UNICA (VICI project)

Building a UNified theory for the development and resilience of Institutions for Collective Action for Europe in the past millennium (UNICA) 

Summary of the project

The new bottom-up and self-governing institutions for the provisioning of energy, food, care and many other goods and services that are currently increasingly being set up by citizens have many similarities in institutional design with guilds, commons, cooperatives and other institutions that have been developed in Europe’s history. The UNICA-project aims to build 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 organizations.

For more information on the question ‘What are institutions for collective action’, click here.

In short, with this project we will be:      

  1. Creating a spatio-temporal taxonomy of archetypes of ICAs for the past millennium (SubProject 1-for six EU-countries). This part of the project will be developed by the PI and the team in the course of the project;
  2. Analysing the scaling strategies of various ICAs over time (Subproject 2-for 4 ICA-archetypes);
  3. Studying the relationship between size and heterogeneity of both members and resources (Subprojects 3 and 4: for fishing collectivities and mutuals) and their impact on the institutional design of the ICA. Hereby a novel conceptual framework for the historical study of various types of institutions for collective action (ICAs) will be applied in order to capture the dynamic interaction between membership, institutional features and resources of ICAs. The project will allow us to connect micro-changes to macro-results, and to reflect on the potential outcomes of the current new “wave” of institutions for collective action.

The  results of the project will be transferred to Collectievekracht.eua self-governing platform for self-governing ICAs today, in particular for the Netherlands, which has been developed on the basis of the principles of Extreme Citizen Science, in cooperation with and co-funded by several external parties.

Visit the CollectieveKracht knowledge platform here: collectievekracht.eu.

Read more about the evolution of archetypes of institutions for collective action in:

De Moor, T.  (2021). Three waves of cooperation. A millennium of institutions for collective action in historical perspective (Case-study: The Netherlands). In: Oxford Handbook on International Economic Governance, eds. I. Bellacci, E. Brousseau, and J.M. Glachant. Oxford University Press. 

More information about the project

Researchers involved 

The project is carried out by our ICA research team:, in close cooperation with fellow-researchers from other institutions and disciplines. 

Funding and timeframe

The project is funded by a VICI grant from the Dutch Research Council (NWO), nr. VI.C.191.052.