Elinor Ostrom, a Nobel Prize-winning political scientist, proposed eight general guidelines for designing effective and fair institutions for governing the commons:

  1. Define clear group boundaries.
  2. Match rules governing use of common goods to local needs and conditions.
  3. Ensure that those affected by the rules can participate in modifying the rules.
  4. Make sure the rule-making rights of community members are respected by outside authorities.
  5. Develop a system, carried out by community members, for monitoring members’ behavior.
  6. Use graduated sanctions for rule violators.
  7. Provide accessible, low-cost means for dispute resolution.
  8. Build responsibility for governing the common resource in nested tiers from the lowest level up to the entire interconnected system.

These principles are based on Ostrom’s extensive research on how communities around the world have successfully managed common resources.

In 2009, Ostrom, along with Oliver E. Williamson, shared the Sveriges Riksbank Prize in Economic Sciences in Memory of Alfred Nobel (colloquially known as the Nobel Prize in Economics), in large part for demonstrating how communities can effectively govern themselves and their shared resources.