Thursday, March 8, 2012

Antidote to the 'Tragedy of the Commons'

Common-pool resources are by nature held in common due to being practically non-excludable, as with fish in the ocean, while their fruits are excludable in that only one person can eat a particular fish.

Eight criteria are typically found in cases of sustainable management of common-pool resources:

1. Clear and accepted boundaries of the group of users and of the common resource

2. Rules governing use of the common resource match local conditions & needs for labor/money inputs

3. Most of those affected by the rules can participate in modifying the rules

4. Those who monitor the health and harvest of the resource are accountable to the users or are the users

5. Rule violations receive graduated sanctions that depend on seriousness and context

6. Local, low-cost and prompt means are available for dispute resolution

7. Users have long-term tenure rights, and distant centralized authorities respect the rule-making rights of the group of users

For CPRs that are part of larger systems:

8. Harvest, use, monitoring, enforcement, conflict resolution and governance are organized in multiple layers of nested institutions. 

These principles are based on deep theory and painstaking field work, conducted by Elinor Ostrom and her colleagues at  the Workshop in Political Theory and Policy Analysis at the University of Indiana. Background information can be found in Understanding Institutional Diversity and elsewhere.