The 2017 IASC Biennial Conference Dinner was held in the Speelklok Museum in central Utrecht.  The museum is a fascinating collection of mechanical and self-playing musical instruments dating from the 16th century.

Around 300 conference delegates were treated to a mix of live music, mechanical music, food, light displays, and a guided tour of the museum during the dinner.  The food was provided by ColourKitchen, a locally based innovative catering company with a strong social ethic.  The food was locally sourced, organic, vegetarian food, served by waiters to conference delegates as they grouped around tables and stands to mingle and network.  This was not a ‘sit-down’ dinner – there were no chairs, which encouraged people to move around and mingle creating maximum opportunity to circulate and talk to many people rather than having to remain seated at a particular table for the duration of the dinner.

Kate Ashbrook & Manager of ColourKitchen with signed manifesto

Colourkitchen also run a campaign called ‘No social waste’ based on the belief that everyone has something to offer society, no-one should be left behind (‘Talent should not be left on the couch’ is one of their Manifesto statements), and people should be given a second chance.  The organisation takes on and trains around 300 people per year (in several locations around the Netherlands).  These are people described as being ‘…at a distance from the job market’ and include recovering addicts, former prisoners, and those affected by a range of health and social problems.  The people who have been in the programme for a while help train the newcomers, and they all undertake examinations at the end of their training, in order to gain qualifications that will help them move back into the job market.  During the dinner the Conference Chair, Tine de Moor, signed the ‘No social waste’ manifesto on behalf of the IASC.

The evening started with a round of soup served in recycled metal cans, and moved on to a surprising and delicious range of dishes served on paper or in cartons and tubs.  The waiters moved expertly through the crowd ensuring everyone had ample opportunity to sample the wide range of food on offer.  The bar also saw plenty of action providing a range of beers wine, and soft drinks.  In between courses the guests could take guided tours of the museum.

The dinner also featured presentation of the Ostrom Awards.  The Award, which has been supported for the past six years by the Ford Foundation, was created to honour Elinor Ostrom, and develop the legacy of her work on the Commons.  The aim of the Award is to acknowledge and promote the work of commons practitioners, and of both young and senior scholars involved in the field of the commons.

Ostrom Award winners & presenters.
L-R: Ugo Mattei, Xavier Basurto, Josh Cinner, Leticia Merino, Pedro Medrano, John Powell

As the current President of the IASC, I had the honour of presenting the Practitioner Award to Pedro Medrano of the Asociación Forestal de Soria, Spain.  An organisation that has helped local communities recover forest commons that were taken by the state and given to large landowners.

Xavier Basurto, a Member of the IASC Executive Council, presented the Young Scholar Award to Joshua Cinner for his work on the ways in which social, economic, and institutional drivers shape the ways in which people use, perceive, and govern natural resources. Josh works closely with ecologists on interdisciplinary research topics in a wide range of countries, including Australia, Chile, Indonesia, Jamaica, Kenya, Madagascar, Mexico, Mozambique, Papua New Guinea, Seychelles, Tanzania, and USA.

Leticia Merino, a former President of the IASC, presented the Senior Scholar Award to Ugo Mattei, a Professor of Law, both at the University of Turin and University of California-Hastings.   In 2011, he successfully led the organisation of a nation-wide referendum against an attempt by the Italian government to privatise water. As a result of his work many cities have altered their approach to protecting water rights, and called for more democratic and transparent processes that emphasize user participation and democratic inclusion of citizens in the management of their water.

As the evening wore on the noise levels rose and live music (as opposed to the mechanical variety) was provided by Benkady , a fusion of African and Flemish sounds, which got people up and dancing.  The whole evening provided a wonderful opportunity to meet up with old acquaintances, talk to academics and practitioners from all over the world about the work they were doing, and make new friends.

African-Flemish fusion with Benkady