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The Promise of Polycentricity in Two U.S. Water Systems

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Type: Conference Paper
Author: Baehler, Karen J.; Biddle, Jennifer C.
Conference: Workshop on the Ostrom Workshop 6
Location: Indiana University, Bloomington
Conf. Date: June 19-21, 2019
Date: 2019
URI: https://hdl.handle.net/10535/10472
Sector: Water Resource & Irrigation
Subject(s): polycentricity
Abstract: "This paper explores relationships between polycentricity and the processes through which social-ecological poverty and rigidity traps are built and dismantled. Two case studies are developed through process tracing and analyzed according to a four-phase model of social-ecological trap dynamics. Out of eight non-null hypotheses positing a variety of causal mechanisms in which polycentricity influences poverty and rigidity traps and traps influence polycentricity, evidence from the cases supports six. The paper concludes that the traps construct provides insights into various processes by which polycentricity contributes to adaptive capacity of social-ecological systems, while also highlighting potential weaknesses and limitations of polycentricity. For polycentricity to be effective in supporting adaptive capacity, this analysis suggests that two requirements must be present: a rough balance of power among the system’s decision-making centers and assurance that one or more centers support the interests of resource users and the health of the resource itself."

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