November 10-12, 2023

Ann Arbor, Michigan

(an in-person workshop)

There is substantial literature on the commons, and accompanying literature on commoning – the processes and institutions that create and sustain commons. There is less comprehensive knowledge on the relationships between commons and sustainability, the relationship between commons and transformation (of society and of the self), the interference and role of power in commoning, and the different characteristics that distinguish successful commoning projects from unsuccessful or unstable commoning attempts.  This workshop explores Commons, Commoning, and Social Change through the five themes below.


1. Commoning as process: This theme explores the definition and features of commoning as a collaborative process towards shared goals.  How does it work, whom does it attract, and why? Under what circumstances do commoning projects produce different results? How is commoning an alternative to markets and states, and how have scholars discussed it as an alternative to markets and states? Case studies that provide empirical depth and elaboration on when commoning succeeds are welcome.

2. Commons and commoning: This theme considers the differences between literature on commons and literature on commoning. Papers that explore how can these two bodies of literature can communicate with each other more effectively, and the benefit of bringing them together, are welcome. What are theoretical, methodological, and empirical differences between the two?

3. Formal and informal commoning: Commoning is central to human society and functioning, whether through markets, bureaucracies, personal life, or organizations. This theme explores informal forms of commoning in everyday life. What is the role of commoning in expressing our fundamental humanity? What are key differences and connections between formal and informal commoning?

4. Commons, commoning, and sustainability: This theme explores how the key features of commoning relate to the design and implementation challenges of the four key sustainability and circular economy goals – clean energy, reuse of waste for material and energy, sustainable urbanization, and climate adaptation

5. Commoning for transformation: This theme explores the contribution that commoning can make to substantial transformation: of the commons upon which it is acted, of the society that engages in it, and of the individual and self. Papers may explore how commoning may or may not resolve the tensions among different pillars of sustainability, the potential for commoning to achieve sustainable transformations, and other questions


Sheila R. Foster is Scott K. Ginsburg Professor of Urban Law and Policy and Professor of Public Policy at Georgetown University, and Visiting Professor, Columbia University Climate School, Academic Year ’23-‘2

Angelos Varvarousis is an urban planner and geographer who holds a PhD in urban political ecology from ICTA-UAB (Autonomous University of Barcelona)

This workshop is designed to facilitate deep engagement and exchange. Therefore the meeting will be kept relatively small, with 20-40 participants. There is no registration fee to participate in this workshop. A very limited number of need-based stipends are available for travel and accommodation costs. More information will be provided with notification of abstract acceptance. 

Workshop participants will be encouraged to contribute their paper to a special issue proposal.

Draft Key Dates:
  • September 20: Abstract submission deadline
  • September 25: Decision notifications
  • October 10 18: Participation confirmation
  •  November 1: Draft papers due
  •  November 10-12: Workshop8

Questions? Email Cristy Watkins (