Commons Image: A stairwell that leads to a large, letter-block sign that reads "Welcome To The Common Room"

The commons are resources that are neither privately owned nor government held, but rather are managed in common.

While the phrase “the commons,” may spur mages of medieval towns with common grazing land, the notion is much broader than that. Open-source software is a high-tech version of the “commons” at work today.

Elinor Ostrom, who became the first woman ever awarded the Nobel Prize in Economic Sciences in 2009, was awarded for her research in this area. What she found was that—contrary to the conventional wisdom (best exemplified by Garrett Hardin’s “The Tragedy of Commons”—communities are completely capable of managing what she called “common pool resources” (such as irrigation systems or forest land). This has major implications for addressing the climate emergency; Ostrom herself emphasized the importance of rooting solutions to global climate change in the building of local community institutions.