs: Daniele Brombal and Ali Razmkhah
Ca ‘Foscari University of Venice, Italy

Around half of the Earth’s land surface is rangeland, often among the harshest environments. However, rangelands are essential for millions of people providing or contributing to their livelihoods, culture, and identity. They are pastoralist communities. Worldwide, Many pastoral communities have adopted a seasonal migration lifestyle within their ancestral territories to increase their resilience to natural challenges and sustain the common pool-resources based on their common property regimes.
The way of life of pastoralist communities has formed a collective and organised social, economic, and ecological system that significantly contributes to food security and provides an opportunity for the common resources to restore and revitalise while adapting to the territory’s climatic conditions. These systems have been based on pastoralists’ knowledge, values, ethics of care, and biocultural practices. In this framework, they have had specific methods for monitoring and predictions and taking the necessary conservation actions to reduce pressure on their common resources.
Nevertheless, evidence shows the lack of recognition, respect and promotion of the pastoralists’ socioeconomic and ecological contributions to nature conservation and common resources’ governance. This absence fuels the marginalisation of pastoralists and encourages policies that erode sufficient support for pastoralists in legal-policy dialogues.

The proposed panel will build on the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) declaration on the International Year of Rangelands and Pastoralists (IYRP, 2026), to support pastoralist communities and the conservation of the rangelands. In this panel, we invite indigenous peoples’ and local communities’ organisations and movements, academic scholars, rights defenders, and civil societies worldwide to submit abstracts that discuss and analyse the concept of pastoralism, the historical legacy of pastoralist communities for common resources governance, and the “Future Collective Actions” we need to adopt to respect, protect, and realise their collective rights and responsibilities on the common resources.
Suggested perspectives include, but are not limited to:

  • Threats and challenges for pastoralist communities and their common resources;
  • The traditional and current common property regimes,
  • The biocultural rights and responsibilities of pastoralist communities,
  • International and national policies on pastoralism and rangelands,
  • Impacts of large infrastructures on biological and cultural diversity,
  • Gender and the role of pastoralist women.

The abstracts could examine how pastoralism and pastoralist communities are framed and constructed in political, social, and cultural discourses. Abstracts outside the scholarly tradition of Europe and North America are particularly welcome.


Indigenous autonomy and the global commons: pathways for appropriate recognition and support

Co-Chairs: Thomas Niederberger1,2 and George Smith3
1University of Bern, Switzerland, 2CooperAcción, Peru, 3UK

Indigenous peoples’ territories constitute bundles of interrelated commons, governed and managed through complex institutional arrangements in constant evolution. By exercising governance over common lands, waters and forests, indigenous peoples and local communities are at the forefront of the defense of life on earth. The importance of indigenous autonomy as an effective way to preserve biodiversity and carbon storage is increasingly recognized. However, decades of colonial dispossession, racist oppression and ethnocidal policies have undermined its viability. The ongoing expansion of extractivist enterprises in indigenous and local peoples’ territories is an existential threat to these bastions against biodiversity loss and climate breakdown.

For the global movement in defense of the commons, the challenge is to find effective ways for the appropriate recognition and support of autonomous indigenous and local communities’ governance institutions – given that well-intentioned but badly executed schemes risk to further undermine them. For this panel, we seek contributions from researchers, practitioners, and indigenous and local community representatives about positive experiences as well as challenges in building mutual solidarity and support between commoners across the globe, between urban and rural settings, North and South, etc. We further invite reflections on how such experiences can contribute to emerging notions of local-to-global commons.


Pastoralists beyond the cross-roads in the Horn of Africa: what are the new promising coping strategies to restore hope?

Co-Chairs: R. Ngugi Kinuthia1 and Boniface Kiteme2,3
1Department of Land Resources Management & Agricultural Technology (LARMAT), University of Nairobi, Kenya, 2Department of Geography, Environmental and Population Studies, University of Nairobi, Kenya, 3Centre for Training and Integrated Research in ASAL Development (CETRAD), Nanyuki-Kenya

For over three decades, many pastoral livelihood scholars referred to pastoralists as being at ‘cross-roads’ as far as their livelihoods were concerned. A ‘cross-road ‘ is a point in time and space when or where major decision must be made; but not necessarily a crisis point and therefore the decisions should be sober—ones which can improve the family or community welfare. In the face of the rapidly unfolding climate change phenomenon and its attendant impacts, namely, global warming, frequent droughts and floods,   pastoralists within the Horn of Africa are currently in a very precarious situation—their very survival is under unprecedented threat. Climate change impacts are complicated by high human population growth rates, which lead to ceding of prime grazing lands to other competing uses like large-scale crop farms, mega-infrastructure, industries, burgeoning towns and cities, etc. Related transformations in pastoral areas include rapid migration of the youth to towns and cities, internal displacement due to famine, resource-related conflicts, and transition from pastoralism to small and micro-businesses. Loss of prime grazing resources has led not only to decline in livestock numbers, but also to their productivity; and livestock being the key driver of pastoralism, its absence spells doom for the pastoralists. Pastoralists in the Greater Horn of Africa, as is indeed the case in the globe, have been pushed beyond the ‘cross-roads’, and are currently in the ’eye’ of a life-threatening natural disaster.  The big questions therefore is ‘what new key strategies are the pastoralists inventing in order to cope with the emerging complex socio-economic, political and environmental interruptions that are being triggered by climate change and its associated impacts?’. This question will form the main agenda of discussion in this panel.

4. Commons between colonial legacies and the Anthropocene


Cross-border livestock Trade and Small Arms and Conflict in Pastoral Areas of the Horn of Africa: Case Study from Southern Ethiopia and Northern Kenya

Chair: Ame Abdurahman

The pastoral and agro-pastoral communities of the Horn of Africa are found in the Ethiopian lowlands, Eritrea, the whole of Somalia, the northern and eastern parts of Kenya and the Shelia plains of the Sudan, on the peripheries of Tanzania and Uganda. High rainfall variability, recurrent droughts, harsh climatic and environmental conditions are characteristic of these areas and act as constraints to development in this part of the continent. Recurrent conflict is another factor that has severely constrained the sustainability of pastoralism as a means of livelihood (Ahmed 2002). Pastoralists in this region keep a significant part of the livestock wealth. For example, in Ethiopia, 30-40% of the country’s livestock is found in pastoral and agro-pastoral areas (Coppock 1994). In Djibouti and Somalia, the total livestock wealth comes from these areas. In addition, livestock originating from the pastoral and agropastoral areas of these countries has substantial contribution to the foreign exchange earnings. Traditionally, conflicts have been endemic to pastoral and agro-pastoral areas of horn Africa. The conflicts have been between different ethnic pastoral groups, as well as within ethnic groups. The majority of the conflicts have been over access to pastoral resources (grasslands, water and livestock). Most of these conflicts have been going on over a long period of time, with very little attention paid to resolving them. Even today, most such conflicts go unnoticed and unreported – unless large-scale killing and damages take place and the state intervenes militarily.


An African Anthropocene?

Co-Chairs: Rony Emmenegger1 and Federico Luisetti2
1University of Basel, Switzerland, 2University of St. Gallen, Switzerland

As commodity frontiers expand, including new territories and resources for waste disposal, agribusiness, and the energy transition, commons have been profoundly reconfigured. Environmentalists in the Global North often refer to this process as a manifestation of the Anthropocene, an epoch in geo-history in which humans have turned into significant bio-geo-chemical agents. This panel takes seriously Gabrielle Hecht’s suggestion to “put the Anthropocene in place”* and solicits interventions on the notion of an “African Anthropocene”. We invite both empirically-grounded and theoretically-inspired papers that articulate, reframe, or question from a decolonial perspective the Western notion of the Anthropocene. What are the specificities of the commons in political-economic terms and how do they shape the way we can think about socio-ecological and human-environmental relations? What are the implications of analyzing the transformations of the commons through the category of the Anthropocene? Does a focus on the commons and African entanglements between local and planetary scales lead to unique or/and alternative geo-historical narratives and analytics? * Hecht, Gabrielle (2018) “Interscalar Vehicles for an African Anthropocen: On Waste, Temporality, and Violence. Cultural Anthropology 33, 112.


The colonial enterprise and the commons: conflict or congruence over ideas and institutions for colonial productivity and today’s development

Co-Chairs: Samuel Assembe-Mvond1, Patrice Bigombe2, and Moira Moelino3
1Research Institute for Humanity and Nature, Japan, 2CERAD/University of Yaounde 2, Cameroon, 3CIFOR, Indonesia,

In colonial economies, common lands and forests are areas identified as targets for mise en valeur (literally – “put to valuable use”). The transformation of commons into ‘valuable’ lands for the colonial enterprise took place through the requirement of forest and land being cleared and rendered productive, or risk it being claimed by the colonial state as idle land to be allocated to private companies. This concept was implemented by colonial administrations in varied forms throughout the Global South as a means to gain profits through investments in development of land and forests and control of local people as labor. These practices were subsequently adopted by most post-colonial Governments as ‘development’. It stands in opposition to the understanding of people’s traditional rights to commons, and their different values and governance of non-human aspects of the landscape. Thus, the cornerstone of the relationship between people and commons is eliminated by the concept of mise en valeur. This long and large-scale disruption of customary norms is, we argue, the foundation of the Anthropocene. In this panel, we investigate the expressions of the colonial enterprise in today’s global forest and land governance, and in claims over what constitutes as productivity and development. Colonial legacies are multi-faceted, in terms of both outcomes (institutions, social-environmental justice) and mechanisms (laws, policies, discourses, narratives). We invite papers that explore and analyze these nuances in struggles over the commons and resistance to the colonial enterprise and is attentive to local histories, cultures, identities and institutions of commons.


Honour the heritage – Historical commons as binding legacies

Chair: Daniel Schläppi
University of Bern, Switzerland

Contemporary research is increasingly focusing on commons beyond natural resources such as forests and pastures. Instead, the ‹commons› are understood as common goods that are conceived in terms of actors and their practices and therefore include very different types of collectively owned and managed goods.

The spectrum ranges from corporately maintained infrastructures to militia and disaster protection, the cultivation and the development of vernacular legal traditions, legal spaces and group privileges as well as religious and ritual practices with their essential symbols and moral implications. Specific forms of collective action are just as much a part of this as persuasive self-images and meaningful historical narratives in connection with jointly claimed and exploited spaces. Immaterial goods such as knowledge, social and financial credit, collective efforts for social welfare, security, commemoration of the dead and the salvation of souls, the avoidance of taxes plus fair and reliable procedures for the distribution of goods are as important as electoral procedures that, at least superficially, grant equal opportunities to all participants (e.g. drawn by lot). As a result, a finely branched cooperative self-governance emerges on site and helps even small people to achieve agency in the capillaries of society and territory. This not only holds society together but it also legitimates the ‹commons state› at it’s best.

The power and the agency of historical commons, cooperatives and communities as basic units of the society, the state, the constitution and the extremely federalist political institutions characterize Swiss history since the Middle Ages – far beyond the example of ‹Törbel› made world-famous by E. Ostrom. Thousands of communities and cooperatives that have existed for centuries in the territory of today’s Switzerland have in common that the commoners have always seen their common properties as a highly precious heritage of their ancestors. And they understood themselves as trustees of a historical legacy to the benefit of future generations.

The panel will look at comparable phenomena and figurations from around the world from all epochs in which one or several of the aforementioned manifestations of commons have been cared for, managed and inherited over transgenerational periods of time, so that the goal of sustainable resource preservation became paramount. It is about strategies of physical and discursive valorization and the inventiveness of smart groups that achieved to preserve their collective resources in the long term despite fundamental historical upheavals such as colonialism, technical innovations, social conflicts and political revolutions.


Rebuilding the commons instead of selling them. How research can help restore landscapes through understanding of the colonial legacy and the critique of the neo-colonial development complex

Co-Chairs: Charis Enns1 and Samuel Weissman2
1University of Manchester, UK, 2University of Berne, Switzerland

The Anthropocene, in simplified terms, is the geological epoch marked by the human actions that have driven ecological change on a global scale and are causing the decline of many species. And while it seems mainly up to the most elite institutions on the planet to look for solutions, these might appear just as simplified as the problems, especially under the urgency to act now.
If we look more closely however, the who, when and how become infinitely more complex.

This panel proposes to look at these complexities and efforts underway to combat various issues through the lens of current research on people, their institutions and land-use governance. While in this context, the commons have diminished greatly with western expansion during colonialization and the following establishment of globalized nation-states, the argument goes, that most local economies as well as ecologies would be more efficiently managed as a commons rather than through private and state property.

As, however, most of the commons and people have been displaced, rearranged, or fragmented in many ways, they no longer function as they should. It is nevertheless remarkable, how often the institutions surrounding the governance of commons and certain practices are still around and, in some places, even reinvented in order to incorporate newly introduced economies and ecologies. We ask, therefore, what the issues are that have led to impacts reducing biodiversity and fragmentation of landscapes and what strategies current efforts involve in reestablishing functioning systems that are supposed to be halting destruction and restoring loss.


Lessons from the Past: Challenges, Institutions and Resilience in Historical Perspective

Chair: José-Miguel Lana
Public University of Navarre, Spain

The aim of this panel is to atract and discuss papers that can shed light on the ability (or lack of ability) of local communities to manage their common resources in order to cope with extreme events and changes from a historical perspective. History offers a multiplicity of collective experiences that can serve as a laboratory to test the links between environment and society, economy and culture, locality and politics. History also provides a deeper understanding of the drivers and results of the globalization process, and of the responses of local communities to the expansion of commodity frontiers. People not only react to shocks and changes, adapting their institutions and techniques in their places, but also move to other countries and contribute to the emergence of new communities. In this sense, the connections between Europe and America have been particularly intense for several centuries, including the transfer and modification of old institutions to new contexts. The questions that are open to discuss are, for instance: 1) Are there historical accounts of how despite colonialization and extractive expansions local common property regimes could resist and remain and if yes under which conditions; 2) Did new forms of commons emerge among settler communities who moved – or where made to move – to the colonies. We hope to atract papers from Europe and Latin America, but studies from Africa and Asia are also very welcome.


Photographs of collective pastures, forests and waters in the transformation processes of the 20th century

Co-Chairs: Martin Stuber and Rahel Wunderli
University of Bern, Switzerland

The starting point for this panel are the extensive collections of historical photographs in Switzerland on the collective use of natural resources from the first half of the 20th century, which have been digitised on a large scale for several years and made accessible on a comprehensive participatory image database. The panel will provide an opportunity to relate these Swiss examples to comparable photographs in the Global South and the Global North. With the comparative visual approach, we want to give new impetus to the global dialogue on the historical forms of use and regulation of collective pastures, forests and water on the concrete level of practices and rituals. We are looking for contributions that present historical photographs on this topic from their own research region. Special attention should be paid to the dynamics of the 20th century, which are reflected in the photographs in the simultaneity of the non-simultaneous (“Gleichzeitigkeit des Ungleichzeitigen”). Photographs, for example, in which traditional practices enter into a new combination with elements of modernity, prove to be particularly productive. By differentiating in this way the dominant narrative of a linear development towards the Anthropocene, we hope for inspiration for the role of common pool resources in future transformations in the perspective of the Sustainable Development Goals.


Time, commoning, colonial legacies & strategies for recovery

Co-Chairs: Sophie Jerram1 and JC Niala2
1University of Auckland, New Zealand, 2University of Exeter, UK

This panel examines the effect of the colonisation of time on our experience of space and collectivity. Prior to the colonial era, each locality operated on its own principles of time and seasonality. Communities across the world incorporated into their own customs and cultures practises that aligned human endeavours with non-human rhythms. Following the standardisation of time (with European time being assumed globally), local patterns have been superimposed by global concerns with minimal concurrent questioning of the impact of global time on communities and landscapes. The anthropocene has brought into sharp focus the effects of human action that is out of step with non-human time. What possibilities would be available to us if we focused on scaling down rather than scaling up, looking for micro instead of blanket solutions to the climate crisis? This panel invites responses to the colonisation of time and its effects.

Priority will be given to proposals that facilitate the experience of time such as collective sharing or creative responses. Conference papers that illuminate this under researched area of commoning are also welcome. We are keen to hear from researchers and practitioners who are open to working together before the conference to deliver a shared experience to conference participants.


Notions and practices of community and commons in Latin America from colonial times to the present

Chair: Christian Büschges
University of Bern, Switzerland

From the beginning of the colonial period, communal land use competed with the expansion of private land ownership in the Spanish and Portuguese overseas territories in the Americas. Initially, the Spanish crown in particular restricted European settlers’ access to traditional or newly created indigenous communal lands. Nevertheless, private land ownership soon emerged as a critical resource for the economic and social base of the colonial upper classes. Following the emergence of independent states in the early 19th century, liberal reforms and the integration of the subcontinent into the expanding global economy led to an increased decline in indigenous common lands from mid-century onward. While the agrarian reforms of the 1960s/70s did not bring about lasting change in land access and ownership rights, the demand for preservation or restitution of the commons has been at the center of indigenous identity and social movements in the subcontinent since the 1980s. The panel welcomes contributions that address the continuities and changes in notions and practices of community and commons in the overseas Iberian colonies and their independent successor states, with particular attention to the indigenous populations of the subcontinent. From an interdisciplinary perspective, contributions may focus on the legal, economic, social, political, and cultural dimensions through which the (re)construction of community and commons has passed in different historical periods.


Reclaiming commons under or against international investment law? crossing perspectives from outside, within, and along environment related international arbitration.

Co-Chairs: Mathieu Bolay and Paule Pastré
Social Anthropology Institute, University of Bern, Switzerland

International investment law, by curtailing market from politics through the postcolonial system of international arbitration, manifests the private enclosure of law itself from the prerogatives of states. Its core mechanism, investors-state dispute settlement (ISDS), enforces a global property regime that recognizes the protection of “foreign investments” at the expenses of other access claims that states and other institutions may wish to consider as property rights or as commons to regulate in the name of the public interest and a liveable environmental future. Amongst other objects of critique, ISDS may enable private investors to chill climate change regulation at local and national levels, to circumvent environmental responsibilities under non-recourse litigation, or to extract rents from collectively owned resources managed by states in the form of compensations and interests upon so-called “stranded assets”.
This panel seeks to explore the various social, legal, political, and epistemological efforts to safeguard environmental commons against investment treaties’ all-encompassing propertisation from outside, within, or in parallel to the international investment treaty regime. In particular, the panel welcomes contributions that question the interactions between, and the translations across outsiders’ (e.g. social and political movements, amicus curiae), insiders’ (e.g. arbitration institutions, litigators), and substitutes’ (alternative courts and dispute resolution mechanisms) in environment related arbitration. How are notions such as investment, public goods, or fair and equitable treatment upheld and given meaning to foster or contest the propertisation of environmental commons in arbitral disputes? For whom, by whom, and under which circumstances are these notions filled with or emptied of legal force?


Clear as mud: the blurred influence of history on contemporary governance of natural resources in southern Africa

Chair: Witness Kozanayi
Seed and Knowledge Initiative, Zimbabwe

Within the African context, there is poor recognition for how colonial and other hegemonic histories are playing out and influencing contemporary governance processes and practices, especially in rural landscapes. Contemporary governance strategies are largely molded upon and informed by historical regimes, ideologies and practices. Present day governance processes and practices use the guise of conservation and livelihoods when they rely on strategies that mirror those from historical legacies that benefited the powerful few and marginalized the majorities. This study focuses on Zimbabwe and South Africa, to interrogate the underlying philosophies and motives of historically key environmental laws, policies and customary systems in natural resource governance. The study demonstrates how history is conveniently recast into the present and future by all actors in order to assert and justify their interests in the commodification of the commons. To constitute and reconstitute resource-sharing arrangements, policy makers and resource users use current and historical knowledge of their circumstances. Use of history to regulate or negotiate access to natural resources has profound impacts on the governance of natural resources. To understand current governance practices, a historical understanding of the motive of the pertinent laws and policies is imperative, especially for countries which have a checkered history of disempowerment and re-empowerment of indigenous communities. Findings from the study point to the need to underline the importance of history in contemporary governance processes and the governability of resources, and the manner in which marginalized groups are able to use and access resources and livelihoods on the ground.

5. Modelling and multi-methods approaches in polycentric commons systems


Computational Social Science and the study of the commons

Chair: Fijnanda van Klingeren
Rotterdam School of Management, Erasmus University Rotterdam, The Netherlands

Which methods can we use beyond the standard surveys, interviews and case-studies to systematically capture mechanisms on the development and impact of diverse forms of institutions for collective action? The study of the commons and other institutions for collective action in itself is highly interdisciplinary and increasingly attracts the application of computational methodologies in the fields of amongst others history, sociology, economics and management studies. This panel demonstrates how the use of computational techniques can contribute to the analysis of institutions for collective action. The analysis of artificial societies through agent-based models, the creative application of experimental techniques and the analysis of digital trace data from online social media can bring the study of the commons to a next level. Can agent-based models go beyond simulation and tell us about the future of the commons? How can adaptations of experimental methods help us better understand how community enterprises impact their members and society? Next to impact in the physical world, institutions for collective action have found their way to the virtual world of digital platforms. However, can their positive societal influence reach beyond the offline world into online realities? The papers in this panel present interdisciplinary computational methods to analyse diverse institutions for collective action.


The role of information in constructing collaborative approaches for commons governance

Co-Chairs: Tom Koontz1, John Powell2, and Kiran Singh3
1University of Washington Tacoma, USA, 2University of Gloucestershire, UK, 3Foundation for Ecological Security, India

Building on current and previous work the panellists will make short presentations identifying the challenges and opportunities for developing collaborative or participatory approaches to commons governance. The papers will focus on water resources governance under different geographical, socio-cultural and political conditions. Panellists will highlight key issues surrounding the availability and utilisation of information and relevant data for optimising water management. Issues include data quality and relevance, capacity of stakeholders for utilising data, trust in sources of information, the role of citizen science, and how information constrains and/or supports improvements in collaborative governance. Although the focus on the panel is on water related projects, many of the issues will be relevant across other forms of commons.

The focus on collaborative approaches is set in the wider context of the need for ‘transformative’ governance that addresses resource utilisation from a socio-ecological system perspective, and requiring collaboration to achieve policy co-design and co-management.

In order to maximise participation and discussion, prior to the event presenters will prepare a short 1-page summary, which will be made available as a printed handout for participants to help generate discussion. The panel discussion will encourage participants to explore ‘the building blocks for constructing collaborative governance’ and the role of information in addressing problems and developing solutions. The overall aim is to provide a space for participants to explore the power of information in constructing ‘local’ collaborative approaches for commons governance, from the ground up.


Leveraging computational methods to decode institutions -- implementing computer science methods to study commons.

Co-Chairs: Christopher Frantz1 and Bartosz Pieliński2
1Norwegian University of Science and Technology, Norway, 2University of Warsaw, Poland

The panel is dedicated to share research implementing computational methods for extracting, annotating, and analyzing strategies, norms, and rules or any forms of information attempting to regulate agents’ behavior. The panel aims to gather researchers from different disciplines, including computer science, computational social science, as well as social science more broadly, who rely on specific computational methods to develop a better understanding of how institutions govern social interactions, especially those involving commons. However, to date efforts to collate an exposition of different computational approaches is limited. The panel thus encourages the knowledge transfer across different (sub)disciplines, and specifically invites contributions that relate to:

  • Novel theoretical or conceptual frameworks studying commons by relying on computational methods;
  • Empirical work by both researchers and practitioners exploring opportunities of computational techniques (whether existing or novel) in the field;
  • Research focusing on the development of technological approaches that illustrate or unleash novel analytical opportunities, or advance existing techniques for the study of the commons specifically, and institutions more generally.

For all the highlighted directions, the panel is agnostic about the nature of the underlying data (e.g., qualitative, quantitative), and specific methods (including formal methods) used in the study. Where relevant, researchers are further invited to specifically speak to the challenges of the employed techniques as a basis for identifying best practices regarding the selection and application.


Experimental studies of inequality and inequity in the governance of common-pool resources and local public goods

Co-Chairs: Nathan Cook1,2 and Tara Grillos2
1Indiana University, USA, 2Purdue University, Indianapolis, USA

A growing body of research examines issues of inequality and inequity related to the governance of common-pool resources and local public goods. The common-pool resource literature argues that resource commons can create assignment problems—such as asymmetries between head-end and tail-end users of surface irrigation systems—that can lead to inequality and conflict. Some institutional scholarship emphasizes the importance of asymmetric resources and power for explaining how communities craft and sustain institutions for collective action. Finally, inequality and inequity are common themes in the body of policy research evaluating institutions and policies for the polycentric governance of natural resource commons and local public goods. Much of this research finds that policy arrangements that purport to be ‘participatory,’ ‘deliberative,’ or ‘bottom-up’ can often deliver unequal benefits to the users of natural resources and local public goods, entrench the power of local elites, and fail to engage women and members of marginalized groups. This panel invites experimental research, broadly defined, that moves these literatures forward. This includes innovative laboratory experiments that use inequality as a treatment or outcome of interest in social dilemmas, randomized studies or quasi-experiments of policies that may make the governance of common-pool resources or local public goods more (or less) equal or equitable, and survey or choice experiments to highlight the importance of different institutional features for promoting the participation of members of marginalized groups in local governance. This panel welcomes research conducted in the Global South as well as the Global North.

6. The drama of the grabbed commons


Infrastructures of inequality in the transformation of forest commons for large-scale commodity production

Co-Chairs: Maria Brockhaus1, Ahmad Dhiaulhaq2, and Grace Wong2
1University of Helsinki, Finland, 2Research Institute for Humanity and Nature, Japan

Forest and land commons are rapidly being converted for production of commodity agriculture, with far-reaching transformations in landscapes, wellbeing and resilience. Many of the dynamics that drive forest and land commodification are well-rehearsed, and have had dramatic impact on local lives and livelihoods. Policies to privatize commons and formalize tenure, deregulate markets and mobilize global capital have stimulated large-scale grabs of both forest and land, and have radically altered local social-cultural relations and institutions associated with governance of common-pool resources.

In this panel, we invite papers that explore how different forms of infrastructures – physical and institutional – have enabled and sustained the territorialization of forests and commons for commodity plantations since colonial times. We posit that the physical infrastructures manifested by the plantation (roads, ports, structures and movements of labour) and its enabling institutional infrastructure (macroeconomic policies, financial incentives, trade agreements) are sustained by the fabric of power and politics that benefit from them. We also invite papers that examine the diverse range of local reactions to loss of commons, including resistance in its many forms.

The underlying “infra-” of long-held narratives of forest commons as ‘idle’ or ‘unproductive’ spaces are employed alongside discourses of modernity and progress that legitimize “structures” of market and privatization as solutions. We encourage papers that examine how infrastructures to transform forest commons create disruptions and intersecting inequalities related to geographies, gender, ethnicity and age. We welcome grounded research that examine diverse responses to loss of commons through local histories, cultures, identities and politics.


African mass food markets as resilient commons

Chair: Charles Dhewa
Knowledge Transfer Africa Private Limited, Zimbabwe

Every African country has mass food markets where the majority prefer to get their food and earn a living. While these fluid institutions have functioned as common pool ecosystems/resources for decades, they have remained largely unrecognized and under-researched. However, the value of these markets was clearly revealed by COVID-19 when lock-downs or restrictions in trade compelled countries and communities to rely on local markets as the main source of food. As an expression of indigenous African commerce, these markets are characterized by a unique set of values and principles which include diversity, generational knowledge transfer and inclusive participation irrespective of age, gender, social class and income levels. They may be considered informal by those who subscribe to the Western notion of a market but they are definitely not inferior as demonstrated by their key role in the African socio-economic landscape. To that end, they should certainly be used to shape the discourse and practice on alternative development pathways. Building on empirical evidence from more than six African countries, this panel will broaden and deepen the sense in which African mass food markets deserve more attention as common pool resources and pathways for culturally-rooted resilient food systems.


Shrinking Land Commons: Processes of Land Alienation and Reconfiguration in Rural Africa

Co-Chairs: Laura German1 and Howard Stein2
1University of Georgia, USA, 2University of Michigan, USA

African land commons are rapidly shrinking, with effects that will reverberate far into the future. This story is often narrated through tales of rogue actors grabbing customary land; corrupt African elites and weak land governance; or the “natural” evolutionary trajectory towards private, individualized property rights. These stories obscure more than they reveal, such as the position of the continent as a “last frontier” of arable farmland globally; the intentionality of discourses, development cooperation/lending and policies that grease the wheels for the commodification and financialization of descent-based landholdings; the missionary zeal with which exogenous conservation, ecosystem restoration and formalization agendas have been approached; and the economic and political benefits that flow to outside interest groups through these processes.

As a contribution to wider debates surrounding “the drama of the grabbed commons,” this panel will explore the more formal, often mundane processes (discursive, legal or material) through which land in Africa as a common resource for the livelihoods of farmers and pastoralists is subdivided and alienated. We welcome the submission of papers providing related theoretical contributions to the debate, as well as detailed case studies or broader comparative analyses that explore the processes involved (e.g., intentional policy choices, the role of international donors and NGOs, the legitimating role of discursive and symbolic dynamics) and their effects (e.g., tenure and livelihood security, social relations, resilience). We also welcome papers dealing with the likely future consequences of current land dynamics, such as the impact of climate change on the need and the availability of common land; or pressures on common lands arising from the livelihood exigencies of future generations.


Grabbing Coastal and Marine Commons

Co-Chairs: Andreas Neef1 and Achim Schlüter2,3
1University of Auckland, New Zealand, 2Leibniz Zentrum für Marine Tropenforschung (ZMT), Germany, 3Jacobs University Bremen, Germany

The blue economy the expansion and diversification of economic activities in the coastal and marine realm – is high on the global political agenda and also informally pursued in many coastal regions and island countries around the world. Due to the social-ecological characteristics and the history of those systems, there are a high number of commonly held and commonly used resources involved. These coastal and marine commons have traditionally provided livelihood opportunities for millions of marginalised people with precarious customary rights to these resources that often overlap with state control and increasingly private property. With increasing opportunities to make a private business, for example, through tourism, oil and gas extraction, seabed mining, nature protection or sand harvesting, and with increased financial, technological and/or legal possibilities to claim private property rights, these commons are coming under threat, and enclosure is happening in many regions, particularly in the Global South. Under such conditions the likelihood that a privatisation process becomes a process of resource grabbing is high. This panel is inviting papers about diverse processes of resource grabbing of coastal and marine commons. Diversity might relate here to different resources, property regimes, and social economic contexts in various world regions. It also relates to the diversity in theoretical, disciplinary or methodological perspectives taken. We welcome both conceptual and empirical contributions to this session.


Grabbing the Freshwater Commons: Mechanisms, Discourses, Resistance

Co-Chairs: Andreas Neef1 and Achim Schlüter2,3
1University of Auckland, New Zealand, 2Leibniz Centre for Tropical Marine Research, Germany, 3Jacobs University Bremen, Germany

Globally, pressure on freshwater resources is increasing as a result of such factors as rising food demand, changes from plant-based to meat-based diets, hydro-energy expansion, and the enhancement of biofuel production. Rapidly accelerating climatic changes that cause higher frequency and intensity of droughts in many world regions are adding to this pressure. While land grabbing for food, fuel and fibre has often been associated with the appropriation and privatization of freshwater resources (both surface and groundwater), multi-national corporations are also constantly seeking new sources for their bottled water operations. Tourism development can also grab water supplies, particularly in island and coastal regions, through diverting scarce resources from marginalized local users to an industry dominated by foreign interests. Overlapping water tenure regimes and lack of effective governance mechanism for fluid and often unpredictable freshwater resources enable water grabbing by foreign investors and domestic elites, particularly in the global South. This panel invites contributions that look at challenges and solutions to freshwater grabbing through multiple lenses, such as political ecology, polycentric governance, critical discourse analysis, human rights, community responses, and gender.


Impact of Commons Grabbing on Long-Standing Food Coping Strategies – Local Responses and Agency

Co-Chairs: Selina Felber and Désirée Gmür
Institute of Social Anthropology, University of Bern, Switzerland

In the context of the food crisis and rising commodities prices, land is highly sought after by foreign investors and certain states. International environmental organisations put additional pressure on land to protect biodiversity and large-scale natural zones from environmentally harmful activities. Both cases promise sustainable land and resource management that provides efficient production and employment generation that promote economic growth in host countries of the Global South. However, the exclusion of marginal groups and women from the benefits and the transformative impacts on local food systems are often concealed or not even addressed. The post-colonial transformation of local food systems, which are shaped by different coping strategies, is not only caused by modernization and climate change, but its intersection with changes in institutional conditions of local tenure systems of land and land-related common-pool resources. We are interested in understanding how previous coping strategies, often based on a long-standing cultural landscape with local common-property institutions and influencing the identity of entire communities along with their social networks and cohesion, are undermined in certain regions by the expropriation of land and commons. Resilience grabbing is, thus, a consequence of commons grabbing. Furthermore, we invite contributions addressing the reactions of local communities and ask what new power relations and social constellations result from this? With this panel we would like to emphasize the agency perspective of local communities and give space to the experiences of the people who have to re-adapt long-standing strategies and traditions to counteract the imposed vulnerability regarding food security.


Energy in Common? Challenges and Reactions to Energy Infrastructure Projects

Co-Chairs: Sean Field, Jessica Hogan, and Lorenzo Sapochetti
University of St Andrews, UK

The push to transition to renewable sources of energy has been met by calls to invest in energy production projects and distribution infrastructures. From offshore wind farms to utility-scale solar installations, these projects and the infrastructures needed to support them require vast quantities of land, sea, and material resources. Some scholars have referred to the sites where these projects and infrastructures are located, or planned to be located, as ‘sacrifice zones’ because of the disproportionate impact they have on nearby ecologies and communities. In many cases, these sacrifice zones have been shown to adversely affect poor and marginalised communities, sacred lands, and sensitive ecosystems, but are justified in the name of national and transnational net zero targets and combating climate change. In other cases, citizen-led renewable energy alternatives have shown how projects and infrastructures can bolster local wellbeing, empower communities, and account for local ecologies.

This panel asks: how do renewable energy projects and infrastructures cultivate and undermine local and regional social solidarities? What visions, hopes, and anxieties do they evoke among people in near by communities? How do these projects and infrastructures reproduce or disrupt inequalities along the axis’s of gender, race, class, and region? And, why, and to what degree, do they evoke aspirations for new common spatial arrangements and shared futures?

This panel warmly invites papers from across disciplines that addresses one or more of these questions.


Community-based collective action and sustainable development around infrastructure mega-projects

Co-Chairs: Kaspar Hurni, Norman Kearney, Lara Lundsgaard-Hansen, and Christoph Oberlack
University of Bern, Switzerland

Infrastructure mega-projects, such as economic corridors and special economic zones, induce rapid, large-scale, and contentious transformations to power relations, the distribution of wealth, land-use, and livelihood strategies. Local communities, such as pastoralists, smallholder farmers, women, and youth, are often not involved in the planning of such projects and may lack the power, knowledge, or resources necessary to negotiate remedies with project proponents, such as governments and investors. These imbalances allow grievances to go unresolved and can lead disadvantaged stakeholders to take matters into their own hands through forms of resistance (e.g., sabotage) and competition among local resource users. At the same time, infrastructure projects could, if better designed and implemented, make contributions to sustainable development through improved access to basic services, such as health, education, sanitation, and energy (SDGs 3, 4, 6, 7), improved infrastructure (SDG 9), and reduced poverty, hunger, and inequality (SDGs 1, 2, 5, 10). Strengthening the voice and visions of sustainable development of local stakeholders may be a key lever to improve the impacts of infrastructure projects on sustainable development.

This panel aims to 1) share results of current research and/or development projects about the role of communities, emic perspectives, and collective action in shaping sustainable development in regions targeted by infrastructure mega-projects; 2) strengthen networks among like-minded researchers and professionals; and 3) identify and discuss current key thematic and methodological frontiers in this field.

This panel may be organized in a hybrid or online form, if possible.


What about revitalising African knowledge commons for/through education?

Chair: Barbara Class1 and Co-Chair: Fabio Balli2
1University of Geneva, Switzerland, 2Université Concordia, Canada

In this panel, we suggest to discuss knowledge commons beyond the 2030 agenda and beyond theories of development, within the framework of Open Science (UNESCO, 2021).
Leveraging epistemologies from the South, we explore how to move away from post-positivist approaches created by the Global North, first by recognising absences, and next by encouraging emergences of different knowledge systems (Santos, 2016).

How can overall life philosophies such as Maat or Ubu-ntu contribute to create alternative ways to education? How can educating in community languages empower learners towards a holistic cultural identity? How can leadership be developed to train individuals to become bridges, proficient of one local culture / language of the Global South and one of the North?

Taking advantage of the momentum and current awareness with regards to knowledge commons in Africa, i.e. topics that concern the Global South and are discussed in and for the Global South in journals hosted for instance on African Journals Online (AJOL), education is discussed in a much deeper sense than schooling, in temporalities that far exceed international agendas.

Finally, rather than addressing knowledge and natural commons as two different entities in the modern perspective (Latour, 2006), we consider them one and the same commons, in interaction, and nurturing one another. This with respect also to traditional ways of educating through initiation which take place in forests.


The Drama of Crude Oil and the Commons

Co-Chairs: Willice O. Abuya1 and Elisabeth Schubiger2
1Dept of Sociology and Psychology, Moi Univesity, Kenya, 2Dept Anthropology and Sociology, Graduate Institute of International and Development Studies, Geneva, Switzerland

The establishment of an oil and gas sector in the Eastern Africa requires setting up of distribution, extraction and processing infrastructure. As a consequence, community lands surrounding the project sites suffer a considerable acquisition of common pool resources due to the extractive activities as well as from speculative investment. The exploitation of crude oil is often presented as an industry with a small land-footprint and as one not prone to large scale land acquisition — arguable, fracturing further decreases the chances of displacement. But the impact of resource extraction usually extends beyond the active mining area and affects and fragments outlying commons, such as water, pasture, migratory corridors and spiritual sites. Some, who no longer see the value of communal ownership, see opportunities through the influx of financial returns in the form of compensation, infrastructural development, jobs and Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) projects. However, these actual and anticipated transformations of commons concern local livelihoods as this may lead to disintegration of their social and cultural cohesion. This growing cleavage between winners and losers invariably increases tensions, with existing legal frameworks often limited in providing solutions to mitigate against these concerns. Much of this impact is usually overlooked or ignored.
In this panel, we examine the social impacts of the acquisition of commons associated with oil production. Additionally, we wish to discuss the existing plurality of legal frameworks that are expected to exasperate or mitigate these impacts, while also examining how local communities renegotiate belonging, ownership and the hope for a better future.


Green-grabbing and dispossession of pastoralists’ livelihoods: does commodification of natural assets hold the answer to sustainable food security and nutrition?

Co-Chairs: Dr Boniface Kiteme 1,2, Emily Mutea1, and Veronica Mwangi2
1Centre for Training and Integrated Research in ASAL Development (CETRAD), Nanyuki-Kenya, 2Department of Geography, Environmental and Population Studies, University of Nairobi, Kenya

African pastoralism has been viewed as archaic, resistant to change, and anti-modern, as well as stagnant, unproductive, and an ecologically damaging livelihood. Livestock provides more food security than growing crops in many ASALs because farming appears to be a poorer adaptation than nomadic pastoralism in arid environments. Social scientists, politicians, and practitioners concerned with pastoralism in sub-Saharan Africa have focused on the demise of the pastoral commons since the 1980s. Common pool resource management has been of great significance for most pastoralist communities and has changed livelihoods and social organizations alike. The effective management of commons is important for pastoralism and agro-pastoralism. The ratification of the Kenya 2010 Constitution gave legal provisions to protect communal land tenure, and recognized pastoralists as a “marginalized group”. The “Community Land” legislation is set to facilitate communal land holdings, as well as compensation for compulsory acquisition of any community land. From the early 1990s to 2020, there has been pressure on communal land from drought, emerging conservation models, and degradation caused by population growth, mega-infrastructural development projects, military camps, new wildlife corridors, and rapid urbanization. These green-grabbing projects have sparked a violent conflict between the managers and pastoralists, who argue that such projects do not benefit the inhabitants who in the past have traditionally managed the resources communally and are now dispossessed of their pastures leading to unstable livelihoods and near perpetual food insecurity. There is an emerging discourse of “new common” where resources need to be priced, and those who use more should pay more. That is, wherever there is a market, natural resources should be commoditized to the benefit of rural resource owners. Is a market approach the solution to ecological, economic, and social problems causing severe food insecurity?


Managing the commons in a highly dynamic highland-lowland system: Why harmony in institutional arrangements for water Governance across scale matter.

Co-Chairs: Boniface Kiteme, John Mwangi, and Emma Odera
Centre for Training and Integrated Research in ASAL Development (CETRAD), Nanyuki-Kenya

Institutional arrangement for water resources governance and management in Kenya is organised across three levels from the grassroots (local), regional (county/basin) and national aimed at fostering equity, peace and sustainability among various water users across river basins. These institutions are charged with various responsibilities such as policy formulation (at national and county levels), regulation and planning (regional/county), and service provision and management (grassroots level). However, these institutions are faced with socio-political challenges, overlap of mandate and internal conflicts that curtail their functions and hence unable to discharge their duties as expected.

Often times, conflicting institutional mandates coupled with socio-ecological factors such as dwindling water resources, rapid land use transformation, high population pressure and climate change lead to water use conflicts in various river basins. These water use conflicts which result to stiff confrontations and loss of life and property continue to intensify despite water sector reforms completed two decades ago.

Highlands are endowed with rich resources such as water, forests, and pasture which benefit a wide range/array of users especially in the lowlands. Thus, highlands are seen as producers of resources while the lowlands are deemed as consumers. The highland-lowland systems in the MT Kenya region are rapidly changing and continuously under pressure from the broad range of claims on the natural assets that require complex negotiation process to forestall the attendant stiff competition and expressed and non-expressed conflicts among the users. Therefore it is important to ensure cohesion of water governance institutions that have the capacity and competence to provide inclusive leadership towards sustainable management of water and other land resources in the region.


Authoritarian development and commons grabbing in Indonesia

Co-Chairs: Heinzpeter Znoj1 and Yudi Bakhrioktora2
1Institute of Social Anthropology, University of Bern, Switzerland, 2Department of History, Universitas Indonesia, Indonesia

With its policy of accelerated development, the Indonesian government has made its economic growth heavily dependent upon its expanding capitalist frontier in remote parts of the archipelago. Based on colonial era laws and most recently on a legal package termed “omnibus laws”, traditional land, forest and water commons can be appropriated by the state and transferred as concessions to logging, plantation, mining and tourism companies, thus depriving previous owners by their own traditional law of control over these resources. In this way, throughout Indonesia, traditional farming communities but also hunter/gatherer and fishing groups have been directly expropriated or put under pressure to give up all or part of their resources.

The transformation of these commons under control of local populations into private property under joint control by the state and private concessionaries, implies more than mere dispossession, but also a thorough social transformation. The communities owning land and forest as commons have traditionally been constituted in their social structure through the regulations of access to these resources. The process of commons grabbing therefore undermines the social fabric that had been built around joint control of land, forest, and any other resource considered as common property. At the same time, new social relations are constructed around the private ownership of logging, land, mining and fishing concessions. These social relations are those of the authoritarian state and of hierarchically organized companies. Local people deprived of their commons have the options either to integrate as direct dependants in the social structure that now dominates their former resources – for instance as wage laborers in logging firms, on plantations, or in mines –, or to carve out an arrangement with the state or a company that allows them to maintain collective or private control over part of their resources, and thus become indirect dependants of the hegemonial capitalist relations – i.e. as recognized indigenous group allowed to forage in forest concessions or in national parks, or as outgrowers forced to produce cash crops for a plantation company on their individually owned land.

We invite contributors to provide case studies reflecting on the local social, legal and political impact of Indonesia’s accelerated development policy, and local and national responses to it.

7. Global health commons between pandemics and glocal health


Towards a game theory of integrated approaches to health

Chair: Jakob Zinsstag
Swiss Tropical and Public Health Institute, Switzerland

Health of humans and animals is multifacetted. It has a purely private dimension, it is probably the highest private asset in our life. Our own health is thus our highest private good. But health has also clearly an important public and a common dimension. By being infected by another person, or by infecting another person with a preventable (or non-preventable disease) health becomes eminently public and global . We can consider freedom of disease in its non-rivalrous and non-excludable quality as a common good in Ostrom’s understanding.

By analogy, un hindered spread of diseases, leading to outbreaks or endemic stable transmission of disease can be considered as a “tragedy of the commons” in Hardin’s sense. For example, ongoing transmission of rabies in many West and Central African countries is indeed a tragedy, causing the death of several ten thousand people, mostly children every year. In contrast, if all people exposed to rabies suspected animals could be protected with post-exposure prophylaxis (PEP), human death could be avoided and if successful dog mass vaccination campaigns at sufficient coverage would be done, rabies could even be eliminated and its cumulative cost would be lowest. Such a high level of cooperation across the levels of social organization, which is needed to eliminate dog mediated rabie requires transdisciplinary participatory process between all actors of civil society, authorities and academic actors.
This panel will discuss a generic approach to One Health as a commons.


Open Source Hardware in the medical field

Co-Chairs: Fabio Balli1 and Pascal Carpentier2
1Geneva University,Switzerland , 2Erasmus University, Netherlands

Over the past fifteen years, technological evolution allowed hobbyists and amateurs to gather, exchange information, and build innovative objects. They opened a new field of open source development; Open Source Hardware(OSH). A movement that aims to replicate the OSS model’s success but in the physical world with tangible resources. Over the past years, Open hardware products’ complexity drastically increased from merely printed simple objects in 3D to very ambitious and complex projects like an Open MRI. Some projects became real commercial successes, like Arduino, selling more than ten million units of its multipurpose electronic board. However, the comparative advantage with the proprietary model is not yet fully understood, and globally, literature is lacking due to the relative youth of the development model. The COVID pandemic recently acted as a catalyst for OSH projects that were suddenly under the spotlight worldwide. Communities helped healthcare workers to face the sanitary crisis with countless medical spare parts, respirators, or face shields projects. Although this common-based mode of production demonstrated a genuine capacity to propose pragmatical and decentralized solutions to this unprecedented situation of generalized supply chain disruption, a vast majority of these projects failed to reach the hospital bedside. These communities underestimated the gap between the willingness to share knowledge and functioning prototypes and a final product up and running in a hospital.


The commons of ‘wild’ edible and medicinal plants under threat

Chair: Sonja Merten
Swiss Tropical and Public Health Institute, University of Basel, Switzerland

Edible wild plants have been a cornerstone of food security of indigenous/traditional food systems. Today edible wild plants still increase household food security and resilience to market and environmental shocks in many places, and provide cash income for local communities. However, edible wild plants are largely ignored in land use planning because, as integral part of common pool resources such as forests, collective ownership and governance institutions of the resources are not recognized. A similar process can be observed with medicinal plants, which also often grow on land managed in common property, such as forests. As a result of increasing privatization and land use change, traditional knowledge about the biodiversity of edible and medicinal plants is rapidly being lost. This process is enhanced by government approaches to biodiversity conservation, which is often based on fortress conservation, excluding previous local users from accessing the resources. This panel calls for transdisciplinary approaches researching the links between edible and medicinal plants and the commons, from the fields of feminist political ecology, political economy, ethnobotany, medical anthropology, and food security. We therefore ask for paper contributions highlighting how edible and medicinal plants are managed as commons and how these commons are under threat.


Public health services as a common good in the era of the Sustainable Development Goals

Co-Chairs: Stephen Okumu Ombere and Erick Otieno Nyambedha
Maseno University, Kenya

At a time when global health policy calls for universal health coverage, many countries are still grappling with how to address inequities of access to public health services. Different demand and supply-side financing approaches have been introduced over the past years, but major inequities between and within countries have remained. A general debate about the extent to which public health should be regarded as a common good, including questions about the democratization of the governance of the public health system, seems missing. Moreover, a “local common” is what everyone shares on the one hand, but towards which everyone has responsibilities on the other. The government and the public should have a platform where commoning practices in the form of solidarity and collectives are forged, maintained and reinforced at the intersection of commoning healthcare distribution. Unfortunately, when it comes to health, the concept of “local commons” can increasingly be summed up in the now proverbial Hardin “tragedy of the commons.”Additionally, despite the government’s commoning practices and processes in healthcare, public health services still remain under-resourced and unable to offer reliable access to healthcare. With this panel, we call for transdisciplinary disciplines researching on the global debates on health policy and coordination, regulation and legislation, tax and subsidization of healthcare, access, financing of healthcare services, and the commons. Therefore, we ask for paper contributions highlighting how public health services as a common good are under threat in the Sustainable Development Goals (SGDs) and the global health agenda.

8. Opportunities and challenges of digital commons


Commoning our Education: Possibilities and Pathways towards an Education for All

Chair: Nele Van Doninck
KU Leuven, Belgium

‘Education is a means of knowledge about ourselves’, writes the famous Kenyan Ngũgĩ wa Thiong’o (1981: 94). Quality education is often seen as a way out of precarity, and is one of the key pillars of the Sustainable Development Goals of the United Nations (United Nations, n.d.), as well as in the African Union’s Agenda 2063. Globally, children and young people are told that if they do well in school, they are much more likely to ‘make it’ in life. Yet, education too is starting to fall more and more into the hands of a market-driven logic. Lately, under the influence of (mostly) Euro-American ideas of (educational) technology, different new concepts, such as gamification and open source have been introduced. This panel invites papers that reflect on how education can be ‘commoned’, and can become a resource for all young people, from all socio-economic backgrounds, disentangled from commercial logics, and especially how alternative forms of knowledge transfer, such as storytelling or community networks can enrich more formal forms of education, and inspire young people’s pathways towards a better future. The panel especially seeks papers that scrutinize how such educational initiatives are unpacked in very local, contextualized day-to-day lived realities in non-western societies.


World Librarians: A Knowledge Commons supporting offline rural, offline schools in Malawi and Kenya

Chair: Charles Schweik
University of Massachusetts Amherst, USA

In this practitioner panel, a cross-national team will discuss the “World Librarians” (WL) system, a global socio-technical KnowledgeCommons system working to close the information access problem that many remote offline schools have in lesser developed contexts, and a focus on removing GlobalNorth-South power differentials. We will discuss the operational system refined over six years; operational in Malawi and Kenya. We will describe: (1) the WL physical infrastructure, including solar-powered computer labs, Keepod flash drive operating systems; (2) an offline WiFi server with a database of open educational material; (3) the Twitter-based communication system where schools request information they want – not what the people in the Global North think they want; and (4) and the open access librarian search by Internet have locations, and the “digital postage-based” transmission system of data found to the requester. We will also discuss challenges and opportunities we’ve discovered along the way.

Panel Participants (assuming travel funding):

– Carl Meyer, Executive Director of ShiftIT, a technology organization in Malawi that sets up solar power, computer labs, and the relationship between the school and the searcher team (https://www.shiftit.co.za/#Team)

– Francis Warukira, Director of NetBilaNet(Internet without Internet), a nonprofit in Nairobi supporting WL there

– Sofie Roux, inventor of the “Bloombox” solar-powered shipping container to support WL computer labs

– Toussaint Kanyenyetsi of Salama Africa, an organization supporting refugees in the Dzaleka refugee camp in Malawi

– Members of the WL searcher team @ UMass, Amherst, led by Professor Charlie Schweik.


Re-imagining Digital Commons – Making Commons Visible and Accessible

Chair: Subrata Singh
Foundation for Ecological Security, India

Digital data and technologies are changing the way commons are managed, providing new perspectives on commons as well as enabling creation of new commons. Digital data – spatial or non-spatial have the ability to make commons visible, enabling access to information on common-pool resources, programme interventions and allow for better governance of the resources.

Most organisations, governments and donors today recognize the importance of data to reach scale. For Commons to become a strong ecosystem, it has to unlock the power of trusted and verified data that enables observability and trust (between practitioners and the programme/state), thereby empowering the individual and community to lead change from the front. The challenge however is, either there is no data or data collected does not match the data quality standards of verifiability, trust, accountability and privacy. The insights thus gathered do not support a fact-based governance, resulting in extreme pressure on the first mile cadre (practitioners) to deliver extraordinary outcomes. This session initiates discussion to understand this pivotal problem and unlock our imagination to deliver impact at scale.

The panel would attempt to explore the topic through the following:
* Practitioner perspective: Role of digital for scale? How does digital help build the agency of individuals and institutions? How does empowering a first mile help create a more meaningful impact?
* State perspective: Programs and Convergence with respect to Commons. How do they see the role of open data? What can it enable or unlock?
* Donor perspective: How does one support an imagination more than a metric based engagement? What does it require to nurture an imagination?

Together the panel would explore and discuss how re-imagination of data and technology is key to future governance of commons. The panel is part of the ‘Promise of Commons’ Initiative


Understanding the interactions of justice, equity, and openness in digital knowledge commons

Co-Chairs: Beckett Sterner1, Ute Brady1, and Zoe Nyssa2
1Arizona State University, USA, 2Purdue University, USA

This session explores how justice and equity issues arise and are addressed in digital knowledge commons. While open data advocates promote the benefits of equitable data reuse, concerted data mobilization efforts to aggregate global information resources may in fact serve to perpetuate a new era of data colonialism. For example, data collection benefits may flow out from nature- and resource-rich but economically poorer countries with little benefit for their contributions. Furthermore, poorer countries’ sovereignty and national development concerns may disincentivize global data-sharing as it may lead to international pressure to implement programs that undermine countries’ development objectives. Additionally, one can look at other scales where participation in “open” science becomes obligate, e.g., the development and publication of location-based open Geographic Information Systems, genetic databases using medical records or samples from indigenous/minority populations, and even the recent development of AI-based art generators using images scraped without permission from the Internet.

This panel welcomes empirical, methodological, and theoretical contributions that deepen our understanding of digital knowledge commons, including how digital data gathering, data sharing, participation in digital online portals, and data use are conditioned by neo-colonial path dependencies that persist and continue to dominate, drive, and potentially undermine justice and equity at different governance scales. Submissions using approaches developed externally to the theory of commons are also welcome, e.g. critical social/environmental justice theories and ethnographic methods, including applications and critical engagements with, e.g., the design principles, rule typologies, the Institutional Analysis and Development, and the Coupled Infrastructure System frameworks.


Digital Commons and Social Movements: Understandings from the feminism

Chair: Esther Bravo-Govea
National Autonomous University of Mexico, Mexico

This panel aims to introduce reflections on digital commons and their relationship with social movements through their collective actions based on digital practices of collaboration and participation. For the analysis, the case of Mexican feminism at the end of 2019 was used, studied through digital ethnography.

Considering that David Bollier in his work “Think like a commoner” (2014), mentions that the three elements of the commons are: a resource + a community + management rules. This study defined that social movements are a community that collectively manages information resources under rules of sharing, collaboration, and collective participation. These information resources (such as Wikipedia, Wikimedia Commons, Internet Archive, and open educational resources under a Creative Commons license) would be used for various purposes such as to exercise offensive, defensive actions, preserve their memory, reinforce collective identity, educate, and train its members.

It was concluded that social movements in the digital age are characterized by the expansion, creation, transfer and exchange of information, and their collective actions are strengthened under the model of the commons, because it facilitates coordination, cohesion and social participation by sharing, consult, use, reuse and create content freely, collectively, and collaboratively.

The findings will contribute to the study of digital commons in the social movement field by presenting an analysis focused on the role of information as a common.


Transitioning resource systems from benevolent dictatorship to community management

Co-Chairs: Christina Bowen1 and Seth Frey2
1Socialroots.io, USA, 2University of California Davis, USA

Communities can co-manage resources. This is not only an empirical fact, but a normative commitment of researchers of common pool resource management. So it can be jarring for practitioners to discover the difficulty of transitioning to community management, even in the ideal case that the existing centralized leadership is eager to transfer control. No where is this more clear than in the management of open source software (OSS), a digital public good of global import. In the OSS ecosystem the norm of “benevolent dictators” is widely practiced, and many hold the role despite hopes or plans to transition to community management. While incremental governance change is widely studied, more discontinuous governance changes, particularly “voluntary revolutions” to community management, are poorly understood. This panel will bring together academics and practitioners to understand the challenges and opportunities in governance transitions to community management of shared resources, both digital and physical.


New approaches to commons governance from the blockchain ecosystem

Co-Chairs: Seth Frey1 and Andy Tudhope2
1University of California Davis, USA, 2Independent scholar and practitioner, South Africa

In April 1956, the lecture was given at the Institute of Electrical Engineers on the “computer in a non-arithmetical role.” The title reflects that there was a time when it was hard to imagine that computers were more than calculators. Today we are in a similar position with the role of blockchain technologies in resource management: “crypto in a non-market role.” What are the possibilities of new decentralized technologies for fostering polycentric, institutionally diverse governance to today’s and tomorrow’s common pool resources? This panel will introduce work by practitioners and researchers “in crypto” and other facets the decentralized web, toward expanding the imagination of commons scholars of where these technologies could be taking us, and what we have to learn from them about fostering more participatory and empowering approaches to resource governance in general.


New digital tools and data sciences for managing the commons

Chair: Derek Kauneckis
ISeeChange, USA

Technology is at the core of the study of the commons. The ability to effectively exclude others from a resource is what defines a commons against other types of public goods. As a simple example, the invention of barb wire was pivotal in the privatization of rangelands around the world. The pace of technical change is more rapid today than ever and emerging digital technologies have profound implications for how we interact with and manage commons. This session explores how digital technologies interact with commons, not only as a means of exclusion, but also in expanding the sharing of resources, lowering transaction cost to gather and share information, and in the development of new relationships with natural resource and environmental change. Presentations will examine how digital technologies impact community formation, managing risk commons, and facilitating collective action across different action arenas and levels of governance.

9. Conservation, environmental justice and the commons


Climate and Land Use Changes in Murehwa District: Trends and Implications for Forests Ecosystems

Chair: Prosper Tonderai Mataruse
University of Zimbabwe, Zimbabwe

Climate change is causing major problems to human and ecological systems globally. The consequences of climate change (rainfall variability and droughts) are disrupting rural livelihoods. In response, humans are engaging in forest-depleting livelihood strategies, which are further contributing to degradation of climate proofing ecosystems including forests. The aim of the study was to establish climate change induced land cover changes and the resulting settlement patterns through participatory mapping from 1990 to 2021. The study intended to bring new dimensions to land use management and the importance of creating sustainable agricultural systems and settlement patterns. Participatory mapping was used because it allows local people to visually describe and explain changes in land use and land cover. The study was done with smallholder farmers from Wards 26, 27 and 28 of Murehwa District in Zimbabwe with a series of workshops. Observed changes include increase in gardening, agricultural and settlement expansion, all resulting in forest cover loss. In trying to self-insure against the failure of rain fed agriculture, farmers expand fields encroaching into forests, create settlements and gardens in forests along rivers and in wetlands. This is coupled with population increase, high forest dependency and economic depression. For harmonious integration of human and ecological systems, there may be need for promotion of sustainable agricultural intensification pathways such as agroforestry. Awareness on the importance of wetlands could save them from further degradation and improved settlement planning which prioritises restoring current forests may be a basis for improving human and ecological systems.


Conservation, Environmental Justice to Re-imagine the Commons in Africa

Co-Chairs: Alpha Ba1 and Williams Daré2
1ENSA Thies, Senegal, 2CIRAD UMR SENS, France

Is there anything in common between the Batwa of Kahuzi Biega National Park (Democratic Republic of Congo), the Gouros of Marahoué National Park (Ivory Coast) and the Nanguene community of Limpopo National Park (Mozambique)? These examples illustrate the opposition of local actors and civil society organizations to the negative environmental and social implications of land-use planning projects aimed at the conservation of natural areas. The demonstrators denounce the injustice of planning decisions which, at best, are supposed to improve the living conditions of local populations and serve the national interest, but which very often deprive them of decision-making power over their territory and of access to and management of their common resources. The environmental justice atlas lists numerous situations, but African research is rare, particularly in the French-speaking world. To fill this knowledge gap, we have coordinated a collective work that brings together case studies in West, Central and Southern Africa. They illustrate the disruptions to the management of the commons caused by the conservation of space, the tensions between allochthones and natives created by the non-regulation of conservation rules imposed by the State, and the degradation of the living conditions of local populations. The observation is well known, but how can we go beyond that to co-construct and to re-imagine the commons?


Reimagining ‘Commoning’ Processes in Biodiversity Governance

Chair: Michael Schoon
Arizona State University, USA

The ‘commons’ have long featured in biodiversity discussions, with biodiversity regularly framed as a ‘global commons’. Past research has developed the role of place-based Natural Resource Management and critically examined how and why commons are shrinking worldwide. However, there has been little effort to investigate how commoning processes can support new governance approaches. We seek to explore the productive potential of commoning processes to jointly enhance biodiversity conservation and social justice.

We intend to explore knowledge, narratives, practices, institutions and structures that enable ‘commoning’ spaces that enhance (rather than erase) bio-, cultural- and social- diversity. In doing so, we seek to connect various disciplines to move forward discussions of the biodiversity governance and ‘commons’ beyond time-worn solutions to the supposed ‘tragedy of the commons’ and simplistic solutions that seek to common in the name of biodiversity at the expense of other forms of diversity (e.g. through creation of strict protected areas).

This research is therefore interested in drawing upon diverse ideas and disciplines to consider how to (re)imagine commons and commoning of biodiversity and ecosystem functioning in the current era? Questions that we hope to address include (but are not limited to):

  • How have commons and commoning processes changed historically in biodiversity governance, and in what ways have emerging commons and commoning processes persisted despite or throughout historical developments?
  • What ‘commoning’ processes contribute to biodiversity governance?
  • How can commons and commoning be encouraged through new forms of biodiversity governance across scales while being sensitive to what is excluded and how?


Towards the transformation of semi-arid commons and pastoralist livelihoods in a complex world of competing claims

Co-Chairs: Sheila Funnell1, David Kimiti2 and Julie Zähringer3
1Wyss Academy for Nature, Kenya, 2Grevy’s Zebra Trust, Kenya, 3Wyss Academy for Nature, Switzerland

Wildlife and people co-exist in the semi-arid landscapes of northern Kenya, sharing the limited resources they all rely on to survive. These common resources include pasture and water for wildlife and the pastoralist communities (including their livestock), and arable land for a small but growing community of farmers. A growing human footprint, both from within and outside the system, and environmental uncertainties such as climate change and unpredictable rainfall patterns, have lowered the functional integrity of the semi-arid ecosystems, reducing its resilience and ability to support wildlife and the livelihoods of the people that live within it. Fragmentation is limiting movement across healthy ecosystems, threatening access to critical resources, and the traditional way of life for pastoralists. Semi-arid landscapes, and pastoral livelihoods, are often undervalued, with development policies being implemented that regard this system as inefficient. The semi-arid nature of northern Kenya, and the long history of pastoralism, means alternative economic opportunities for local people are already limited. In view of the urgently needed transformation towards sustainable development it is critical to explore how the health, and continued connectedness of these ecosystems can be maintained, despite the increasing diversity of competing claims on them. Through the introduction of concrete examples, this panel will explore existing initiatives, experiments, and ideas that contribute towards the transformation of semi-arid commons, in northern Kenya and elsewhere in East Africa.


Contesting Human-wildlife interactions in the context of the commons

Co-Chairs: Lisa Alvarado1, George Iordachescu2, Jyothy Karat1, Samuel Weissman1, and Ariane Zangger1
1Institute of Social Anthropology, University of Bern, Switzerland, 2University of Sheffield, UK

Humans and wildlife coexist in multiple ways around the world, but socio-environmental challenges are putting coexistence under new pressures. A growing body of literature sheds new light on the increasing pressures to conserve large carnivores and other charismatic megafauna, which have become the main object of intervention in conservation projects. Individual or collective actors at various levels face new challenges to develop strategies for coexistence that go beyond regulating human-wildlife interactions into the realm of socio-political relations. Building on political ecology approaches, this panel explores the diversity and plurality of commoning institutions and rules that govern the interaction between humans and wildlife, casting new light on their recent history of institutional change. Across geographies, commons are often places of conviviality (Büscher and Fletcher, 2020) and constitute essential examples of constitutionality (Haller et al., 2016), directly framing and redefining coexistence practices. However, as global conservation becomes an uneven playing field in which powerful actors embrace western knowledge systems against local worldviews, processes such as commons grabbing and green enclosures have the potential to disrupt patterns of commoning and coexistence. This panel invites contributions from a broad range of theoretical and methodological approaches which take a critical stance toward different conservation strategies while advancing the understanding of how the management and functioning of commons have changed historically.

Keywords: human-wildlife interactions, commons, coexistence, collective-action institutions, constitutionality, conviviality


Promise of Commons - Community stewardship and Carbon Markets

Chair: Subrat Singh
Foundation for Ecological Security, India

There is skepticism about Payment for Ecosystem Services (PES) markets, carbon credit markets included, and their utility in delivering benefits to local communities.
Needed is greater knowledge by all parties (communities, investors, civil society) on the value (environmentally, socially and economically) and feasibility (institutionally and operationally) of PES and carbon markets in fostering better ecological and social outcomes.
Communities that have invested in conservation are realizing benefits already, like water supplies, healthier soils, grazing, agricultural productivity, family food security and income. Community members are aware of these ‘local’ benefits, but likely less aware of how their actions, practices and investments have contributed to better environmental outcomes globally. The tenurial systems and laws also seldom recognise the benefits of community conservation flowing out to the global good.
This begs the question: How can communities be compensated more fully for the material environmental gains resulting from those investments?
The panel will deliberate on

  • Why stewardship is central to success of conservation including PES programs?
  • How is it possible to work with unclear tenure and multiple institutions playing role in conservation, to work together for sustainable carbon outcomes?
  • What are the lessons, good and bad, of PES programs and carbon markets in particular, in rural India and elsewhere?
  • What are the key barriers and opportunities and possible pathways for making carbon and other PES markets work for rural communities in India?


Common-ing regulatory institutions for Environmental Justice

Chair: Vidya Visvanathan
SAFAR- Social Accountability Forum for Action and Research, India

In India, where marginalized communities still depend on common natural resource for their basic sustenance, the environmental regulations meant to safeguard these commons have increasingly been altered or diluted to promote economic growth through private ownership over commons. This spate of regulatory changes has met with stiff resistance and sharp criticism from most quarters such as user communities, civil society groups and ecologists. However, the conversation around the need to democratize these regulatory bodies, which are fast either getting dismantled or taken over by corporate agencies, is still a faint murmur in the room. Commoning of regulatory institutions will help us evoke a deeper version of democratic governance and reinstitute the idea of commons in the mainstream policy debates.

In India, the wide network of central and state pollution control boards, one of the oldest and decentralized regulatory agency, provides us a fertile field to experiment with the idea of commoning an environmental regulatory institution for environmental justice. This institution offers us many potential inroads towards building a more accountable, participatory and transparent regulatory framework for environmental decision making, which unfortunately is largely taken over by corporate agencies. A detailed review of these boards and the legal frameworks within which it operates, will not only help us understand the existing participatory appetite of this body; but also aspects where efforts of commoning can yield maximum benefits in terms of better protection of commons and its shared ownership by the most marginalized in the society.


Adaptive Collaborative Management: From research to action for just and sustainable commons

Co-Chairs: Anne Larson1 and Linda Yuliani2

Proven approaches to the sustainability of the commons suggest that a few core principles are key: work with local people as full partners, and support and strengthen their collective institutions, actions, agency, endowments and capabilities; co-learn, reflect and adapt; engage strategically across actors and scales. It also means building strong governance institutions and networks and alliances to defend the commons against land grabbing, incursions and other threats. Adaptive Collaborative Management (ACM) – developed by CIFOR-ICRAF in the early 2000s – is one effective approach.

ACM was conceived to address important challenges facing conservation and development efforts: top-down or externally driven programs, leading to actions that were not aligned with the local context or ended once the funding disappeared; inequities that left women and other marginalized groups out; and the need for unique, place-based solutions for every unique context. Its conceivers believed that “facilitating social learning processes might build on and strengthen local people’s abilities to learn from their own experiences, adapt to changing conditions more effectively and resiliently, and enhance their power to influence change.” Over time, ACM went further to address unequal power relations, both internally and externally, and to strengthen the resilience and adaptive capacity of local governance institutions, including the capacity to organize and resist threats to collective land, resources and territory.

By putting local people’s needs and preferences at the core, through deeply engaged participatory action research, ACM is by nature and design well-placed to counter inequality and injustice in the search for sustainable solutions. Two edited volumes (Colfer et al. 2021 and Colfer and Prabhu in press), as well as other recent research, have revisited a number of ACM experiences, reflecting on its potential and bringing the approach again to the fore, in a world seeking transformative solutions to climate, food systems and biodiversity crises. This panel invites presentations from ACM researchers who will provide reflections and evidence on experiences and outcomes and share insights for its potential contribution to such transformations.


Transformative interventions to strengthen biodiversity commons

Chair: Ilkhom Soliev1 with Co-Chairs: Alex Franklin2 and Agnes Zolyomi2
1Martin Luther University Halle-Wittenberg, Germany, 2Coventry University, UK

Strengthening biodiversity commons – shared governance systems that sustain diversity of species, ecosystems, and nature as a whole – has so far received little attention in the commons scholarship and practice. Halting the alarming loss rates and enhancing biodiversity will require system-wide societal transformations, including changes at the institutional (e.g., policies, governance arrangements), but particularly at the deeper interpersonal (e.g., norms, interactions) and intrapersonal (e.g., mental models, values, behavior) levels. The panel calls for inputs that discuss tested and emerging forms of interventions necessary to trigger particularly deeper level transformations. We aim to discuss these interventions from the perspectives of sustainability and justice, particularly in terms of ensuring (1) that an impact from interventions is truly transformative and moves individuals and societies towards adequately valuing biodiversity, and (2) that interventions do not serve as a mechanism for stripping the long-standing rights of local and/or indigenous communities but in fact strengthen their roles and relationships with biodiversity and nature. The panel is interested in discussing inputs that may focus on case studies with interventions involving public, private, community actors, results from observational and experimental research on interventions, as well as insights from development aid projects, all with particular focus on their more fundamental and transformative impacts. Submissions with theoretical, methodological, and empirical focus, as well as based on a review of existing evidence, are equally welcome.


Restoring commons: opportunities and threats for inclusive restoration from global agreements to local collective action

Co-Chairs: Ida Djenontin1 and Forrest Fleischmann2
1The Pennsylvania State University, USA, 2University of Minnesota – Twin Cities, USA

Ecosystem Restoration has emerged as a global agenda, which revolves around various commons from forests to agrarian lands, yet there has been relatively little research examining how local commons users and owners are interacting with this agenda. We seek papers methodologically and theoretically diverse papers that explore how restoration is enacted through the actions of commons users and owners at the local level around the world, as well as how this interacts with global and national restoration policies. We are particularly interested in four aspects: First, how local action, including direct restoration activity as well as self-organization and governance, are being shaped by global agendas and, national restoration policies, and the broader push for “nature-based solutions. Second, how equity and justice are considered in interventions designed to restore targeted commons. Third, how restoring commons influences local livelihoods and well-being. Fourth, how the conceptualiztion by large-scale actors of nature as a global commons is practiced and shapes program design and understanding.


Commons in the face of 30x30: bottom up and top-down responses

Co-Chairs: Alex Ebang Mbélé1, Graden Froese1, and Gretchen Walters2
1Nsombou Abalghe-Dzal Association (NADA), Gabon, 2University of Lausanne, Switzerland

Common lands and waters and their communities can be strong contributors to environmental protection, covering large parts of the planet. In light of the Convention of Biological Diversity discussions on how much of the planet to protect, a debate has ensued on both percentages as well as ways in which this kind of conservation could occur. On the one hand, some call for strict measures to protect 30% to half of the earth. On the other hand, some Indigenous peoples call for protection of 80% of their lands under their leadership. In terms of methods, Other Effective Area-based Conservation Measures (OECMs) and Territories of Life (ICCAs) provide ways for common lands and waters to be recognized for their contributions to conservation, as do convivial conservation models.

Here we look consider how common lands and waters and their custodians are impacted by this changing policy sphere. Will they flourish and be recognized, or will these commons be grabbed and further diminished? In this panel, we seek contributions which show both commons-led actions to protect their territories, as well as those led by the state which may result in a variety of responses from commons-grabbing to co-management. What strategies are used by local communities? How do communities defend their territories from commons-grabbing under the new international conservation regime? What discourses and legal settings are or can be used to defend the commons? Contributions from the North and the South are welcome.


Other effective area-based conservation measures and commons

Co-Chairs: Olivier Hymas1 and Jennifer Kelleher2
1Universitry of Lausanne, Switzerland, 2The International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), Switzerland

For nature conservation, the recognition of land commons and their users through the case-by-case framework of Other Effective area-based Conservation Measures continues the innovation, transformation and disruption of the business-as-usual models of conservation that is mostly based on ecological knowledge.

Other Effective Conservation area-based Conservation Measures are being endorsed as a way to recognise the contribution of other sectors to biodiversity protection, including those of land commons used by Indigenous Peoples and Local Communities, to biodiversity conservation.
It is envisioned that this collaborative working in harmony with nature, local people, land commons, private sector and national institutions can contribute to the protecting 30% of the planets land and sea by 2030.

Recognising how the governance and management structures of other sectors, outside that of conservation, can led either directly or indirectly to the conservation of biodiversity is relatively simple when these structures are similar to that of conservation organisations, for example those of governments and the private sectors. However, in the case of the land commons used by Indigenous Peoples and Local Communities, such governance and management structures may be harder to evaluate using the same values as that of other sectors that have comparable governance and management structures to the conservation sector.

This contribution to this panel will look at how the governance and management structures of land commons used by Indigenous Peoples and Local Communities can be integrated into Other Effective Conservation area-based Conservation Measures and what, if any, are the hurdles that need to be overcome.


Exploring the potential of indigenous and community-led innovative governance schemes towards a more just conservation

Co-Chairs: Sarah-Lan Mathez-Stiefel1,2, Margaret Owuor2 and Julie G. Zaehringer2
1Centre for Development and Environment, University of Bern, Switzerland, 2Wyss Academy for Nature at the University of Bern, Switzerland

Nature conservation initiatives such as protected areas, REDD+, and other top-down approaches have been criticized for severely limiting Indigenous Peoples and Local Communities (IPLC)’s access to their commons, and at worst, dispossessing them from their ancestral territories and resources. However, there also exist successful examples of innovative governance schemes where IPLC were able to establish alliances with the State or other conservation actors to keep, regain, or even strengthen some level of sovereignty over their lands. These innovations include for instance protected areas co-management mechanisms, IPLC conserved territories and areas (or “Territories of Life”), locally managed marine areas (LLMAs), and the Amazon Indigenous REDD.

Under which condition can conservation initiatives become an empowering tool for IPLC to assert their land rights, beyond enabling their mere participation? What are the outcomes of IPLC-led conservation governance schemes on IPLC’s well-being and on nature conservation? What are barriers and opportunities for the establishment of such schemes? And what policies should be designed to support them? Finally, to which extend may IPLC-led governance schemes actually influence the mainstream conservation regime, including its underlying values? From a decolonial and environmental justice perspective, these are some of the questions that we propose to explore in this panel. We invite papers based on empirical studies from different parts of the world, but we also welcome review studies and conceptual and methodological contributions that can help us to reflect on these topics.


Inclusive Conservation, WWF experiences from the field

Co-Chairs: Cristina Eghenter1, Cheryl Margoulis2, and Lilian Marquez3
1WWF, Netherlands, 2WWF, USA, 3WWF, Guatemala

vInclusive Conservation is WWF’s commitment to recognizing that conservation is also a social and political process where relations between humans and nature are shaped. WWF recognizes that a conservation approach that respects human rights, empowers minority groups, indigenous peoples and local communities (IPLCs), women, and other rights-holders creates conditions for equity and social justice, and leads to better and sustainable conservation delivery. WWF´s work around the globe has found diverse approaches that recognize IPLCs as rightsholders and key conservation partners. The panel discussion will include field experiences from Africa, Asia, and the Americas on Inclusive Conservation where WWF is strengthening IPLCs and under their guidance their institutions. Experiences will include the work of WWF-CARE Alliance and our joint efforts to address the root causes of poverty and environmental degradation. Examples of the experiences to be shared include our work with governance and life plans that strengthen local institutions, traditional customs, indigenous values, knowledge, and practices for human and biodiversity security of the bio-cultural community custodians; and how our science-based approach to conservation has found ways of integrating IPLCs into the decision-making processes for local and national climate adaptation options.


Saving the Commons in the Mongolian Steppes: Environmental Hazards, Economic Disincentives, and Global Development Discourses

Chair: Peter Finke
Department of Social Anthropology and Cultural Studies, University of Zurich, Switzerland

Mongolia and its pasturelands have for long been considered a paradigmatic case for a common property regime. Little alternative is left in this harsh, continental environment but a usage of land for extensive livestock herding. This has not even changed significantly during socialist times when patterns of annual mobility changed more in name than in practice. Recent years have seen a shift, however, partly driven by international development advisors who advocate corporate styles of ranching and group lease contracts to prevent a ‘tragedy of the commons’. On the ground, these changes have – fortunately, as one might say – not yet materialized and do not fit well with established patterns of land usage and local allocation rules. Instead, it seems essential to protect the existing common property regime that allows pastoralists the flexibility necessary for the survival of their herds and households.


Are the Benefits of Community Wildlife Conservancies Significant Enough to Compensate for the “Lost” Critical Pastoral Grazing Areas?

Co-Chair: Staline Kibet and Oliver Vivain Wasonga
Department of Land Resource Management & Agricultural Technology, University of Nairobi, Kenya

The number of community wildlife conservancies (CWCs) in the greater Horn of Africa has steadily increased over the years. In Kenya alone, there are currently 167 conservancies, covering over 6.35 million hectares of land (11% of the country’s land surface). The CWCs are based on the premise that communities and land-owners can be the stewards of wildlife conservation working together with government agencies to protect and benefit from a healthy and productive environment. Studies have shown that the key benefits of conservancies are conservation of biodiversity & environment, provision of employment to mainly the youth as game scouts; education bursaries to children of members; linkage of the pastoral women to external handicraft markets; income from ecotourism; peace and security due to conflict resolution mechanisms and surveillance by game scouts; market outlet for pastoral livestock; and construction of health and education infrastructure. The main gainers in the conservancy model are therefore the youth and the women through their inclusion in decision making, direct employment, access to credit facilities and market linkages. On the other hand, the main losers are probably the youth involved in cattle rustling, elders who have to give up decision powers to the conservancy management (unless consulted), charcoal producers, poachers, as well as neigbouring non-member communities who have to contend with restricted access to otherwise communal resources within the conservancies. It is clear that equitable and therefore sustainable access to grazing resources, especially where multi-ethnic communities are involved is still a challenge under this model of natural resource management. Therefore, as long as the main source of livelihood for pastoralists in the region remains extensive livestock production, wildlife conservancies must address reciprocal access to pasture and water among the pastoral communities. This is particularly critical as restricted access to resources within the conservancies render the neighbouring non-member communities vulnerable to the impacts of droughts and climate variability and change. Ultimately, is critical to strike a balance between wildlife conservation and pastoral livelihoods, and therefore the question as to whether the benefits of CWCs outweigh the trade-offs, especially in the face of climate change. This panel discussion will therefore seek to answer whether the benefits from wildlife conservation can adequately compensate for the opportunity costs of dedicating critical grazing areas for conservation.

10. Local institution building and radical futures for the commons


An Evaluation of the Effectiveness of Institutions Governing and Managing the Social-Ecological Systems in Murehwa District, Zimbabwe

Chair: Prosper Tonderai Mataruse
University of Zimbabwe, Zimbabwe

Forests are an integral part of social-ecological systems, which provide economic, cultural and ecosystem services. For instance, forests are a main source of energy for most rural areas in developing countries and they are the largest stock of carbon. The diversity of forest functions make them vulnerable with complexities and dynamic challenges around forest use, management and conservation. Several measures have been put in place to manage forest ecosystems. Nonetheless, the governance and management of forests as a component of social-ecological systems is facing substantial interruption from multiple and complex drivers of deforestation and forest degradation. The study sought to establish how effective institutions are in the governance and management of forests as a part of social-ecological systems. The study was carried out with smallholder farmers in three Wards of Murehwa District in Mashonaland East Province of Zimbabwe. Using ‘Q’ sorting and confirmatory factor analysis the study evaluated the effectiveness of institutions using responsiveness, efficiency in monitoring and controlling exploitation, sustainability and equitability as indicators of effectiveness. The results show that the existing institutions are doing better in responding to evolving drivers of deforestation, promoting stakeholder inclusion and ensuring sustainability. However, the results show that the existing institutions are inefficient in monitoring, controlling and surveillance of forest exploitation. Therefore, there may be need to strengthen institutions especially on efficiency in monitoring, controlling and surveillance. Ultimately, these results will be used in a different research to model a socio-institutional framework for effective management of social-ecological systems.


From vision to execution: Why do participation processes go wrong and under which conditions do they promote environmental justice in practice?

Co-Chairs: Annabelle Houdret and Mirja Schoderer
IDOS – German Institute of Development and Sustainability, Germany

Public participation is an increasingly prominent norm in natural resources management. It has been incorporated into multiple legislations, such as the UN human rights framework that now recognizes the right of indigenous peoples to give or withhold free, prior, and informed consent for resources use on their territories, or various national laws as, e.g., provisions for water user associations, councils, etc.

In theory, participation advances environmental justice across various dimensions. It changes who has a say in decisions on natural resources (procedural justice), provides an opportunity to allocate costs and benefits differently (distributional justice), and a forum to articulate diverging values and ontologies, to bring together multiple forms of knowledge and to negotiate rights claims (recognition justice). In practice, however, participation processes rarely fulfill that ideal. Participants often experience processes as tokenistic (providing information rather than devolving discretionary power) and exclusionary (of particular social groups, knowledges, or worldviews), so that they entrench power asymmetries rather than mitigate them. This difference between the ideal of participation and its practice is sometimes a function of the formal provisions, sometimes a function of their implementation.

This panel invites contributions that investigate why this difference between vision and execution and/or between the ideal and the practice of participation in natural resource management arises, going beyond general claims on the importance of power and the pursuit of private interests. Contributions can draw on a range of theories (e.g. bricolage, governmentality, institutional analysis, gender theory) and can have an empirical as well as a conceptual focus.


Fisheries Co-management approaches: Theory, Practice and Applications

Chair: Andrea Mjuma
Lilongwe University of Agriculture and Natural Resources, Malawi

Co-management approaches to fisheries have become a global practice for effectively regulating overfishing in open access fisheries with the aim of sustaining the fishery-based livelihoods. Disappointingly, in the context of climate change effects, productivity of most co-managed fisheries continues to decline. This complex and dynamic phenomenon poses serious uncertainties about sustainability of inland and marine fisheries and the livelihoods they support. This review paper explores both theoretical and practical attributes of co-management approaches to fisheries with the objective of identifying the aspects that work and how they work to yield desirable co-management outcomes particularly resilience of the fisheries sector. The review paper also explores co-management aspects that do not work and how they undermine the efficacy of co-management arrangements in open access fisheries. In presence of climate change, fishery-based co-management approaches, which integrate both adaptive management and co-management, have several attributes that are essential for building resilience of open access fisheries. Differences between theoretical and practical aspects of co-management approaches explored in this paper demonstrate how to effectively build resilience of the fisheries sector and the livelihoods they anchor by effectively integrating adaptive management into local institutional arrangements.


Understanding the contribution of commons institutions to decommodification and postgrowth

Co-Chairs: Deniz Ay1, Jean-David Gerber1, and Stephanie Moser2
1Institute of Geography, University of Bern, Switzerland, 2Centre for Development and Environment, University of Bern, Switzerland

Growing resource consumption and increasing spatial inequalities in both the Global North and the Global South pose urgent socio-ecological challenges to sustainability. This panel analyzes how the collectives in charge of commons can mitigate the challenges of overconsumption and inequality through decommodification strategies.

Commons are self-governed by a group of users, which (a) produces institutional rules supporting common ownership, collective decision-making and shared responsibilities, and (b) promotes social practices leading to a sense of community (e.g., sense of belonging, commitment, identity), as prerequisites for (c) the decommodification of human-nature interactions.

In this panel we opt for a strong definition of sustainability that recognizes the potential contradictions between infinite economic growth and planetary limits. The rules of the game that emerge in the collectives in charge of a commons can potentially provide long-term solutions for sustainable resource governance beyond a simplistic state-market dichotomy. We will go a step further and examine if self-declared collectives may even be forms of social-economic organizations that can make transformations toward a postgrowth organization of society socially, ecologically, and economically equitable. If self-declared collectives are able to create “islands of decommodification” in urban or rural landscapes otherwise dominated by profit-seeking behaviors, highlighting underlying mechanisms will provide an empirically-grounded contribution to debates on postgrowth organization of societies.

This panel aims at exploring the nexus commonification/ decommodification on the basis of empirical studies that demonstrate conditions of success and failure regarding transition pathways for a postgrowth society.


Traditional irrigation as a way to address global challenges such as climate change, food security or threats to biodiversity?

Co-Chairs: Gibson Kiragu1, Boniface Kiteme2, Karina Liechti3, Caroline Ouko2, and Theresa Tribaldos3
1Member of the AfDB Roll of Experts- Methodology Panel for Adaptation Benefits Mechanism and the International Consultant (Policy Advisor- United Nations Capital Development Fund) for LoCAL Mechanism, 2Centre for Training and Integrated Research in ASAL Development (CETRAD), Kenya, 3Centre for Development and Environment, University of Bern, Switzerland

Traditional irrigation systems (TIS) can play an important role in providing water and nutrients to the soil and in creating diverse landscapes that support different plant and animal species. Some of these systems and their governing institutions have survived for centuries. With a growing body of scholarship engaging in questions about the functioning, continued existence, benefits and challenges of these systems, European TIS are increasingly well understood. Local support of these systems is also reflected in the application of various European TIS to the UNESCO list of Intangible Cultural Heritage.
However, systematic knowledge about TIS in- and outside Europe can still be improved. In view of their huge potential to provide synergies in addressing global challenges such as climate change, food security or threats to biodiversity, we invite contributions addressing one or several of the following questions:

  • How can TIS support sustainable development in different specific contexts?
  • How are governing institutions of TIS organised in these specific contexts?
  • What role do power constellations play for the continued existence of these systems? Who contributes to decision-making and who is left out?
  • What institutional changes can be/have been implemented in these systems to adapt to evolving climate changes?
  • In view of the increased negative impacts of climate change caused by precipitation, wind, and temperature, what are best practices that can be up scaled e.g., from Kenya, and their corresponding measures of success in water efficiency and transformational change?


Local institutions for global commons: redefining governance through conflict

Chair: Sara Lorenzini
University of Milan, Italy

Because of their multifunctionality, certain natural resources and the ecosystems services they provide are particularly susceptible to different claims advanced by several cross-scale stakeholders (Adger, Brown and Tompkins, 2005; Berkes, 2002; Geores, 2003). When heterogeneity of knowledges, information, perceptions and resulting management practices is coupled with partial rivalry (Frischmann, 2012), the potential for conflict accrues. As a result, certain stakeholders manage to affirm their interests over others, thereby excluding the latter from accessing the resource and the decision- or policy-making processes around it. Thus, the resource and the functions it performs become privatized, rather than being managed as a common.

Usually, power dynamics make this occur at the disadvantage of local communities. Still, there are instances in which they are able to self-organize from the bottom and use the conflict to change their opponents’ status quo utility and re-shuffle power imbalances. Therefore, they can set the stage for more participatory processes whereby property institutions for the commons are re-defined on new values.

For this panel, we invite contributions exploring the factors affecting local actors’ capability to self-organize and re-shuffle power imbalances, the strategies they use and the outcome they possibly achieve. We also welcome studies addressing the issue of how stakeholders with different power and economic endowments and diverging perceptions and priorities over the same resource can develop an incentive to sit around the same table and engage in a discussion to re-define governance institutions. Studies that focus on conflict escalation as a strategy in itself are strongly encouraged.


Sustaining collaborative governance: how can collaborative governance be more effective and sustained over time?

Co-Chairs: Mafaniso Hara1, Judith Kamoto2, Friday Njaya3, and Fiona Nunan4
1PLAAS, University of Western Cape, South Africa, 2Lilongwe University of Agriculture and Natural Resources, Malawi, 3Department of Fisheries, Malawi, 4University of Birmingham, UK

Collaborative governance has been widely adopted within forest, fisheries and protected area management, often with the aim of improving compliance with rules and regulations, reducing pressure on natural resources and improving the livelihoods of resource users. Involving government, resource users and other non-state actors, collaborative governance faces many challenges, including delivering on these positive ecological and social outcomes and keeping going over time. Research into factors, or conditions, that enable successful governance suggests that local ownership, inclusivity and evidence of benefits are important for success and sustainability. These conditions are, however, challenged by the scale of resources, often located across multiple administrative boundaries, limited funding to support governance over time and a diversity of interests leading to conflicting objectives and approaches. For collaborative governance, there are additional challenges of what power sharing means in practice and building relations of trust.

The purpose of this panel is to learn from research and practice how collaborative governance can be more sustainable, effective and inclusive. We welcome papers that address questions such as: what are the key challenges in achieving effective, inclusive and sustained governance and how are these being overcome, or how could they be overcome? What changes need to happen in policy and practice? How is collaborative governance working effectively within the context of decentralisation, or how could it work more effectively? Which areas of theory and which research methods are particularly useful in informing research in this area? Papers are welcome from any natural resource sector and country.


Crossed perspective of donors, NGOs and committed researchers on their conception and practices of common based approaches of territorial development

Chair: Aurélie Botta

For several years, operators of the official development assistance (donors, NGOs, researchers) have been developping and experimenting with “common based approaches” in the context of their interventions. These approaches aim to recognize the central role of all users in the definition and implementation of territorial development trajectories. Based on this shared principle, each operator has, however, forged its own logic of action, and it now seems appropriate to question their fundamentals and implementation in order to analyze the diversity of visions and practices.
Through a variety of concrete case studies brought by the panelists, we will seek to identify the invariants and specificities of each intervention model.

  • The Agence Française de Développement will describe how its cosmology of “a world in commons” questions the nature of the projects it finances and its very posture as a donor.
  • GRET will present the approach and progress of the action-research program on the commons (2019-2025) that it carries out in various action situations.
  • CIRAD will share the new narrative of territorial cooperation through the commons that it promotes based on 20 years of involved research.

The session will end with a discussion of the synergies and questions raised by the crossed view of donor, researcher and operator on the commons based approach.
The panel will last two hours, and the following speakers have been identified (30 minutes each): Stéphanie Leyronas, AFD; Aurélie Botta, CIRAD, Jean-François Kibler or Marilou Gilbert or Louisa Desbleds, GRET; Etienne Delay or Jean-Pierre Müller, CIRAD, to lead the discussion


Collaborative Care in Commons Governance: Advancing Environmental Caretaking, Collaborative Management, and Sustainable Livelihoods

Co-Chairs: Mez Baker-Médard1, Sibyl Diver2, and Mehana Vaughan3
1Environmental Studies Program, Middlebury College, USA, 2Earth Systems Program, Environmental Justice Working Group, Stanford University, USA, 3University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa Department of Natural Resources & Environmental Management College of Tropical Agriculture & Human Resources, UH Sea Grant College Program & Hui ʻĀina Momona, USA

This panel endeavors to deepen the field of collaborative care and governance of lands and waters to inspire new strategies for collective action and “commoning.” We are particularly interested in expanding understandings of reciprocal relationships and how collective responsibilities are enacted in natural resource management. This includes governance rooted in meaningful participatory processes devolving decision making to those most affected or connected to a given resource and the physical and spiritual sustenance it provides. Through a collaborative care framework, we hope to create new terminology based not on hierarchy and separation, but on reciprocity and connection. In this way, we seek to move beyond dominant frameworks of collaborative management rooted in natural resource conflicts over extractive use, and instead deepen understanding of collaborative care for human-environment relations.

Building on the work of Indigenous scholars, we will discuss pathways for transmitting knowledge and responsibility across generations, along with stories of education for adaptation grounded in ancestral relationships between people and the places they inhabit. The panel will include examples of informal community practices, and formal policy-based avenues that facilitate resurgence and restoration of indigenous sovereignty. Along with locally centered and Indigenous governance efforts, we are interested in how communities engage in increasingly complex cross-border and polycentric efforts to influence the global and regional threats currently endangering local environments. Thus, contributions will suggest interventions that advance environmental justice, Indigenous land rights, and just transitions supporting sustainable livelihoods and regenerative economies at local and transnational scales.


Institutions and Power Relations in Urban and Peri-Urban Commons Management

Chair: Augustine Fosu
University of Bern, Switzerland

Institutions are very relevant in commons management and determine how land is accessed, used, and controlled. Contemporary, urbanisation, population growth, and the promotion of neoliberal policies have altered the institutions and power relations in the management of the commons in urban and peri-urban enclaves in the Global South. Since the 1990s, land policies, reinforced by neoliberal theories, have emphasised the strengthening of the capacity of customary land administration to ensure smooth land delivery. The approach has been to either strengthen pre-existing chiefs, the council of elders, and local elites or empower village councils or community organisations to manage the commons. Moreover, studies have documented that such an approach has sustained colonial distortions in customary land administration in Africa and elsewhere. Some actors such as traditional council members and queen mothers are still not legally recognised in customary land administration. When land values appreciate in urban and peri-urban areas, traditional authorities redefine customs and evict indigenes from the commons with the support of state land institutions. This conduct often precipitates contestations and breaks down social relations. Therefore, this panel will discuss the issues emerging from the promotion of customary land administration as a nascent strategy to support well-functioning and transparent land markets in the Global South. Also, the panel will focus on the alternative ways the institutions and power relations within the customary land administration can be transformed to engage all actors to achieve inclusive and participatory urban and peri-urban commons management.


The Water Commons We Want: Local Action for a Better Future

Co-Chairs: Dona Geagea1, Gina Gilson2, and Radhika Singh3
1Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam, Netherlands, 2University of Oxford, UK, 3University of Nairobi, Kenya

This panel convenes researchers from across the globe to ask how local water governance institutions can contribute to equitable and sustainable futures for the water commons we want. We create space for water governance researchers to complicate commonly-held assumptions in research on the commons, such as the understanding of water as a common pool resource, the binary conceptualisations of market vs. state and formal vs. informal, and the merits of community-led water resource management. Together, the researchers problematise the “we” in looking towards the future we want. We look at the different actors who have shaped local institutions by asking questions about the gendered dynamics of participation, uncovering the power dynamics that affect resource access, and investigating how historical legacies have shaped water governance institutions’ development at the local level. Panelists present evidence from case studies around the world (including Kenya, Spain, Italy, and beyond) to demonstrate how we can learn from local experiments to create a better future for our shared water commons.


From the governance of the commons to a wider commons-inspired governance: obstacles and institutional changes inside the State and the Market

Co-Chairs: Margherita D’Andrea1 and Giuseppe Micciarelli2
1University Of Naples Suor Orsola Benincasa, Italy, 2University of Salerno/DISPC, Italy

Commons do not succeed or fail due only to efficient design principles on their own governance. Indeed, they are always deeply influenced by a wider governance environment: e.g., rules and laws produced by different (and potentially contradictory) levels of government, by market and financial conditions of the local areas, and by their cultural, social and political contexts.
In several cases, it is precisely the elements of this wider governance that undermine the principles of collective governance, forcing commons to navigate fragile waters in unfavourable conditions. We want to analyse what these obstacles are, how they reoccur, and how they can be overcome. What are the factors originating from the State and the Market that hinder commons governance and how can they be challenged? Starting with the friction between the commons and the surrounding political and economic environment, in the Panel we will also reflect on how the “commons we want” can act as agent of transformation for the “society we want”. Is this society prefigured by the philosophical and political ecology theories arose around the common’s grammar? Is there a connection between participatory/deliberative democracy and the commons? Which case studies can describe strategies of success or failure in transforming the broader institutional contexts in which the commons are embedded? Which legal tools are allies or enemies of the commons and why? Which economic principles and other rules (e.g., for accounting, taxation, debt, urban planning, free trade, environmental legislation etc) can be radically re-imagined starting with the experience, theories, and institutional creativity of the commons?


What to (re)produce? Local institutions and their (transformative) roles within social (re)-production systems

Co-Chairs:: Verena Hackmann, Grace Mudombi-Rusinamhodzi, and Prathiwi Putri
University of Kassel, Germany

This panel seeks to examine local institutions and their roles in production and reproduction systems, beyond the market economic sense of the terms. In a contemporary globalized world, changes induced by technological developments, the integration into world markets, demographic changes, among others, may alter the preconditions for local institutions. We invite others to reflect with us, if local institutions we are working with, in research and/or activism, operate in stabilizing existing rules and norms configurations, or if they perform in transforming existing institutional settings, including the wider political economy and political ecology in which the local institutions are embedded.

In searching for possible transformative roles of local institutions towards commoning and other forms of local welfare arrangements, we invite various theoretical approaches not necessarily limited to the following examples. For the panel’s purpose, one might mobilize Elinor Ostrom’s concept about different levels of social choice (rules) affecting action situations (the settings in which individual actors make decisions for local collective actions), to also understand the reverse processes: in what ways an action situation and its networks of related action situations would transform the rules; these levels of rules are operational, collective-choice and constitutional levels, with the latter would normally be harder to change. Another example would be the traditions of Critical Realism, namely Margaret Archer’s notion of Morphogenesis that provides an analytical foundation to examine the interplays across time among structural conditioning, agential (horizontal) interaction and structural elaboration.


How Does Institutional Empowerment Affect Public Participation in Water Governance

Chair: Yifei Ma
Northwest A&F University, China, and Erasmus University Rotterdam, Netherlands

Institutional supports are a common mechanism to stimulate the government to engage the public to participate in governing commons. Chinese central government has carried out River Chief System as a water regulation policy from top to bottom since 2018 when facing severe water pollution. It shows that institutional empowerment can also affect public engagement. It is essential to examine whether institutional empowerment enables the public to participate in local water governance and explore the impact degree of willingness, action, frequency, and other factors of public participation. Meanwhile, it could be interesting to analyze the interaction mechanism or effect of institutional empowerment with relevant elements, like neighbor influence and community unity degree, in different levels from macro to micro, like at individual, organizational, and community levels, and so on. Both qualitative and quantitative research are welcome in this panel to investigate these research questions. If you want to address even more exciting aspects of this theme, please submit it to our panel. We will share brilliant ideas and try to provide guidance to advance public participation in water governance together.

 Topics include but are not limited to:

  • theoretical development of institutional empowerment to public participation in water governance
  • important factors/dimensions of institutional empowerment to public participation in water governance
  • challenges or chances of institutional empowerment to public participation in water governance
  • interaction mechanism of institutional empowerment to public participation in water governance
  • institutional design/management/modification of institutional empowerment to public participation in water governance


Incubating Global-to-Local Commons

Co-Chairs: Sarah Hutton1,2 and Charles Schweik2,3
1Internet of Production Alliance, 2University of Massachusetts Amherst, USA, 3IASC Council

According to Intellectual Property scholar Yochai Benkler, Commons-based Peer Production (CBPP), or Peer Production (PP) for short, is “…the most significant organizational innovation that has emerged from Internet-mediated social practice” and involves three components: (1) Ideas or problems are conceptualized and executed often by different parties; (2) collaborators work[ing] together driven by diverse motivations, including non-monetary ones; and (3) governance and management of Peer Production-based projects [that] are separated from “property and contract” (Benkler, 2016). In earlier work, Benkler noted that Open Source Software (OSS) was the “quintessential instance” of CBPP (Benkler, 2005). In IASC terms, PP projects are a form of Digital or Knowledge Commons. They are Internet-based common property regimes (Schweik and English, 2012).

One question that arises in PP settings is how nascent projects evolve and become sustainable. For years, in OSS settings, nonprofit organizations, often called foundations, emerged in part to incubate and mentor emerging OSS projects toward sustainability. Some foundations play a role in day-to-day operations of OSS projects, while many solely promote the free software movement (Canovas, 2020).

In this panel, members of the PP practitioner and researcher community will discuss the characteristics of OSS foundations as incubators, including which factors contribute to evolving OSS projects from nacency toward sustainability. Panelists will share case analyses and research on what makes a successful OSS project, including the topics “how experienced members of commons guide new projects and gatekeep access,” and “open-source software foundation incubator program policy impact on the production of public goods.”


The Open Source Hardware Commons: Exploring the environmental and socioeconomic benefits of OSH and the Right-to-Repair movement

Co-Chairs: Sarah Hutton1,2 and Max Wardeh3,4
1Internet of Production Alliance, USA, 2University of Massachusetts Amherst, USA, 3Open Knowledge Connective, UK, 4Internet of Production Alliance, UK

Over the past few years the preexisting model of producing and delivering physical goods to end users through optimized just-in-time supply chains served by centralized mass-manufacturing hubs has been hitting one problem after another. This model has proven incredibly fragile and sensitive to disruptions; global pandemics, and disasters attributed to rapidly accelerating climate change have placed strains so severe on brittle Supply Chain (SC) systems that management models are being rethought entirely, looking toward increased SC agility and contingency planning for future crises (Magableh, 2021).

What would the reconfiguration of the SC look like, if it were to be adjusted, or reconstructed entirely to support increased agility, resilience, and modularized production? What are the new information sharing, skills development, and sufficiency-driven business models (such as reparability), that the Open Source Hardware (OSH) Commons would need to develop in order to make distributed, localized manufacturing a viable alternative to the current model (Dao et al., 2020)?

In this panel, we will explore how the OSH Commons can help provide alternatives to the current predominant model to ensure that physical goods such as electronic and computing component parts, live-saving medical devices, scientific research hardware, and agricultural equipment can be made available to those who need them in a way that is more environmentally sustainable, socially beneficial, and economically viable.


Dao, T.; Cooper, T.; & Watkins, M. (2020). Sufficiency-driven business model through product repairability: a study on potential value to business stakeholders. In: N. Cornelissens, ed., Proceedings 5th International Online Conference on New Business Models.

Magableh, G. (2021). Supply Chains and the COVID-19 Pandemic: A Comprehensive Framework. European Management Review. 2021 Autumn; 18(3): 363–382. DOI: 10.1111/emre.12449


Crafting futures in irrigation commons

Co-Chairs: Bryan Bruns1 and Anahí Ocampo Melgar2
1Independent Researcher and Consultant, US, 2Universidad de Chile, Chile

Commoners working together in shared irrigation systems face multiple challenges in efforts to define and move toward the futures they want. Local institutions offer valuable capabilities, but come from histories that are often deeply problematic in terms of inclusion, equity, justice, and other values. Governments typically seek to enable or impose new forms of organization, such as formal water user associations and standardized rules. These offer opportunities and threats, including wasted efforts or disruption of existing patterns of trust and cooperation. Communities often want to sustain and and build on familiar forms of collective action that fit with their knowledges, values, and social-ecological conditions. However, they face shifting conditions, including changes in climate, ecosystems, demography, economics, and politics. Pathways for navigating change are shaped by multiple forms of power. Participants in this panel will draw on local cases and broader analysis to look at difficulties and successes in defending local values and moving toward shared aspirations.

The panel invites proposals for additional participants, in addition to presentations already planned based on cases in South America and South Asia. The panel format will emphasize exchange and discussion directed at the key question of enhancing the capabilities of local actors to craft institutions for the futures they want.


Strategic alliances in entanglements of commons and non-commons

Co-Chairs: Andreas Streinzer and Jelena Tosic
University of St. Gallen, Switzerland

The panel understands commons as always already entangled with other forms of resource organisation. This perspective refocuses attention on entanglements, interdependences, and powerful arrangements in and around the commons. The panel investigates where structures of power are reproduced or reinforced within commoner organisations, situations where boundaries between commons and non-commons are diffuse or in constant shift (both in obvious and more covert ways), or where larger arrangements around the commons endanger their survival. Commoners in such situations face tough choices about strategic alliances with non-commons. Taking these tough choices seriously contributes to an empirically informed perspective on the radical future of the commons by learning from successful examples and avoiding the mistakes of failed ones.

We seek papers that analyse strategic alliances where commoners managed to secure commons, expand their reach, and engage more commoners and where the commons were encroached on or exploited by other arrangements of resource organisation.

Papers might talk about situations in which large-scale infrastructure developments endanger local forms of commons, forcing commoners to negotiate contemporary and future relations between people, land, and profit. Others might address economic restructuring and how austerity means outsourcing labour-intensive social functions to solidaristic organisations. In again others, non-commons arrangements might profit from the commons while endangering their social reproduction. Such and other settings come to mind where the question of strategic alliances in entanglements of commons and non-commons is critical for crafting a better future.


Reconstituting institutions and norms for forest commons in contexts of multiple transitions

Co-Chairs: Francis E. Bisong1 and Chinwe Ifejika Speranza2
1Department of Geography & Environmental Science, Faculty of Environmental Sciences, University of Calabar, Nigeria, 2Institute of Geography, University of Bern, Switzerland

Forests and their resources are often framed as commons with a large number of people having access, benefiting and being actively involved in their governance and management, with rules ensuring forest sustainability. However, many social-ecological contexts are characterised by overlapping and interacting multiple transitions (changes), especially those that have experienced or are experiencing socio-cultural and other forms of societal pressure or collapse. Such changes can be demographic, economic, technological, environmental, religious, socio-cultural, and political amongst others, and with their interactions, affect forest commons, their governance and management.

The challenge therefore remains to identify ways to govern and manage forest commons to ensure that forests continue providing their ecosystem functions and ecosystem services and that those local actors and communities dependent on forests for their livelihoods, including their knowledge systems and socio-technical innovations for managing the commons, are formally recognised. Further, that communities and local actors benefit from forest resources and have the right and power to influence decisions about forests. Thus, reconstituting institutions and norms in multiple transition contexts requires research to identify how to integrate multi-perspectives, top-down and bottom-up strategies and structures to achieve sustainable outcomes for both forests and indigenous and local peoples.

This session thus asks the questions:
What are the current social-ecological realities of forest “commons” in contexts of interacting multiple transitions? How did the institutions and norms of the forest commons weaken or collapse? How do local institutions and organizations respond and adapt to exogenous and endogenous changes in resource use and stock? What roles do indigenous knowledge systems and socio-technical innovations play in the sustainability of forest products and resources? Through which processes were the institutions and norms reconstituted, strengthened and persisted? What challenges to the forest commons remain? We expect submissions to this session to identify or reflect on solution options for reconstituting institutions and norms for forest commons especially in contexts of weak or competing institutions, poverty and unequal power.

11. Advances in Frameworks and Theory


Is growth good? Research on expansion, scaling and spread of the commons

Co-Chairs: Tine De Moor and Fijnanda van Klingeren
Rotterdam School of Management, Erasmus University Rotterdam, The Netherlands

New bottom-up, self-governing institutions for the provisioning of energy, food, care and many other goods and services are currently being set up by citizens. While these citizen collectives have been shown to have the potential to promote collective action and sustainability on a local level, there is no consensus on the conditions under which citizen collectives can and should grow and expand – both in terms of the number of members and offered resources. The effects of size and heterogeneity of members and resources on the efficiency and resilience of institutions for collective action is yet to be investigated thoroughly. What scaling strategies are institutions for collective action currently adopting? Will the internal coherence and decision making suffer under the expansion of economic goals? And is positive local influence in fact scalable to a larger societal effect without neglecting the local origins? What impact does increased heterogeneity of prosumers have on the ideological and financial goals of institutions? And how can a collective keep growing without losing touch with its local community? With the rise in citizen collectives all over Europe and the promising role they can play in improving the social and economic well-being of local communities as well as society as a whole, the sustainable growth of these institutions is of great importance.


Long-term evolution and institutional change in sustainable polycentric governance: connecting theory and normative conditions with empirical analysis

Co-Chairs: Elizabeth Baldwin1, Michael McGinnis2, Mark Stephan3, and Andreas Thiel4
1University of Arizona, USA, 2Indiana University, USA, 3Washington State University, USA, 4University of Kassel, Germany

Scholarship on polycentric governance has developed dynamically in recent years. The theorized core virtues of polycentric governance, such as resilience and adaptiveness, highlight its features in dynamic contexts. For example, polycentric governance is held to be adaptive because while it changes its form, it maintains its function. But few empirical studies examine institutional change over time in polycentric systems. This observation begs several crucial questions concerning the underlying determinants of sustainable polycentric governance: under what constitutional and social-ecological conditions does polycentric governance adapt well and prove resilient? What drives polycentric governance to change its form? Further, what feedbacks signal the need to adapt in polycentric governance and how do they function? To what extent is adaptation and change of governance the outcome of deliberate bottom-up or top down agency, or is change an emergent property of polycentric governance? What may be early warning signs that polycentric governance does not prove resilient and adaptive in the long term? What role do legitimacy and modes of contesting existing orders and the political economy of governance play? In this panel, we invite submissions that address these questions. Further, researchers ideally discuss several methodological challenges and constraints of such long-term studies and ways to overcome them. In order to contribute to coherence, organizers will circulate materials in advance that frames research on sustainable polycentric governance. The panel invites contributions to above-named questions by authors willing to engage into the kind of cross-cutting discussion outlined here.


Conceptualizing Commons and the Community Economy for Economists

Co-Chairs: Tine de Moor and Irene van Staveren
Erasmus University Rotterdam, The Netherlands

Although it is clear that commons can be understood from an institutional economic perspective, and the IAD-framework is very helpful to explain how commons function from an organizational perspective, there is still a large gap to understand how commons work from the economics perspective. The main reason is that the analytical tools of economics are largely made for explaining market transactions or the economic role of the state. Commons, the community economy, cooperation, and the care economy are all concepts that some economists use. But they do not yet form a coherent whole for the understanding of the third economic domain next to the market and the state.
This panel tries to bring together papers which help develop economic tools for a better understanding of the community economy, of which commons make an important part, next to cooperative firms, citizen’s collectives, time banks, mutuals, and to some extent at least unpaid caring activities. In other words, the domain of reciprocity instead of exchange or regulation & redistribution.
Rather than trying to fit standard economic concepts in the community economy, this panel attempts to learn from the commonalities in community economy, and in particular of commons, for the development of analytical tools in economics, to better understand the wider economic role of the community economy, its relationships to and interaction with the market and the state, and its internal functioning.


Which political constellations are conducive to commons formation?

Chair: Maïka De Keyzer
KU Leuven, Belgium

Elinor Ostrom showed that neither privatization nor state control is required to manage resources sustainably. Because of this, commons have largely been considered an alternative for both market economies and states. These findings, however, do not imply that other political or historical settings are always unnecessary or detrimental to the formation of commons. Elinor and Vincent Ostrom focused on the concept and the implementation of polycentricity. Commons rarely exist in an institutional or political vacuum and are often nested or incorporated into constellations of larger or parallel political institutions. But the proof that commons could function well without a state or that states are only required as a kind of partner state on a supra-local level leaves some fundamental questions unanswered. Arun Agrawal stated that the reason the role of states (or other political constellations for that matter) has been understudied in relationship to the commons is because of the overall goal of collective action scholars to show the importance of local groups and institutions. This session wants to explore just this hiatus: In which kinds of political constellations can commons exist and thrive? Do decentralized political structures more easily foster collective action, or can commons appear and flourish in market economies, heavy manorialised/feudalized societies, or strong states? This session hopes to invite interdisciplinary perspectives on commons, including historical, anthropological, political, and/or sociological approaches.


Seeing commons as a process: The Commonisation-decommonisation perspective

Chair: Prateep Nayak
University of Waterloo, Canada

In a recent book ‘Making Commons Dynamic’, Nayak and Berkes (2021) underscore the need to search for theory that is useful to understand commons as a process. To highlight the process aspect of commons, they used two related concepts – commonisation and decommonisation. Commonisation is understood as a process through which a resource gets converted into a jointly used resource under commons institutions and collective action that deal with excludability and subtractability. Decommonisation refers to a process through which these essential characteristics are lost. Commonisation and decommonisation may have multiple manifestations, which has subsequently motivated several scholars to frame these terms in different ways. The negotiations to address contestations happen through the coming and working together of people within the non-human context, defined as a process of commoning. The actors who actively engage in the commoning processes can be seen as the commoners. Extreme forms of decommonisation forces the commons into non-commons. Even though, decommonisation is pervasive and deeply entrenched, commoners have used decommonisation as opportunity to strengthen commonisation. This reinforcement of commonisation in the face of decommonisation threats has been discussed as re-commonisation, (re)commonisation and new-commonisation. Success in this type of commonisation processes can bring in place new common- pool resources. In certain contexts, the very resource around which commonisation and decommonisation processes revolve often remains elusive, leading to the suggestion that they are ephemeral commons. As an extension of the meaning of ephemeral commons, some scholars use the term “uncommon” common- pool resource to explain unusual resources that have come to be managed as commons. Scholars who coined these terms will be invited to present papers in this session. They will analytically expand these novel terms as a way to further our understanding of commons as a process and reflect on theorising commonisation-decommonisation as an analytical tool to examine multiple possibilities around making or breaking the commons.


Value chain coordination and dialogue for sustainable agri-food systems transformation: novel institutional approaches unlocking cooperative potential

Co-Chairs: Jos Bijman1, Véronique De Herde2, and Aicha Mechri3
1Business Management & Organisation (BMO) Group, Wageningen University & Research, The Netherlands, 2Rotterdam School of Management – Erasmus University Rotterdam, The Netherlands, 3Humboldt Universität zu Berlin, Germany

In many countries, the extent of externalities attributed to agriculture (contribution to climate change, water pollution, biodiversity loss) goes parallel with the distress of heavily indebted farmers prevented from adopting sustainable agricultural practices in unequal value chains.

Producers’ organizations (e.g. cooperatives) have historically been at the forefront of the institutional practices offering the farmers leverage for collective action and empowerment to overcome different forms of inequalities in value chains. This panel starts from the premise that the transition towards sustainable agricultural practices requires dialogue and coordination with other value chain stakeholders (processors, retailers, and consumers) to meaningfully frame the shift of agricultural practices within socially, economically, and environmentally just value chains.

Against a backdrop of literature overwhelmingly focusing on transaction efficiency, this panel aims at exploring the theoretical approaches encompassing the expansion of the producers’ organizations’ institutional roles and the development of innovative value chain coordination models aiming at supporting this transition. The panel will cover the evolution of cooperative roles as intermediates between farmers and public/private equity funders, interest groups, and related structures of collective action (e.g. consumer cooperatives, processors’ associations), and the resulting adaptations of models of value chain coordination. The panel will explore and question the theoretical and empirical approaches needed to apprehend this expansion of the cooperative roles and models, from micro-level focuses on contracts and relationships to systemic approaches of cooperatives and producers’ organizations as social-ecological systems. The panel calls for papers focusing specifically on the adaptations required in theoretical models to encompass this evolution.


Towards standardizing case studies in commons scholarship: a collective deliberation

Co-Chairs: Maria Gerullis1 and Hita Unnikrishnan2
1Charles H. Dyson School of Applied Economics and Management, Cornell University, USA, 2Urban Institute, The University of Sheffield, UK

A big challenge in commons scholarship is the relative absence of a database collating diverse SES case studies in a standardized manner. Initiatives such as the SESMAD, CPR database, and IFRI have pushed frontiers in this regard, however, they remain challenged in terms of the diversity of cases they incorporate, participation of researchers in the endeavour, and standardization of variables used to describe the cases.

Parallelly, early career scholars working in the field of social ecological systems sciences face a different challenge – they possess in-depth knowledge about individual cases that they are studying but cannot publish from them until they have sufficient training to make use of cases to advance theory or concept.
This panel draws on preliminary conversations between representatives of the early career network of the IASC (IASC-ECN), editors of the International Journal of the Commons, and representatives of the In Common Podcast towards building a corpus of standardised case studies while providing peer reviewed publishing avenues that build confidence amongst early career researchers. Doing this however requires in depth conversations about what constitutes a case study, what perspectives and variables to include, how the data so collected may be used, and overall data sovereignty. We thus invite fellow scholars to engage in conversation aimed at co-produced identification of variables for standardization and developing appropriate protocols to address data driven challenges. The end objective is to coalesce towards a specialized case study section within the International Journal of the Commons and an associated database of variables within the In Common Podcast’s web interface.


Harnessing the Institutional Grammar to investigate collective action dilemmas in the commons

Co-Chairs: Ute Brady1 and Saba Siddiki2
1Syracuse University, USA, 2Arizona State University, USA

Crawford and Ostrom (1995) advanced the Institutional Grammar (IG) as a tool to analyze the syntax of institutional statements, thereby enabling the identification of institutional components and ability to sort statements by function and form. The IG’s portability and plasticity is facilitated by its linkage to the Institutional Analysis and Development (IAD) framework where it helps identify rule types that regulate/influence behavior and decision-making in action situations.

Subsequent modifications streamlined the IG’s applicability and usefulness, including Frantz and Siddiki’s (2022) IG 2.0 which expanded the syntax from regulative (prescribe actions) to constitutive statements (outline system components), and accommodates various levels of structural parsing and linkages to other relevant statements (e.g., monitoring, compliance) that are internal and external to the examined text. With these modifications, there is new opportunity for investigating the design and impacts of institutions governing commons dilemmas, thus advancing theories that posit variables predictive of positive or negative collective action outcomes.

This panel welcomes papers that apply the IG toward the study of commons governance. We are interested in papers that (1) apply the IG in conjunction with another theory or framework (e.g., IAD, SES, NIPE) to provide insights about aspects of the IG that are more or less suited to the study of institutional arrangements governing commons dilemmas; or (2) shed light on advancements that can be made in the study of the commons by drawing on syntactic-based institutional language assessments.


Boundary objects for moving beyond panaceas: Engaging with diverse perspectives influencing social ecological systems research

Co-Chairs: Dustin Garrick1 and Hita Unnikrishnan2
1School of Environment, Resources and Sustainability, University of Waterloo, Canada, 2Urban Institute, The University of Sheffield, UK

Are we moving beyond institutional panaceas? Twenty years after the Drama of the Commons (2002), our world is more interdependent and polarised, yet fundamental challenges remain: globalisation, inequalities, and transboundary conflicts. SES scholars are thus increasingly researching topics that have a long intellectual genealogy within other disciplines (e.g., anthropology, economics) and transdisciplinary domains of research (e.g., political ecology). This cross-fertilization has created plurality around a set of key boundary objects – concepts common to multiple fields of research but interpreted and operationalised differently across them. Each such perspective uniquely interprets words like “commons”, “markets”, or “institutions”. The word “commons” for example may signify resource systems (which may be physical or conceptual entities such as fisheries or knowledge commons); it may also signify deeply political processes of “commoning”.

This panel seeks to foster productive dialogue between different common terms used in SES literature and their plural interpretations. We recognize the need to acknowledge the diversity of interpretations both from the perspective of empirical anchoring and from that of different resources and contexts. We ask: how are these boundary objects (re)conceived by different disciplines? How are commons and SES scholars contributing to these debates? What frameworks and methods can foster convergence on essential features of these concepts, whilst respecting differences and debates across fields? Put simply, how can we work together… Realizing the pressing need to bridge across disciplines and schools of thought, we welcome contributions from fellow scholars and practitioners to discuss ways in which we may engage with, interpret, and draw on multiple perspectives that may be used to frame research anchored within SES studies.


Exploring the Philanthropy Commons

Co-Chairs: Brenda Bushouse1, Robert Christensen2, and Brent Never3
1University of Massachusetts, USA, 2Brigham Young University, USA, 3University of Missouri Kansas City, USA

In this panel, we focus on an emerging area of commons research: philanthropy. Philanthropy is the act of freely giving time or money. In the philanthropy-as-commons perspective, the resource is subtractable; one dollar or hour of time given to charity cannot be given or used elsewhere. We explore a continuum of exclusion as related to appropriation and provision problems. Appropriation problems such as the wide array of largely uncoordinated requests for donations–in-person, mail, phone, email, social media, etc.–and it is up to the individual how to respond. Because it is difficult to exclude oneself from “asks,” one tragedy of the commons occurs when donor fatigue reduces or ends giving. There are also provision problems, such as when a volunteer has a negative experience at a particular charity and stops volunteering altogether; in this case, the host organization did not steward the volunteer resource so that it would regenerate “volunteer energy” (Brudney, Meijs, and Overbeeke, 2019). In this panel, we explore multiple potential social dilemmas for both provision and appropriation of philanthropic resources (Blomquist and Shaker, 2022). Our panel focuses analytical light on how differing arrays of institutions can serve to either encourage, or conversely discourage, the provision of the commons and also positive externalities related to social capital, prosocial behavior, and trust-building.


The Vulnerability To Viability Approach: Understanding the processes of building strong small-scale fishery commons

Co-Chairs: Derek Armitage and Prateep Nayak
University of Waterloo, Canada

Small-scale fisheries are often characterized as vulnerable, and their viability is a key issue in fisheries governance. However, vulnerability and viability are hard to define. Moreover, these concepts have almost always been treated exclusively, and the inherent linkages between vulnerability and viability have largely remained unaddressed. We use “Vulnerability To Viability (V2V)” as a novel approach and conceptual framing to highlight their interconnected nature and the potential for vulnerable small-scale fisheries to transition towards viability. As such, we recognize V2V as a process that is multidimensional, complex, highly dynamic, and relative, the study of which needs to be inter- and trans-disciplinary.

Recent insights emphasize a three-dimensional view of V2V that includes key measures such as changes in wellbeing, differential access to capitals (e.g., natural, financial) and shifts in resilience. Several related concepts offer additional perspectives on V2V: a social-ecological system view highlights fish-fisher connections; sustainable livelihoods offer necessary framing to understand pathways to transitions; gender and political ecology concepts support examination of critical questions about control, exclusion, inclusion, winners, losers, dominant narratives, strengths and weaknesses; power analysis offers valuable directions to include social relationships, history, politics, and cultural dynamics across multiple scales for empowerment and capacity development; and interactive and multi-level governance promotes understanding of the role of the institutions and decision-making processes along with the values, principles and actions needed.

Through a series of contributed papers, this session aims to further extend the notion of Vulnerability To Viability (V2V) by, first, characterising small-scale fisheries as commons and, second, drawing key elements from the commons theory to further develop the V2V transition approach, and offer conceptual directions on how small-scale fisheries systems can transition from vulnerability to viability.