Willis, Paul (2012) Engaging communities: Ostrom's economic commons, social capital and public relations. Public Relations Review, 38 (1). pp. 116-122. ISSN 0363-8111

This article discusses the research of economics Nobelist Elinor Ostrom. It argues her analysis of long term community co-operation contains important insights for public relations, especially in the area of community engagement. Informed by Ostrom's focus on common pool resource management, the article highlights the importance of organisations adopting an attitude of mutuality to the external stakeholder environment. It also associates public relations practice with the promotion of a social commons. It then examines Ostrom's insights on the role that face-to-face communication plays in the generation of social capital and the norms of behaviour that promote co-operation. The article ends with a discussion of the implications of these findings for the practice of public relations in organisations and suggests areas for further research.


► The paper explores how organisations can sustain long term co-operative relationships with community stakeholders. ► The research of economics Nobelist Elinor Ostrom is contextualised to inform public relations theory and practice. ► The idea of the external environment being conceptualised as a social commons is introduced. ► Ostrom's focus on the role that face-to-face communication plays in generating social capital and shared norms is discussed. ► The implications for organisational strategy, tactics and resources are also highlighted.

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