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Developing a Method for Analyzing Institutional Change

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Type: Working Paper
Author: Ostrom, Elinor
Date: 2007
URI: https://hdl.handle.net/10535/4048
Sector: Social Organization
Subject(s): Workshop
institutional change
institutional analysis--IAD framework
Abstract: "If we are to understand these changes, we must develop new tools (Jones, 2003). Several colleagues and I are in the early stages of a study of the 'dynamics of rules' (Anderies, Janssen, and Ostrom, 2004; Janssen and Ostrom, 2006). We will use agent based modeling as one of our tools since that does enable one to examine the pattern of likely outcomes over time when agents who have limited information are making choices over time (Janssen, 2002). We also intend to study institutional choice overtly, both in the experimental laboratory as well as in the field with companion modeling by participants who have experience in working with irrigation, fisheries, and forest resources (Cardenas and Ostrom, 2004; Cardenas, 2000; Cardenas, Stranlund, and Willis, 2000; Bousquet et al., 2002). We have already examined the difference in cooperative behavior when participants in an open-access foraging experiment have a chance to choose rules to regulate their behavior as contrasted to just learning from experience about the structure of the experiment (Janssen et al., 2006). "The remainder of the paper is organized in the following fashion. In the first main section, I provide an overview of our findings from studying irrigation systems in the field so that readers who are not familiar with our prior research gain an initial sense of these findings. In the next section, I provide a second overview--this time of the Institutional Analysis and Development (IAD) framework that we have been developing at the Workshop since the early 1980s in an effort to provide a general method for doing institutional analysis (Kiser and Ostrom, 1982; Ostrom, Gardner, and Walker, 1994; Ostrom, 2005). In the third section, I introduce the possibility of looking at the change of rules as an evolutionary process. "The new method for studying the evolution of rules, which is introduced in the fourth section, will be based on the IAD framework and on our long-term study of rules related to irrigation systems. Before one can really think of developing a general theory of institutional change, it is helpful to begin to understand change in a specific type of setting. The method will focus on a technique for arraying a norm and rule inventory and recording changes in that inventory over time brought about by diverse processes for making changes. In the conclusion, I return to the question as to why it is important to authorize resource users' relative autonomy in the development of their own rules and to learn from the resulting institutional diversity. Rule diversity can generate higher outcomes than the institutional monocropping of imposed rules by external experts (Evans, 2004)."

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