The Commons

I began my doctoral work at Indiana University researching and working at the Vincent and Elinor Ostrom Workshop in Political Theory and Policy Analysis.  All of my work owes its origins to here.  The experiences there opened my eyes to new ways of thinking and attempting to understand the world.  Like many Workshoppers, my training is grounded in institutional analysis and begins with case studies.  From here, we were taught to expand methodologically as needed to answer the questions at hand.  In my case that has included social network analysis, agent-based modeling, geospatial analysis, among others.

My time in Bloomington also served to develop relations with many other in the field, ultimately leading to my editorship, with Frank van Laerhoven, of the International Journal of the Commons (see link below).

Relevant Links

If you have an interest in the commons or in institutional analysis, this is the place to start:

Center for Behavior, Institutions and the Environment

And the place where so much of this work got started:

Workshop in Political Theory and Policy Analysis

If you’re interested in publishing in the field or learning more, please check out the International Journal of the Commons!!

For membership in the Commons professional society, the International Association for the Study of the Commons, and access to The Commons Digest, go to IASC.

My Published Research in this Field

My main publication in this field is my dissertation, which won the American Political Science Association’s award for Best Dissertation in Public Policy:

Mike’s Dissertation

Other research that I’ve published over the last few years includes:

van Laerhoven, F., Schoon, M., & Villamayor-Tomas, S. (2020). Celebrating the 30th Anniversary of Ostrom’s Governing the Commons: Traditions and Trends in the Study of the Commons, Revisited. International Journal of the Commons, 14(1), pp. 208–224. DOI:

Janssen, Marco, Skaidra Smith-Heisters, Rimjhim Agrawal, and Michael Schoon. 2019. “’Tragedy of the Commons’ as conventional wisdom in sustainability education”. Environmental Education Research 25(11): 1587-1604.

Schoon, Michael L. and Michael E. Cox. 2018. “Collaboration, Adaptation and Scaling: Perspectives on Environmental Governance for Sustainability”, Sustainability 10 (3): 679.

Chai, Ying and Michael Schoon. 2016. “Configurations of Local Institutions and the Decentralization of Irrigation Management in China”, International Journal of the Commons 10 (1): 21-44.

Ban, N. C., L. S. Evans, M. Nenadovic and M. Schoon. 2015. Interplay of multiple goods, ecosystem services, and property rights in large social-ecological marine protected areas. Ecology and Society 20 (4):2.

Epstein, Graham, Chanda Meek, Irene Pérez, Michael Schoon. 2014. “Governing the Invisible Commons: Ozone regulation and the Montreal Protocol”, under review with International Journal of the Commons. 8(2): 337-360.

Evans, Louisa, Natalie Ban, Michael Schoon, Mateja Nenadovic. 2014. “Explaining the Great in the Great Barrier Reef: The GBR Marine Park as a large-scale social-ecological system”, International Journal of the Commons. 8(2): 396-427.

Schoon, Michael L. 2013. “Governance Structures in Transboundary Conservation: How Institutional Evolution Influences Cross-Border Cooperation”, Conservation and Society 11(4): 420-428.

Childs, Cameron, Abigail York, Dave White, Michael Schoon, and Gita Bodner. 2013. “The Emergence of Adaptive Co-Management in the Agua Fria Watershed, Arizona, USA”, Ecology and Society 18 (4): 11.

York, Abigail and Michael Schoon. 2011.  “Collective Action on the Western Range: Coping with External and Internal Threats”, International Journal of the Commons 5 (2): 388-409.

York, Abigail and Michael Schoon. 2011. “Collaboration in the Shadow of the Wall: Shifting Power in the Borderlands”, Policy Sciences 44: 345-365.

Schoon, Michael L. 2011. “Commons Complexity and Understanding Transboundary Conservation Areas”. The Commons Digest Issue 10 edited by Alyne Delaney. 

Cox, James, Elinor Ostrom, James Walker, Jamie Castillo, Eric Coleman, Robert Holahan, Michael Schoon, and Brian Steed. 2009. “Trust in Private and Common Property Experiments”, Southern Economics Journal 75 (4): 957-975. 

Current Research Program

 I am also working on a much larger project with Michael Cox, Sergio Villamayor, Graham Epstein, and several other colleagues from the Resilience Alliance Young Scholars group.  This project examines the number of factors seen to contribute to long-enduring institutional arrangements in the governance of (generally) small-scale common-pool resources.  We are conducting a meta-analysis that examines how these variables translate to the international scale.  This project began with an examination of scaling up small-scale CPR work to larger-scale systems.  It has since grown to take a life of its own.  Currently, we have 15 scholars coding cases to populate a database.  Plans included a special feature in the International Journal of the Commons.

This project has also blossomed into a collaboration with a number of international regimes scholars interested in examining cross-scale governance of natural resources.  Stay tuned as this project picks up momentum.


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