Political economy: Poly-centricity

For over 40 years Elinor Ostrom studied how rural communities in different places in the world become successful and sustainable. Ostrom specifically studied what rules are necessary to create sustainable communities in which individuals have autonomy and in which ecology is balanced. In other words, she studied how communities in which individuals strive for their own well-being and survival can be sustainable with respect for, and in balance with, natural resources.

In her research Ostrom concludes there is a limit to how many people can participate in such a community for it to be successful and sustainable. Successful communities meet 8 design requirements (Ostrom 1990, Ostrom 2009). When a community becomes too large, it should be split. To this end she developed the notion of poly-centricity, allowing different centres to be autonomous and collaborate at the same time in a network with other communities. Today’s network society offers a range of new possibilities for creating such poly-centricity between successful and sustainable communities in which presence functions as key value in Design for Values.

CN , Frances Brazier