Ryan is a political economist and community organizer with a passion for the democratic self-organization and ethic of stewardship found frequently in the establishment and endurance of community commons. As Co-Coordinator of the Applied Community Commons Research Team at The Ostrom Workshop at IU and a student of the late Elinor Ostrom, Ryan seeks synergies in rigorous academic research and community-generated best practices, bringing citizen science to policy science and Workshop wisdom to commons sense.
Continuing to build experience as a “pracademic,” he set out, in 2015, to set up ShareBloomington, which is a fiscally sponsored project of the Center for Sustainable Living and the first organized presence of the sharing movement in Bloomington, Indiana. Ryan is co-founder of hOurBloomington, Bloomington's first time bank, and he co-directs several sub-projects of ShareBloomington, including: the Glenn Carter Memorial Toolshare, the Bloomington Seed Library Network, and Bloomington Little Free Libraries.
The substantive topics of Ryan's research are diverse yet hold a common thread: building collaborative capacity in social and inter-organizational networks, especially when communities face novel circumstances: natural disasters, like Hurricane Katrina and Hurricane Sandy; sites of social struggle, like the Zapatista Autonomous Zones in Chiapas, Mexico and the public square and park occupations of 2011; and, sites of economic disparity met by creative community solutions from gift culture\economy and sharing culture\economy.
Ryan has observed that successful and sustainable coalitions are premised on commitments to sharing: sharing information, sharing best practices, sharing in planning & decision making, and sharing infrastructure, to avoid the waste and inflexibility rendered by isolated competition and possessiveness of excess capacity.
When existing social institutions are disrupted by uncommon circumstances, Ryan has come to believe that communities must develop resilient and context-sensitive social arrangements to facilitate good health and cooperative relationships among their members and in relationship with their local, environmental context. Ryan is invested in exploring, discovering, and implementing potential best practices that can either emerge in the midst of these situations or collaboratively established in their anticipation.