Great summary from David Sloan Wilson’s article in Evonomics. Elinor Ostrom received the Prize in Economics in the memory of Alfred Nobel for her work on commons.
1) Clearly Defined Boundaries. Members of the group should know who they are, have a strong sense of group identity, and know the rights and obligations of membership.
2) Proportional equivalence between benefits and costs. Having some members do all the work while others get the benefits is unsustainable over the long term. Everyone must do their fair share and those who go beyond the call of duty must be appropriately recognized. When leaders are accorded special privileges, it should be because they have special responsibilities for which they are held accountable. Unfair inequality poisons collective efforts.
3) Collective-choice arrangements. Group members must be able to create their own rules and make their own decisions by consensus. People hate being bossed around but will work hard to do what we want, not what they want. In addition, the best decisions often require knowledge of local circumstances that we have and they lack, making consensus decision-making doubly important.
4) Monitoring. Cooperation must always be guarded. Even when most members of a group are well meaning, the temptation to do less than one’s share is always present and a few individuals might try to actively game the system. If lapses and transgressions can’t be detected, the group enterprise is unlikely to succeed.
5) Graduated sanctions. Friendly gentle reminders are usually sufficient to keep people in solid citizen mode, but tougher measures such as punishment and exclusion must be held in reserve.
6) Fast and fair conflict resolution. Conflicts are sure to arise and must be resolved quickly in a manner that is regarded as fair by all parties. This typically involves a hearing in which respected members of the group, who can be expected to be impartial, make an equitable decision.
7) Local autonomy. When a group is nested within a larger society, such as a farmer’s association dealing with the state government or a neighborhood group dealing with a city, the group must be given enough authority to create its own social organization and make its own decisions, as outlined in 1-6.
8) Polycentric governance. In large societies that consist of many groups, relationships among groups must embody the same principles as relationships among individuals within groups.