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Elinor Ostrom – my inspiration: International Women’s Day 2022

Elinor Ostrom – my inspiration: International Women’s Day 2022

8 March 2022


To mark International Women’s Day 2022, NICRE co-director Janet Dwyer, Professor of Rural Policy at the Countryside and Community Research Institute – herself a prominent female leader in the agricultural sector – tells us how she was inspired by political economist Elinor Ostrom, a pioneer of this year’s theme of #BreakTheBias.

I am a professor in a domain of agriculture economics which is quite a rare thing for a woman. It is male-dominated as a discipline, but I work in that area because I am passionate about sustainable land management and sustainable rural futures so it’s a good place to be from that perspective.

A woman who has inspired me throughout my career is Elinor Ostrom who was a fantastic, unorthodox, and pioneering woman in the field of economics. She founded the International Association for the Study of the Commons and fought tirelessly for the rights of indigenous people in debates about property and sustainability. She challenged conventional thinking by demonstrating how local property can be successfully managed by local commoners and communities, without any regulation by central authorities or by privatisation.

Nobel Prize-winner

Elinor’s work culminated in her being awarded the Nobel Memorial Prize in Economic Sciences in 2009. She was a great figure to inspire a generation of activists globally and has certainly had a profound impact on me: I was lucky enough to meet and talk with her on a few memorable occasions.

At a time of great uncertainty for agricultural and rural economies with the climate crisis, post-Brexit policy and market turbulence, her work continues to guide my research and, particularly over the last year, in my role as president of the UK Agricultural Economics Society.

As we consider this year’s #BreakTheBias theme of International Women’s Day and imagine a work that is diverse, equitable and inclusive, Elinor was certainly a trailblazer in this regard and truly an inspiration.

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