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Designing Robust Common Property Regimes for Collaboration Towards Rural Sustainability

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Type: Book Chapter
Author: Brunckhorst, David; Marshall, Graham R.
Book Title: Sustainable Resource Use: Institutional Dynamics and Economics
Publisher: Earthscan
Location: London
Page(s): 179-207
Date: 2007
URI: https://hdl.handle.net/10535/68
Sector: Social Organization
Region: Pacific and Australia
Subject(s): resource management
institutional design
common pool resources
design principles
Abstract: "The 'outback' of Australia represents a large part of the continent, and is characterised in large part by rangelands -- arid and semi-arid landscapes with occasional monsoon-like rains and low productivity soils used primarily for grazing. These social-ecological systems can be differentiated as particular biocultural or landscape region, such as the northern savanna. Despite the sometimes large distances between neighbours, these are interdependent systems with external influences, including those of distant governments. In understanding, facilitating, or possibly re-designing institutional arrangements for collective action and resource governance in the outback, knowledge by local people of the design characteristics of robust community-scale institutions will be important. Appropriate business structures might offer a supportive framework for collective decisions that facilitate adaptive management enhancing sustainability and endurance. "After summarising the characteristics of enduring common property regimes, we draw on three projects we have been closely involved with to describe how legal entities or corporate structures might be employed to enhance robustness of the institutional arrangements. All are Australian grazing systems, one in the Mallee rangelands and Riverland in South Australia, and two on the relatively richer soils of the New England Tablelands of New South Wales. Each example involves the development of a form of common property regime for collective decision-making, action and governance of landholder groups and/or communities. Facilitating and supporting (but not stifling) this institutional development through legal entities or corporate structures can contribute robustness. Balancing individual versus collective rationale, and risk management of internal and external stresses enhances robust capabilities. Some corporate structures or combinations of entities might, in different ways, be useful in the development and evolution of robust institutional arrangements for collective use and governance of various resources across multiple scales of ownership. "Anderies and co-authors differentiated resilience, which arises from spontaneous self-organising processes within a system (such as an ecosystem or a social network), from robustness that arises in addition from conscious efforts to increase a system's capacity to adapt to internal and external stresses. The more we understand how to facilitate robustness in linked social-ecological systems, the better equipped we become to design institutional arrangements capable of enhancing the resilience of those ecosystems we depend on (Anderies et al., 2004). The on-ground experiments discussed in this chapter seek particularly to understand how groups of farmers can move towards sustainable natural resource management and enterprise development by crafting institutional arrangements enabling them to manage their combined resources cooperatively. Such arrangements can contribute both resilience and robustness. In building robustness, we are particularly interested here in how to take advantage of opportunities the existing suite of business structures (supported by a state's legal system) might contribute to robustness of common property regimes."

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