Two economists shared the prize, Oliver E. Williamson and Elinor Ostrom. BTW, 'Elinor Ostrom is the first woman to have been awarded the Prize in Economic Sciences in its forty year history'. (look at her CV here - it makes you dizzy..)
I am familiar with Williamson's work but I have to confess that I was not familiar with Ostrom's (I felt much better when I found out that Krugman wasn't either!)
You will get a first idea on why these economists deserved the prize by reading this.
An interesting piece on their work was written by another Nobel prize winner Michael Spence (Markets Aren't Everything) (which I became aware of through Greg Mankiw's blog).
Paul Krugman's piece 'An institutional economics prize' is also worth reading.
I promised my Tuesday class I would do some reading especially on Ostrom's work as it will be great when we discuss a bit later the Tragedy of the Commons.
This is from her Indiana University page:
How do we integrate the research findings in cognitive science into a workable set of models for exploring and explaining human choices in various institutional settings, including: social dilemmas, collective choice arenas, bureaucracies, and complex multitiered public economies?
How do institutions generate the information that individuals need to make decisions?
What biases or lack of biases are built into various ways of making collective decisions?
How are diverse preferences exaggerated or modified by interaction within diverse institutional structures?
For any ambitious IB Economics students around there, this is her paper :'Institutions and the Environment' (worth looking at to get a flavor).
Also, check out this 'supercourse': 'Beyond the Tragedy of the Commons'