Archive for September, 2013

More on Institutional Developments from the Great Barrier Reef

A month ago I wrote about research findings on institutional analysis in the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park.  At the time I noted two interesting developments – one on the efficacy of polycentricity and conflictual findings from the GBR Marine Park.  Basically, the park has a monocentric structure but efficiently uses zoning to achieve some desirable outcomes.  The second interesting research finding is about property rights.  I’ll try to keep this short and to the point for non-academic readers so your eyes don’t glass over immediately.

In essence, most institutional analysts are familiar with the Schlager and Ostrom work on property rights (Schlager, Edella, and Elinor Ostrom. “Property-rights regimes and natural resources: a conceptual analysis.” Land economics (1992): 249-262.).  In this piece, they lay out a conceptual map for bundling of various types of property rights with a goal of showing that ownership is more than a simple binary division.  Their revised table (from a 1996 book chapter) looks like this:


As one moves from the position of entrant to user and eventually to full owner, we see the associated bundles of property rights increasing.  This greatly clarified the issue of property rights as complex bundles of goods.  It expanded our thinking from that of a binary (ownership or not) to a deeper understanding that the concept of ownership comes with nuance.

However, in our current work, we see examples in which such a step-wise progression still oversimplifies the process.  Through the use of fishing rights (individual transferable quotas or ITQs), for instance, we see owners with the rights of access, withdrawal, and alienation (selling of rights) without the rights of management or exclusion.  Likewise we see others – managers – with management and access rights without the rights of withdrawal or alienation.

It’s time to start reexamining the bundles of property rights and look at the innovative ways in which bundles can be packaged and the ramifications of various packages.  This has implications for both scholarship and for practice as we think about new ways to govern.  As expected, the complexity continues to grow.  Very interesting topic for future research.

Systems Thinking Class Activity and Leverage Points

This morning we ran a bit of an experiment in my Systems Thinking class (mostly sophomore level undergrads).  This comes from the Meadows “Systems Playbook” text.  We formed two groups for ease of organizing.  One group of 8 was run by my TA.  I ran another group of 26.  We gave everyone a number and then had them select two other students as the “reference points”.  However, we gave them some stipulations.  First, if their own number was an odd number, they had to select Student Two.  Second, no one was allowed to select any of the three students wearing red shirts (my randomizing process for my group of 26).

We then asked them to move around until they were equidistant from their two reference points.  Before moving we discussed as a group what they thought would happen.  (Perhaps ask yourself the same question before reading ahead).  When they started moving, it took a couple minutes of shuffling around, bumping into each other, getting a tad too close, etc before settling into a stable formation.

Next, we had everyone return to the circle.  We then ran the same experiment except that when I said “stop”  the three Red Shirts  stopped moving while everyone else continued.   When the others settled into a formation, I said “go” and the Red Shirts moved again.  At this point there was a minor amount of shuffling around, but because none of these three could serve as reference points for others, they made very little difference on the rest of the group.

We returned to our original circle and ran this game a third time.  This time I randomly selected 3 people plus Participant 2 (the reference for the odd numbered participants).  When I said “stop”, these four stopped.  Once the formation emerged, I then said “go” to the four that I had stop earlier.  Because of Participant Two’s high leverage, the system had to reorganize substantially before coming to a halt again.

Finally, we ran the first treatment again with one exception.  This time we added a three second delay between when their reference moved and when they responded.  This caused quite a commotion and the delay kept the system from “equilibrating” in a reasonable amount of time.

This little adventure took about 20 minutes.  At that point, we went back to the classroom and discussed leverage points in systems and related it back to that day’s reading and how these concepts manifest themselves in the experiment.

I highly recommend it.

Video of Water/Climate Briefing

Last week, along with Jonathan Koppell, the dean of ASU’s College of Public Programs and Doug Toy, the city of Chandler’s Water Regulatory Affairs Manager, I participated as a panelist for the first of this year’s Water/Climate Briefings for ASU’s Decision Center for a Desert City.  The discussion was on “The Challenges of Communicating Sustainability in Complex Systems for Public Policy”.  For those interested, here is a link to the video: