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Call for Applications: Two PhD positions on commons at the Institute for Collective Action, Erasmus University Rotterdam – apply by January 15, 2021

The Institute for Collective Action of the Erasmus University Rotterdam is offering two PhD positions to candidates who would like to pursue their PhD studies in the area of collective action. The focus will be on an in-depth micro-analysis of internal functioning of two different types of “institutions for collective action” (ICA).

About the positions

The relationship between size and heterogeneity of both members and resources and their impact on the institutional design of ICA will be studied for:

  • PhD 1: Fishing collectives
  • PhD 2: Mutual insurances

Both fishing collectives and mutuals are interesting examples of different forms of collective action. Whereas fishing collectives originally were organised as guilds but moved on as cooperatives after their dissolution, mutuals were a new form of ICA which took over part of the functions (insurances) of the guilds, which had been dissolved by the end of the 18th century. The continuity between the guilds and cooperatives and mutual can help us to understand the effect of resource type on the prevalence of collective action in specific sectors. The geographical area of study within Europe will be decided upon by the PhD-student and supervisors.

With these studies the institute aims at delivering a specific outcome that will add to the integrated theory on ICAs: scenarios will help 1) to identify the impact of group and resource size and heterogeneity in terms of utility and equity, and 2) how institutional design is adapted to moderate these effects.


  • Master’s degree in Humanities or Social sciences, with a specific interest in longitudinal approaches to understanding societal problems
  • Affinity with historical research and dealing with archival sources is a plus for these positions
  • For the PhD-position on fishing collectives, a keen interest in natural resource management is a plus
  • For the PhD-position on mutual insurances, a keen interest in the financial sector/insurance sector is a plus
  • Inquisitive nature
  • Social skills to engage with other colleagues and societal stakeholders and interested in experimenting with new research approaches
  • People skills to work in a team, willingness to contribute to the work of others and the functioning of the research team
  • Sufficient discipline to master a broad base of scientific literature
  • Multi-disciplinary attitude


The “UNified theory for the development and resilience of Institutions for Collective Action (UNICA)” project aims at building a unified theory that explains the factors behind the development and spread of institutions for collective action (ICAs) across Europe over the past millennium, and that identifies which elements have contributed to the claim they would be more resilient than top-down, share-holder types of organisations. The project will allow to connect micro-changes to macro-results, and to reflect on the potential outcomes of the current new “wave” of institutions for collective action.

If you are interested in one of the positions and meet the requirements apply by January 15, 2021 or share this call with friends and colleagues who might be interested. Read more about details and how to apply here (link no longer available).


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