The application and consideration of Elinor Ostrom’s principles for collaborative group working: a literature review to inform future best practice (Methodologies Research Division, KCL) – NOW FILLED

Contact: Glenn Robert


Department: Methodologies Research Division, Faculty of Nursing, Midwifery & Palliative Care

Institution: King’s College London

Project timeline: February-April 2022

Project duration:13 weeks

Closing date: 11th February 2022

Expertise required: Some experience of literature reviewing would be desirable but not essential. Similarly, familiarity with the work of Elinor Ostrom would be desirable but not essential.

Project description: This literature review is principally concerned with exploring how a methodological innovation derived from political economists Elinor Ostrom’s Nobel Prize-winning analysis of collaborative group working has been considered and applied in practice. Ostrom’s ‘Governing the Commons’ illustrated that certain conditions facilitate groups of people to sustainably manage what she termed Common Pool Resources (CPR). Subsequently, an evaluation of 91 CPR case studies found the principles were well supported empirically. A later Ostrom collaboration highlighted the potential utility of applying these design principles to understanding and supporting the efficacy of any collaborative group work – not just the management of CPR. The authors encouraged others to use the principles as ‘a practical guide for improving the efficacy of groups’. With funding from the ESRC we are currently prospectively applying Ostrom’s principles to a National Lottery project which is supporting a national user-led organisation  to develop services to improve the inclusion of disabled people in local and national decision-making processes. The findings of the literature review will help inform this wider study which is a pilot collaboration between the user-led organisation and social scientists from KCL. We have already begun using informal search methods to identify relevant studies (e.g. citation tracking, references of references)and are now ready to progress to systematic searches of electronic databases.

Description of work involved:

Weeks 1-2: under the guidance of Professor Robert and Dr Williams, the student would work closely with Dr Bella Wheeler to refine the design and conduct of searches of selected electronic databases

Weeks 3-4: the student will assist Dr Wheeler in applying inclusion and exclusion criteria to the search results based on the titles and abstracts of retrieved studies.

Weeks 5-9: working with Professor Robert, Dr Wheeler and Dr Oli Williams the student will review included studies and synthesise the findings as they relate to the aim of the review. Each study will be reviewed by two members of the research team and discussed by them.

Weeks 10-13: the student will work with the research team to draft a paper for peer reviewed publication based on the review findings. The paper would also be the basis for planned conference presentations, e.g. BSA Medical Sociology conference.

Student benefits: The intern will be working within a larger team of researchers – all sociologists and including a Professor, a post-doctoral fellow and a research associate. Regular team meetings will be held to review progress and plan next steps of the literature review. The subject of the review is a seminal work in political economics and the student will therefore benefit from familiarising themselves with this important literature and helping explore how it has been applied in practice across a wide range of sectors and countries. The review will lead to a peer reviewed publication, likely in a public management/administration journal. The intern will be a co-author on this publication and therefore benefit from having experience of close involvement in all phases of a collaborative writing process. The review is part of a wider collaboration which is funded by the ESRC and involves KCL academics and members of a national user-led organisation for disabled people and other marginalised groups. The intern will attend monthly meetings of the steering group for this project and contribute to discussions pertaining to the literature review. The wider collaboration has already led to presentations at national conferences, for example, the British Sociological Association Medical Sociology annual conference, and we would involve the intern in similar dissemination activities relating to the findings of the literature review. Finally, the experience of assisting with the literature review will provide the intern with essential skills in searching diverse literatures, conducting a critical analysis and synthesising findings from a wide range of studies drawing on different methodological approaches and study settings.