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Trust and Social Capital in the Design and Evolution of Institutions for Collective Action

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Type: Journal Article
Author: Six, Benjamin; van Zimmeren, Esther; Popa, Florin; Frison, Christine
Journal: International Journal of the Commons
Volume: 9
Page(s): 151-176
Date: 2015
URI: http://hdl.handle.net/10535/9719
Sector: Social Organization
Subject(s): collective action
governance and politics
rational choice theory
social capital
Abstract: "This paper aims at developing an original account of trust in the framework of large scale, international collective action institutions. Our research question focuses on the desired structures and mechanisms that are necessary to sustain the trust needed to uphold the effective operation of institutions for collective action. Our theoretical framework for studying trust is based on the social capital theory. Social capital is defined as the features of social organization, such as trust, networks and norms that facilitate coordination and cooperation for mutual benefit. We claim that in different sectors and contexts stakeholders encounter difficulties in collaborating in setting up experimental institutions for collective action. In order to generate more collaboration, stakeholders need to create structures that incite actors to find the optimal way to sustain trust, to organizationally acknowledge and learn that process, and to nourish it with the precise normative idea behind the institutional apparatus. In the areas of plant genetic resources and biomedicine, stakeholders have encountered these difficulties while experimenting with different coordination mechanisms for dealing with the increased appropriation of knowledge through patents. Our two case studies in plant genetic resources and biomedicine reflect the idea that institutions must be understood as complex pragmatic connectors of trust, i.e. social matrices of collective action that sustain individual commitment, where routine and reflexivity drive trust-based coordination mechanisms in interaction with their environment. From this theoretical framework we derive some recommendations that could be useful in deciding on how to implement this idea."

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