Posts Tagged ‘institutional analysis’

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.

Institutional Analysis in the Great Barrier Reef – Part I

Recently I have had the good fortune of working with some amazing colleagues and marine ecosystem experts – Natalie Ban, Louisa Evans, and Mateja Nenadovic – on the Great Barrier Reef and the GBR Marine Park.  As an institutions scholar, two particularly interesting aspects emerged in studying the marine park – one regarding the nature of property rights and another on the benefits of polycentricity.  Here I focus on the polycentric elements – hopefully to be in print early next year.  I’ll write more on the second interesting finding, on property rights, in a subsequent post.

Polycentricity is a governance system in which there are multiple interacting governing bodies with autonomy to make and enforce rules within a specific policy arena and geography. These multiple governance groups interact horizontally with other groups at the same level as well as across scale as a part of nested systems of governance.  Often polycentricity has been seen as enhancing the resilience of a governance system because, among other things, it 

  • creates a foundation for learning and experimentation,
  • provides a source of policy/institutional diversity,
  • enables broader levels of participation, and
  • improves connectivity between groups while building in modularity and redundancy. 

Polycentricity, in effect, provides a means to solve problems at the scale of the problem – not too big to be removed from it and not too small to be overwhelmed.

And then we started looking at the GBR Marine Park.  In this case, we have an enormous system (133,360 sq miles or 345,400 km²) governed by a single governing body and act of legislation.  And it is generally seen as being quite successful.  So what gives?  Are the concepts of polycentricity misguided?  Is the case an anomaly?  

Stay tuned for the paper…but I’ll leave you with part of the answer – zoning.Image