Sub-theme 5. Modelling and multi-methods approaches in polycentric commons systems
The role of information in constructing collaborative approaches for commons governance
Building on current and previous work the panellists will make short presentations identifying the challenges and opportunities for developing collaborative or participatory approaches to commons governance. The papers will focus on water resources governance under different geographical, socio-cultural and political conditions. Panellists will highlight key issues surrounding the availability and utilisation of information and relevant data for optimising water management. Issues include data quality and relevance, capacity of stakeholders for utilising data, trust in sources of information, the role of citizen science, and how information constrains and/or supports improvements in collaborative governance. Although the focus on the panel is on water related projects, many of the issues will be relevant across other forms of commons.
The focus on collaborative approaches is set in the wider context of the need for ‘transformative’ governance that addresses resource utilisation from a socio-ecological system perspective, and requiring collaboration to achieve policy co-design and co-management.
In order to maximise participation and discussion, prior to the event presenters will prepare a short 1-page summary, which will be made available as a printed handout for participants to help generate discussion. The panel discussion will encourage participants to explore ‘the building blocks for constructing collaborative governance’ and the role of information in addressing problems and developing solutions. The overall aim is to provide a space for participants to explore the power of information in constructing ‘local’ collaborative approaches for commons governance, from the ground up.
1. How equitable information exchange can engage marganilized stakeholders in commons governance
Ohio State University, USA
The 1972 Great Lakes Water Quality Agreement (GLWQA) was passed by the U.S. & Canada to support collaborative governance of the Laurentian Great Lakes. While the GLWQA identifies the international and federal partners who oversee watershed restoration and stipulates collective choice processes for the formation of scientific advisory committees, much of the management decisions are coordinated by local actors. This helps ensure meaningful participation in watershed planning and builds partnerships among networks of key stakeholders. These partnerships help establish working relationships, trust, and sustainable facilitation of watershed activities. One example is the Cuyahoga River Area of Concern in Cleveland, Ohio, where the collaborative process of forming an advisory committee and sharing information and knowledge provides perspective on the social impact of collaborative decisions. The committee’s goal is to help watershed communities overcome institutional variables such as securing funding for restoration, building capacity among residents, and increasing public awareness. This is accomplished by exploring the interactions between formal and informal groups, associations, and institutions while identifying community leaders. Understanding community structure and function is a powerful step in helping to broaden participation by identifying individuals underrepresented in a project and leveraging stewardship capacity. This process helps support information brokers to facilitate a more equitable information exchange and engagement of marginalized stakeholders, ultimately catalyzing community development and equity goals and fostering inclusive commons governance.
2. Overlaps in Polycentric Systems: Opportunities and Challenges for Coordination
University of Toronto Mississauga, Canada
Polycentric governance systems consist of multilevel and semi-autonomous decision-centers operating with some degree of coordination. These decision-centers are characterized by functional and geographic overlapping units, powers, incentives, rules, and norms at multiple levels and scales. A core assumption of polycentric literature is that overlaps allow decision-centers to take each other’s concerns and actions into account while making decisions by connecting community-level centers with regional and national government authorities, linking scientific management and traditional management systems, encouraging knowledge and information-sharing, and promoting collaboration and dialogue around goals and outcomes. Overlaps, therefore, can build capacity to adapt to change and manage for resilience. However, while the existence of multiple, overlapping semiautonomous decision-centers may be sufficient to characterize a governance arrangement as polycentric, it does not guarantee that there will be sufficient coordination among decision-centers to function as a polycentric governance system. For instance, overlaps, without clarifying the roles and responsibilities of decision-centers, can create confusions about functions such as monitoring and enforcement. With unclear rules, asymmetric incentives, and the absence of communication, functional and geographic overlaps might pave the way for more powerful decision-centers to replace functions of less powerful decision-centers to centralize essential functions. Given the importance of overlaps for coordination, this discussion will highlight opportunities and challenges for coordination in polycentric governance arrangement.
3. Useful science for collaborative ecosystem restoration in a complex commons
University of Washington Tacoma, USA
Restoration of complex socio-ecological commons involves diverse stakeholders in multiple jurisdictions and organizations. Collaboration within and across these entities draws on a variety of information, including scientific. In the Puget Sound, USA, substantial investment over several decades has generated a science-rich context for restoration planning and actions. Yet actors face barriers to obtaining, evaluating, and applying science for specific management aims. This case illustrates the role of local collaborative partnerships in generating science-informed commons management. Although scientific knowledge often manifests in peer reviewed journal articles, the most frequent sources of science in these collaborative partnerships are people in regional knowledge networks. Partnership members prioritize science that is salient and applicable to the local context, often using science to inform management plans and give advice to policy makers and other decision makers.
4. Catchment partnerships for transforming water governance under privatisation
University of Gloucestershire, UK
Water catchment partnerships
Collaborative approaches to commons governance offer scope for improving policy design through combining scientific data, professional expertise, and local interests in the co-production of knowledge. This is particularly the case for water management, which requires a hierarchical or polycentric approach to address issues of scale, ownership, and multiple conflicting uses of water, along with flexibility to enable adaptation to changing conditions. Under the Catchment Based Approach applied across England since 2013 a total of 106 river catchment partnerships have been formed. Combining scientific data with technical and financial support, along with inclusion of citizen science have enabled partnerships to develop catchment plans and prioritise action. However, barriers exist in communicating scientific knowledge to non-scientists, and local knowledge to scientists. Recent evaluation of the situation in England indicates variable partnership effectiveness, particularly in relation to measuring outcomes, legitimacy of the participatory approach, the ability to obtain sustainable sources of funding, and relationships with the existing institutional framework for water management. This paper analyses the underlying mechanisms influencing partnership processes, how knowledge is co-produced and utilised, and outcomes in terms of improvements in multi-scale governance within a privatised water management regime.
5. Groundwater Monitoring (Napo Jal Bachao Kal) – What gets measured, gets managed!
Foundation for Ecological Security (FES), India
India uses 25% of all groundwater extracted every year globally. 70% of agriculture and 85% of India’s drinking water supply depends on groundwater. Owing to this alarming rate of extraction and usage, India is fast moving towards a groundwater crisis. The lack of good quality, location-specific data about the extent and quality of groundwater for most parts of the country hinders its sustainable management.
Thus, there is an urgent need to shift from groundwater development to its management by identifying and mapping groundwater, quantifying the available potential, and developing and implementing plans that can improve recharge and sustainable use of groundwater resources.
The Groundwater Monitoring exercise or the Napo Jal Bachao Kal Campaign aims to consistently measure at least one well in each of the 6 lakh villages across India. Undertaken with help of Groundwater Monitoring Tool, an open-source android tool, the campaign empowers rural communities to measure and map their wells to create a robust data set.
This crowd-sourced data is openly available for easy access by all. Users can download it in an excel sheet or as a map for the village, block, district, state, and national levels. Comparing maps of pre and post-monsoon over a period of time has helped communities see the changes in their water resources – if there is surplus water, or if the water table is going down despite good rains and aided discussions around these changes and how to tackle them.
What started with 18,000 wells in 2020 has now reached 40,000+ wells, measured with the help of 100s of Partner organizations across 12 states. Efforts are on to generate sufficient data to improve decision-making around the usage of groundwater at the national level.