Principles of Open Source Institutional Design


Hi folks! So, during the SustainOSS 2018 workshop we had at least two sessions about Elinor Ostrom’s Principles of Institutional Design, from Governing the Commons, and how they might be applied to open source community design. (These sessions were building on conversations that had emerged during the 2017 workshop).

These sessions are referenced in the aggregated workshop notes. I have synthesized the notes into this draft, which you can comment on.

We made it about halfway through the process of articulating relatively well-formed versions of Ostrom’s principles for an OSS context; the second half mostly contains fragments or questions.

Your feedback would be welcome, esp in regards to the following questions:

  1. does what we currently have resonate, seem potentially useful, etc? Are there use cases for these principles that we haven’t considered? (So far, we’ve identified the use cases of: starting or scaling an OSS community/project; conflict resolution, resolving dilemmas; and advising funders / corporations, etc on their proper roles.)

  2. Can you weigh in with input on the content, especially on the back half?

  3. Is this similar to anything else out there? Are there other perspectives we should involve in the process of honing these principles?

Would welcome any other feedback… looking forward to hear from you


The following people put their name down to continue the conversation on this topic:

Greg Bloom
Andrew Nesbitt
Ben Nickolls
Caroline Corbal
Brian Exelbird
Maurice Sainyinzoku
Rachel Lawson (contributor Lifecycle)
Eric Berry (contributor lifecycle)


Thanks, @pia!

I don’t think i saw a list of attendees’ contact info… if these names also are associated with email addresses, I’d be willing to follow up with folks myself.

let me know what you suggest :slight_smile:


email with this information and links to the working groups coming up tomorrow!


@jdorfman just shared this resource, which includes a set of principles: About the SFOSC category

At a quick glance, it seems like there’s a lot of overlap… and things they’ve specified which we didn’t discuss, as well as some things that we specified that i’m not sure they touch… i’ll take a closer look shortly.


Yeah, @GeorgLink made a similar discovery so that is why we are teaming up with Adam/SFOSC so we can avoid such overlap. More TBA!


@greggish ISTR you referencing three Ostrom works as the progenitors for these principles. I have Governing the Commons and The Future of the Commons. What was the third?


One of Ostrom’s last works was contribution to a book called “Understanding Knowledge as a Commons.”

Also relevant is this collection that applies her framework to information resources (including a chapter on open source software specifically): Governing Knowledge Commons.

I’m not familiar with Future of the Commons… is that David Harvey?


fill yer boots:


hoboy here we go again. well thanks!