Understandings of commons vary; ranging from communal landholdings to open-source knowledge platforms to creative housing arrangements. Relational and iterative, commons hold negations and fluctuations in a nature-culture continuum. Commons are scaffolded by social infrastructures, some insurgent and subversive, others managerial and tedious, but with the goal of collective self-governence. A well-governed commons allows for generative value creation in the form of knowledge, infrastructure, institutions, wealth, ecological and social resilience.

Our understanding of the framework of the commons comes from Elinor Ostrom, who first compiled, contextualized, and theorized the notion of “The Commons” from an economic perspective in the 1980s. Her observations across people and place pointed to eight points of reference or design principles for commoning. In other words, the rules and norms required for effective management of collective resources, listed below.
Framework for Governing the Commons

1. Define clear group boundaries.

2. Match rules governing the 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.