Digital Library Of The Commons Repository


Recent Submissions

Conference Paper
Four Decades of Polycentric Evolution in the Chesapeake Bay Watershed
(2024) Baehler, Karen; Biddle, Jennifer
This paper reports preliminary results from our application of Baldwin, Thiel, McGinnis, and Kellner's Context-Operations-Outcomes-Feedback (COOF) framework to the case of collaborative watershed management in the Chesapeake Bay region from the 1980s to the present. We provide a novel approach to operationalizing the framework and discuss its utility. Based on initial analysis, we find a low probability of a polycentric governance (PG) arrangement emerging and surviving in the Chesapeake Bay given the evidence of a larger volume of inhibiting conditions compared to enabling conditions in the period leading up to the establishment of the Chesapeake Bay Agreement (CBA) and Chesapeake Bay Program (CBP) in 1983-84. Yet these polycentric programs not only formed, but also grew in size, scope, and rigor over the next four decades. Key inhibiting conditions, such as the chronic inability of state leaders to impose pollution limits on politically powerful interests (urban/suburban developers and farmers), have significantly slowed progress toward Bay restoration to date and generated large volumes of criticism. Despite the system's many weaknesses, the original partners (DC, MD, PA, VA and the EPA) have continued to participate, and new partners (DE, NY, and WV) have joined. Some progress has been made toward pollution reduction, and some indicators of Bay health have improved. The paper identifies primary and secondary games played by principal actors within the Bay's PG institutions and emphasizes the vital role play by litigation in maintaining accountability for progress.
Conference Paper
Community-based water management: The case of unregulated self-governance of drinking water systems in coastal Bangladesh
(2024) Hossain, Mohammad Jobayer
Substantial progress has been made toward drinking water access globally, including in Bangladesh, where over 98% of people have basic water services. Bangladesh’s rural water supply policy deploys the responsibility of maintaining the water infrastructure solely to the community, which is performing well for 95% of the country's population for groundwater-based hand pump systems. However, the coastal region in Bangladesh still suffers from chronic water insecurity driven by complex socio-hydrology, resulting in no access to suitable groundwater. To access clean drinking water, this hazard-prone, low-income, climate change vulnerable community depends on community-based adaptation technologies (e.g., Rain-fed Pond, Pond Sand Filter, Rainwater Harvesting) subject to numerous limitations, particularly poor operation and management. Here, we used three theories of common-pool water management: (i) Ostrom’s design principles, (ii) collective action, and (iii) moral economies for water to evaluate the self-governance of the community-based Pond Sand Filter (PSF) system. Data was collected through individual interviews with water users and management personnel in January 2024 in two PSF sites (one functional and another non-functional system) in Khulna, coastal Bangladesh. Our initial findings reveal that the existing management system can be defined more by moral economies for water than collective action and design principles by ensuring access and equity but cannot guarantee sustainable self-governance. We argue that a functional system does not guarantee a good system. The functional PSF system has been running for more than ten years, but there is a lack of trust and accountability in water management. Along with the moral economies for water, we still need design principles and collective action for a sustainable self-governance system. Besides, the self-governance of these common pool resources is a risky responsibility due to the unbearable cost of maintenance and increased threats of climate change. This study will inform the decision maker to make necessary policy reforms to improve service delivery and ensure sustainable water in a low-income, hazard-prone, and climate-change context.
Conference Paper
Dangers of Commonism, or Ostrom vs. the Commonizers
(2024) Theesfeld, Insa; McGinnis, Michael D.; Cole, Daniel H.
The community of scholars exploring governance and institutions for the management of an increasing range of resources systems is steadily growing. As long as we were dealing with classical, traditional natural resource governance, the resource units and property regimes were relatively easy to define. In the last two decades new commons and global commons have been added to the research agendas of commons scholars and gained lots of attention in society. The considered resource unit needs to be specified and may not always be subtractable nor the system excludable. The focus is not the appropriation, but rather the joint provision of the resource system. Following this thought, sometimes, commons have been interpreted as social constructions that guarantee the transformation of society towards sustainability and well-being. From a Bloomington School perspective, we want to critically review this development of the recent radical-normative use of the term “commoning.” After addressing the shifting meaning of “commoning” in the literature, our goal in this paper is to “rescue” “commons” as an analytical concept from normative “commonism.” Inter alia, we not only raise concerns but also offer suggestions for structuring empirical observations in the hope of inspiring more constructive discussion.
Conference Paper
Fostering African Data Commons: Embracing the Philosophy of Ubuntu
(2024) Sun, Simon; Muhadia Shabaya, Marie; Kalema, Nai Lee
The advancement of Artificial Intelligence (A.I.) in Africa is gaining attraction, serving as a driver for economic expansion and industrial progress across sectors like agriculture, healthcare, and education. However, the A.I. development in Africa is still in its nascent phase due to several factors, including the high cost with building data infrastructure, limited internet accessibility and a shortage of powerful computing resources essential for training A.I. models. Central to these challenges is the scarcity of access to high-quality training data, predominantly controlled by companies located outside of Africa, a phenomenon some describe as “data colonialism.” The fundamental problem arises from the proliferation of privacy-centric regulations embedded within various regulatory regimes and contractual agreements. Consent serves as the mechanism through which individuals in Africa relinquish their personal information. At its essence, data governance centers on the rights of individuals regarding their personal information, reflecting a regulatory philosophy originating in the West.