Friday, September 16, 2005

Governing Common Pool Resources

Howard Rheingold, in his great book, Smart Mobs, writes about the governance of common pool resources (CPR), "In 1990, sociologist Elinor Ostrom argued that external authorities might not be necessary in governing what she called common pool resources (CPRs)." Ostrom made a series of studies of the ways in which people cooperated in the management of commons throughout the world. "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 cleanly defined
  • Rules governing the use of collective goods are well matched to local needs and conditions
  • Most individuals affected by theses 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.

..."Ostrom provided an ample and specific agenda for future research; "All efforts to organize collective actions, whether by an external ruler, an entrepreneur, or a set of principles who wish to gain collective benefits, must address a common set of problems. These have to do with coping with free-riding, solving commitment problems, arranging for the supply of institutions, and monitoring individual compliance with sets of rules."

Smart Mobs: The Next Social Revolution
Howard Rheingold
Basic Books, 2002


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