IASC - Looking Forward - Plans for the near future (John Powell, President)

IASC - Looking forward

The IASC Executive Council gathered for two days of meetings just before the start of the July 2017 Biennial Conference in Utrecht.  We do not get to meet face-to-face very often, so it is always a fascinating and busy time when it occurs – usually at the IASC regional and international conferences.  It is also an opportunity to get to know each other better, improving the effectiveness of our on-line meetings, which take place bi-monthly throughout the year.  At the meeting this year the Council focused attention on three inter-linked issues:

  • Membership
  • Communications
  • Activities


One of the benefits of a large Biennial IASC-conference is the increase in membership numbers, and in this Utrecht was highly successful in generating increased numbers.  Given the increasing interest in the concept of ‘commons’, along with multiple interpretations, there has never been a stronger need for clear guidance on the nature of the concept, and on the potential for alternative forms of management and governance.  The Council discussed the potential for generating interest and alternative approaches to increasing IASC membership through improved communications and new forms of activity.  We noted the value of the duality that runs through the core of the organisation: academic members working at the boundary of research, developing new insights and knowledge – and practitioners seeking ways to manage, protect, and develop commons, bringing to the table their experience and deep understanding of specific situations. 

A strength of the IASC lies in bringing together a range of disciplines and different actors within the policy process to provide a forum where policymakers, academics, and practitioners can meet, exchange ideas and knowledge, and learn from each other.  The value of this activity should not be under-rated, in terms of creativity, or the potential for reaching a wider audience and increasing membership.  This perception was reinforced at the Membership Meeting held at the IASC2017 Biennial Conference in Utrecht.  In a discussion, members expressed the value of the interdisciplinary mix and the academia-practitioner interface, which they did not get from other organizations, or their places of work. 


One of the outcomes of the Council meetings, and wider discussion in the Membership Meeting, was a focus on improved communications.  The IASC is already in the process of developing a new website, which will incorporate the IASC Newsletter, Commons Digest, and social media to improve communications within the membership.  Work continues and we are hoping to launch the new website by the beginning of October this year.  We are also developing the specifications for a new role of IASC Communications Fellow to assist the Council in developing improved communications both internally among members, and externally between the IASC and the wider world.  In the Autumn of this year we will also be seeking to identify and appoint Communications Representatives, based in different regions around the world to assist in collecting and disseminating information, and helping to support networking and development among the regional groups.  If anyone has an interest in this role, please contact the President, John Powell (jpowell@glos.ac.uk) or the Executive Director, René van Weeren (iasc@iasc-commons.org)

The Council also explored suggestions to strengthen and develop regional and thematic groupings of IASC-members.  Regional meetings for Europe, North America, Latin America, Africa, and Southeast Asia were well attended with proposals put forward for how regional groups could develop.  Lack of funding was identified as an issue restricting activity but several groups put forward ideas for activities that might raise sponsorship money, or activities, such as  a ‘virtual conference’, that do not depend on funding.  Thematic groups were also identified by members as important, and it is worth noting that Charlie Schweik (a member of the Executive Council), collected a list of 35 names of those interested in knowledge commons following the Membership meeting. 

We have also established IASC Ambassadors, appointed for three years, to strengthen regional networks of IASC members and act as contact points for regional initiatives. 

Current Ambassadors are:

  • South and Central America – Anne Larson
  • Europe – Tobias Haller
  • North America – Anne McKinnon
  • Asia – Ganesh Shivakoti


We were pleased to announce in Utrecht that the next IASC Biennial Conference will be held in Lima, Peru, July 1-5, 2019.  The event will be organized jointly by the Pontifical Catholic University of Peru, and the Universidad de los Andes (Bogota, Colombia). The conference will be chaired by prof. Juan Camillo Cárdenas of the Universidad de los Andes, and the local organizing committee will be chaired by Deborah Delgado Pugley of the Pontifical Catholic University of Peru.

At the Utrecht Conference in July, the IASC Council discussed a wide range of future activities and innovative ways to with engage members and other organisations working on commons.  Opportunities discussed include activities to mark the anniversary of the 50th year since the publication of Garret Hardin’s paper on ‘The Tragedy of the Commons’, a ‘virtual conference’ operated over a multi-week period in the Autumn of 2018, a summer school in conjunction with Utrecht University, and regional and thematic events on study methods, food, water, and knowledge.  The aim is to encourage and support regional networks of IASC-members to undertake activities in their regions, building on local commons issues of interest. 

Those with ideas or proposals for activities are encouraged to contact the regional group representatives, as follows:

  • Europe - Insa Theesfeld
  • North America - Catherine M. Tucker
  • South and Central America - Xavier Basurto
  • Africa - Everisto Mapedza
  • Asia - Yahua Wang
  • Australia and the Pacific - Frank van Laerhoven
  • Arctic - Charles Schweick

Coming up

The next two years look promising in terms of the opportunities and proposals for IASC- activities. Our aim is to grow the organisation and expand the membership. We look forward to increasing the level of activity and engagement between members of the IASC at the regional and global level.  If you have ideas, suggestions, comments about any of our activities or communications please get in touch with myself (jpowell@glos.ac.uk) or the Executive Director, René van Weeren (iasc@iasc-commons.org).  We will be particularly interested to receive feedback on the new IASC website once it has been launched (hopefully in early October).


August 2017                                                                          John Powell, President IASC