Design Principles for Long-lived Circular Organization: An Ostromian Perspective

Activity: Talk or presentationScience to science


Circular organizational templates such as holacracy and sociocracy have gained popularity, especially in nonprofits. In such organizations, all members have rights to participate in decision-making. Which factors enable such organizations to sustain their circular form? We investigate 18 highly diverse circular organizations to answer this question. Our findings show that Elinor Ostrom’s design principles for avoiding the tragedy of the commons may also explain circular organizations’ longevity. With regard to their relevance, we sort these principles into three groups: indispensable, queasy, and quite unproblematic principles. Our main theoretical contribution is to show that circular organizations can be understood as commons, and thus to make research on the governance of commons fruitful for the design of circular organizations. We show that implementing circular forms has to mind especially the queasy design principles of monitoring, graduated sanctions, conflict resolution mechanisms, and balancing individual contributions and rewards.
Period16 Nov 202318 Nov 2023
Event titleARNOVA’s 52nd Annual Conference: Association for Research on Nonprofit Organizations and Voluntary Action
Event typeConference
LocationOrlando, United StatesShow on map
Degree of RecognitionInternational

Austrian Classification of Fields of Science and Technology (ÖFOS)

  • 502023 NPO research


  • circular organizing
  • Ostromian principles
  • sociocracy
  • holacracy