Community Monitoring in Common Pool Resources
In 1990, Elinor Ostrom published Governing the Commons, a demonstration that communities could successfully manage common pool resources without resorting to individual private property rights or central government control. Yet after decades of theoretical and empirical studies, little is known about whether such success can be facilitated by external actors and, if so, whether those actors must target many institutional factors at once or can focus their actions more narrowly.
In a Special Feature of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, Dr. Arun Agrawal of the School for Environment and Sustainability and Paul Ferraro of Johns Hopkins University try to answer these questions by developing and testing mechanism-based theories of institutions in complex socio-ecological systems.
The research project involved field experiments in six countries: Brazil, Costa Rica, Peru, Uganda, Liberia, and China, according to Agrawal. The experiments assessed whether monitoring of natural resources by communities themselves leads to improved resource conditions and outcomes. The introduction focuses in particular on the general question of how to undertake causal analysis when causal interventions differ from one case to another.