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The Adaptive Governance of the Commons: Understanding Shifts in Modes of Governance in Community Forestry Systems

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Type: Conference Paper
Author: van Laerhoven, Frank
Conference: Workshop on the Workshop 4
Location: Indiana University Bloomington
Conf. Date: June 3-6, 2009
Date: 2009
URI: https://hdl.handle.net/10535/1522
Sector: Social Organization
Region: South America
Central America & Caribbean
Subject(s): sustainability
human ecology
social behavior
community forestry
participatory management
Abstract: "Under what conditions can social-ecological systems be expected to develop sustainably? Social-ecological systems (SESs) - such as for example community forests and their users - have been compared to 'moving targets:' Due to the interactions and interdependence between the systems' components, SESs are characterized by change, change that can often not be anticipated in terms of intensity and direction. Sustainability is therefore not a steady-state equilibrium that can be developed towards to. I argue that the long-enduring success of community forest systems - success defined in terms of forests not degrading and its users staying happy - is intimately related to a user group's ability to adapt its mode of governance, when confronting change. I hold that forest users that engage in experimentation, learn from experience and are able to adapt to change are more likely to avoid forest degradation or social disintegration. In this research, I focus on the conditions that are expected to make this happen. The particular social-ecological systems that I propose to look at, involve a total of fifty community forestry systems in Guatemala, Honduras, Bolivia, and Mexico, respectively. I line up the following variables to explain variation in community forestry systems - ability to develop sustainably: Diversity in types of actors, social memory, functional redundancy, and trust among actors. These explanatory variables are operationalized through social network analysis metrics - i.e. quantifiable algorithms regarding relevant social network characteristics. I propose to derive the indicators related to the dependent variable (the sustainable development of community forestry systems - the social as well as the ecological side of the picture) from an existing database, compiled by the International Forestry Resources and Institutions (IFRI) research program."

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