Common Pool Resources

In 1990, sociologist Elinor Ostrom argued that external authorities might not be necessary in governing what she called common pool resources (CPRs). Ostrom studied the ways that people shared forestry resources in Japan, pasturelands in Switzerland, and irrigation arrangements in Spain and the Philippines. Ostrom provided examples of communities that have shared public goods for centuries and succeeded in not depleting them. She discovered that in Spanish irrigation-sharing huertas, “a portion of the fines is kept by the guards; the Japanese detectives also keep the sake they collect from infractors.” To facilitate cooperation, the Spanish synchronize schedules of adjacent water users so they can monitor each other, the Japanese reward those who report infractions, and most successful CPR groups impose social sanctions on cheaters.

In comparing the communities, Ostrom found that groups that are able to organize and govern their behavior successfully are marked by the following design principles:

  • Group boundaries are clearly defined.
  • Rules governing the use of collective goods are well matched to local needs and conditions.
  • Most individuals affected by these rules can participate in modifying the rules.
  • The rights of community members to devise their own rules is respected by external authorities.
  • A system for monitoring members’ behavior exists; the community members themselves undertake this monitoring.
  • A graduated system of sanctions is used.
  • Community members have access to low-cost conflict resolution mechanisms.
  • For CPRs that are parts of larger systems, appropriation, provision, monitoring, enforcement, conflict resolution, and governance activities are organized in multiple layers of nested enterprises.

Marc Smith, from later on in the book:
Ostrom found that some system to monitor and sanction members’ actions was a common feature of every successful community. Monitoring and sanctioning is important not simply as a way of punishing rule-breakers but also as a way of assuring people that others are doing their part. Many people are contingent cooperators, willing to cooperate as long as most others do.

Smart Mobs fragments

Unless otherwise stated, the content of this page is licensed under Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 License