New Documentary Explores The Lives And Work Of Elinor And Vincent Ostrom

(BLOOMINGTON) – Over their half-century relationship, Indiana University professors Elinor and Vincent Ostrom built an enduring, loving marriage, an influential intellectual partnership, and a wide-ranging movement of people dedicated – as the Ostroms were – to working on some of the most pressing challenges facing our world.

Indiana University
professors Elinor and Vincent Ostrom

The Ostroms are the subject of a new documentary premiering May 28 at 10 p.m. on WTIU Public Television. Actual World, Possible Future explores the lives and work of Elinor and Vincent Ostrom, who sought to address the enormous problems that plague human societies: climate change, endangered species, ocean pollution, and deforestation.

The film follows the global impact of Ostroms’ work on governance and resource management, including Elinor Ostrom’s 2009 Nobel Prize in Economic Sciences “for her analysis of economic governance, especially the commons.”

The documentary also reveals the influence the Ostroms have had on generations of students and scholars who were part of their Workshop in
Political Theory and Policy Analysis at Indiana University. Founded by the Ostroms in 1973, the Workshop has produced pioneering research, focusing on a better understanding of policy implications with practical solutions to societal problems.

One of those students who continue to be influenced by the Ostroms is Barbara Allen, who produced and directed Actual World, Possible Future. Allen’s film provides an inside look at the Ostroms’ personal and professional lives through extensive interviews with Elinor and Vincent,
their colleagues, and friends.

In addition to the WTIU broadcast, the program will also be available to stream On Demand through PBS Video beginning May 28.

About the filmmaker

Barbara Allen began working with the Ostroms in 1973 when they founded the Workshop in Political Theory and Policy Analysis. Allen went on to earn her BA, MA, and Ph.D. from Indiana University.

Today, Allen is a James Woodward Strong Professor of the Liberal Arts and Professor of Political Science at Carleton College. She was named the first Senior Research Fellow of the Vincent and Elinor Ostrom Workshop in Political Theory and Policy Analysis in 2012, a position she continues to hold at Indiana University. Her publications include co-authored work on institutional analysis with Vincent Ostrom, including edited volumes of Ostrom’s previously unpublished essays.

In addition to being a professor and author, Allen also directed the award-winning feature-length documentary, Signing On: Stories of Deaf Breast Cancer Survivors, Their Families and Community.