Blog 7: Practicing the Commons


The Netherlands have a long history in empowering ‘the commons’ in governing key areas and sector. What is called the ‘poldermodel’ is essentially a method to involve all stakeholders in decision making processes and give them the opportunity to have their say in the plans and implementation.

At the VXI Biennial International Association for the Study of the Commons (IASC) Conference Practicing the Commons ( that took place in Utrecht a month ago, many aspects of current community-based developments in Dutch society were showcased. At this conference,700 registered participants from 65 countries, scholars and practitioners, were able to exchange experiences and findings on their work in the commons in Europe, and all over the world. And so did I


There is a renewed interest in commons among citizens. A booming number of new citizens’ collectivities in a wide variety of sectors are being set up in around many countries, from energy to care, infrastructure and nature conservation. Citizens are building new institutions through self-governance and cooperation.

The Utrecht University research team Institutions for Collective Action (ICA) is one of the main organizers of the IASC biennial conferences. Their research studies the evolution of institutions for collective action throughout history, with a focus primarily on the institutional arrangements that are formed by groups of people in order to overcome social dilemmas by setting rules on group membership, resource use, and management.

Within the Institutions for Open Societies (IOS) program that is also based at Utrecht University, main issues surrounding the formation and future of open and sustainable societies are addressed from a multidisciplinary perspective.


To be participating and presenting part of my work on gender in dairy cooperatives in Indonesia at the conference has been a privilege. Not many conferences are as successful at connecting theory and practice in a way that effectively delivers input for both. Especially the practitioner’s lab in which games for collective action that originated in academic research were presented and the audience became part of a real-life experiment experiential learning was a true eye-opener.

Experimental games are useful for understanding what motivates people to cooperation in managing the commons, and for teaching students about the commons. Collective action games not only hit home in analyzing the choices we make, they are also unequaled in the ways in which they can truly engage the grassroots stakeholders (whether they are literate or not) on the pitfalls they are facing.

Want to know more?

Contact me at gw(at) and I can share contacts and resources with you.