Sub-theme 5. Modelling and multi-methods approaches in polycentric commons systems
Experimental studies of inequality and inequity in the governance of common-pool resources and local public goods
A growing body of research examines issues of inequality and inequity related to the governance of common-pool resources and local public goods. The common-pool resource literature argues that resource commons can create assignment problems—such as asymmetries between head-end and tail-end users of surface irrigation systems—that can lead to inequality and conflict. Some institutional scholarship emphasizes the importance of asymmetric resources and power for explaining how communities craft and sustain institutions for collective action. Finally, inequality and inequity are common themes in the body of policy research evaluating institutions and policies for the polycentric governance of natural resource commons and local public goods. Much of this research finds that policy arrangements that purport to be ‘participatory,’ ‘deliberative,’ or ‘bottom-up’ can often deliver unequal benefits to the users of natural resources and local public goods, entrench the power of local elites, and fail to engage women and members of marginalized groups. This panel invites experimental research, broadly defined, that moves these literatures forward. This includes innovative laboratory experiments that use inequality as a treatment or outcome of interest in social dilemmas, randomized studies or quasi-experiments of policies that may make the governance of common-pool resources or local public goods more (or less) equal or equitable, and survey or choice experiments to highlight the importance of different institutional features for promoting the participation of members of marginalized groups in local governance. This panel welcomes research conducted in the Global South as well as the Global North.
Panel 5.4. A
1. Procedures for Power: Designing Direct Democracy for Marginalized Groups
1Purdue University, USA, 2University of Miami, USA
Citizen participation in decision-making has been widely promoted as a method for improving sustainable development outcomes. Participatory budgeting is one of the most popular ways to engage the public in policy making. These programs have spread rapidly across the Global South but have rarely been evaluated. Participatory budgeting has both been lauded as a way to empower the poor and marginalized groups but also criticized for being prone to elite capture. Actual outcomes related to inequality likely depend both on the broader political context within which participation occurs, as well as the specific procedures that are used to encourage and structure participation. Within the context of participatory budgeting in rural Kenya (which represents a ‘hard test’ of hypotheses surrounding the benefits of participation), we randomly assign 3 different commonly used group decision making procedures. In this paper, we compare heterogenous treatment effects across gender, income, age and leadership status in order to assess the extent to which these differing participatory designs succeed at empowering marginalized groups in a rural, low-income context.
2. Experimental Evidence on Minority Participation and the Design of Community-Based Natural Resource Management Programs
Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis, USA
While community-based natural resource management (CBNRM) is a key tool for the participatory management of common-pool resources in many Global South countries, experiences with CBNRM to date suggest that one marginalized people—such as members of marginalized ethnic groups or tribes—are often less likely to participate in CBNRM compared to members of the dominant groups. This study provides evidence on two institutional features of CBNRM that may help to narrow this gap: (1) targeted benefits that are funded by the proceeds from CBNRM and earmarked for participants belonging to marginalized groups, and (2) mandated representation of minorities on the local decision-making bodies that manage CBNRM. Evidence from a framed survey experiment with respondents in rural Nepal suggests that these two institutional features have a strong, positive effect on intentions to join CBNRM-related groups, attend meetings, and speak up at meetings among members of marginalized minority groups, ultimately narrowing ethnic gaps in intentions to participate.
3. Why and how does scientific uncertainty affect distributional equity in collaborative governance: Evidence from Groundwater Game Experiment
University of Arizona, USA
In many regions, aquifers are being depleted faster than they can recharge, leaving municipalities, irrigators, and ranchers vulnerable to ever-reducing water availability. Collaborative governance has emerged as one approach to address groundwater depletion. Equity is an important outcome that stakeholders aspire to achieve, but concerns exist if collaborative governance improves or undermines the equitable distribution of outcomes. Achieving equitable distribution can be disturbed by how stakeholders use scientific information. Studies have suggested that scientific uncertainty has tended to promote strategic interests among stakeholders, thus undermining common interests. This study asks: Why and how does scientific uncertainty about hydrological conditions affect distributional equity among resource users? To answer this question, I modified a groundwater game experiment where groups of 4-5 participants play a crop choice game for multiple rounds as resource users (Meinzen-Dick et al. 2016). Unlike the original game, where participants had full information about recharge rate, I add two treatments that introduce scientific uncertainty about water recharge: uncertainty operationalized as a range of values (treatment1) and uncertainty operationalized as competing hydrological models (treatment2). The dependent variable is distributional equity, measured as each group’s standard deviation of earnings. Using game data from 130 players, this study finds that different types of scientific uncertainty do not significantly affect distributional outcomes, but collaborative process such as integrative leadership plays an important role in ensuring the fairness of distribution.
4. Social inequalities in climate change adaptation
1University of Georgia, USA, 2Indiana University–Purdue University Indianapolis, USA
Groundwater irrigation (GWI) played a critical role historically in transformation of agrarian societies through an enhancement of productivity and food security. Intensive use of groundwater for irrigation rapidly expanded with the adoption of technologies like private tubewells. While GWI has been argued as an efficient way to reduce poverty in rural areas, the social inequality in access to these technologies and its impact on farmer adaptation to climate change is less understood. This paper evaluates the impact of caste and gender on GW adoption using data from rural India. Household surveys conducted by the University of Maryland and the National Council of Applied Economic Research in 2011-12 are used to shed light on how GWI adoption is disproportionate across different social groups. Detailed information collected on non-farm activities of 14,420 households also allows us to examine how GWI adoption impacts farmer adaptation to climate change. Ordinary least squares and instrumental variable regressions are applied to estimate the effect of GWI adoption on nonfarm related outcomes. We find that households with female heads and those from marginalized social groups (scheduled caste & tribes) are less likely to adopt GWI. Furthermore, we find that households that adopt GWI are able to diversify into other non-agricultural activities (e.g., livestock production), nonfarm activities (e.g., nonfarm businesses, salaried positions), and invest in risk abatement strategies (e.g., crop insurance). Policies aimed to diffuse smart agricultural technologies in India must consider historical inequalities in adoption behavior to expedite structural change and, hence, economic growth.
Panel 5.4. B
1. (How) can we improve blueprints in community-based natural resource management?
University Marburg, Germany
There is great potential for self-governance strategies to solve cooperation problems when rules are endogenously implemented. However, top-down management and ‘institutional monocropping’, meaning the imposition of a common set of rules not adapted to the local context, are widespread in the Global South. Without intentionally deliberating the underlying values of these rules, they are unlikely tailored to specific circumstances or future challenges. We study this using lab-in-the-field experiments in the Philippines for the case of marine protected areas (MPAs). The MPAs are commonly set up with co-management agreements where the municipality consults with the village leaders to jointly implement an MPA which follows a certain blueprint. The village elects a committee and is in principle allowed to change and adapt the constitutional and operational rules. However, evidence from past data collection suggests that stakeholders are often not much involved in the decision-making process. This may lead to institutions not optimally adjusted to the local context. This in the end could lead to lower acceptance of the rules and rule-following or that the chosen rules are not adequate to solve the issues among fishermen.
With our research design we want to test (a) what rules emerge in different forms of community involvement, and (b) whether community involvement improves resource conservation. We are interested in four different treatment scenarios that range from little involvement and ownership (no or little possibility to change a blueprint) to high involvement and ownership in rule making. Data was collected in summer 2022 and first results will be presented at IASC.
2. The ferry game for endogenous rule change and collective intelligence
1Hunter College CUNY, USA, 2UC Davis, USA
To solve the problems they face, online communities adopt comprehensive governance methods including committees, boards, juries, and even more complex institutional logics. Helping these kinds of communities succeed will require categorizing best practices and creating toolboxes that fit the needs of specific communities. Beyond such applied uses, there is also a potential for an institutional logic itself to evolve, taking advantage of feedback provided by the fast pace and large ecosystem of online communication. Here we outline an experimental strategy aiming at guiding and facilitating such an evolution. We first review the impact of recent technologies for efficiently running massive online experiments used for studying collective action. Research in this vein includes attempts to understand how behavior spreads, how cooperation evolves, and how the wisdom of the crowd can be improved. We then present the utility of virtual-world “ferry game” experiments with governance for improving the utility of social feedback. Such experiments can be used for improving community rating systems and monitoring (dashboard) systems. Finally, we present a framework for constructing large-scale experiments entirely in virtual worlds, aimed at capturing the complexity of governance dynamics, to empirically test outcomes of manipulating institutional logic.
3. Digital Commons of/from the South: Ethical Considerations for Social Media and Qualitative Research
Cornell University, USA
Social media circulates a form of digital commons infrastructure comprising text, symbols, memes, and affects. The ascendance of social media in everyday life has generated a rich pool of data upon which researchers and designers can draw insights. Although the use of public social media data in research has also produced troubling ethical and practical issues, such as the Facebook emotional contagion experiment, where Facebook users’ emotions were manipulated with emotion-altering content; these issues have widely been investigated in Western and computational methods traditions.
In this paper, we draw on digital ethnography’s rising popularity and relevance in web and social media research to elicit novel ways of thinking about the ethical and practical concerns of using ‘public data’ in Global South and qualitative research traditions. Digital ethnography in large part translates mental and material concepts – such as ‘participant observation’ and ‘immersion’ – from traditional ethnography to digitally mediated social spaces, foregrounding the study of relevant social, institutional, and organizational phenomena in digital spaces.
By situating digital commons as an uneven and contested site, we show how qualitative researchers, particularly interested in Global South digital commons, can conduct their research without resorting to essentializing practices immanent within global digital commons discourse. We suggest infrastructure comprehension as the main contribution of this paper. Accordingly, digital ethnographers can suitably locate human actors and non-human entities within broader ecologies of digital computing, taking into account fundamental and particular material constraints, affordances, and politics of the infrastructures that format digital commons.
4. Games for experiential Learning: Triggering collective Changes in Commons Management
1IFPRI, USA, 2University of Marburg, Germany, 3Foundation for Ecological Security, India, 4University of Halle, Germany, 5Leibniz Centre for European Economic Research, Germany
As resource users interact and impose externalities onto each other, institutions are needed to coordinate resource use, create trust, and provide incentives for sustainable management. Coordinated collective action can play a key role in enabling communities to manage natural resource commons more sustainably. But when such collective action is not present, what can be done to foster it? In this paper, we contribute to the understanding of how experiential learning through games can affect behavioral change, potentially leading to more sustainable commons management. We present a conceptual framework describing the most important processes involved in experiential learning games. We list game features that have been argued to influence learning and behavioral determinants, focusing on the game narrative and experience, game rules, and attributes of players. Next, we apply the conceptual framework to examine design features that were particularly important for influencing behavioral drivers in commons management in three intervention cases from India relating to groundwater, surface water, and forests. Our conceptual reflections highlight the critical need for more systematic choices of the right tools for the right purpose. This includes that participants of the experiential learning must be able to relate the game to their real life. A social dilemma in the game should at least in its basic structure represent a real-life dilemma. We close the paper by highlighting future research needs both from the conceptual behavioral change as well as the game design perspective.