The Role of Contextual Factors in Common Pool Resource Analysis

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Authors' Introduction: "It is recognised that well-established rules are a necessary, but not sufficient condition of successful collective action (see Barrett, 1991; Eyborsson, 1995; Steins, 1995). Successful co-operation depends largely on the response of individual actors, influenced by incentives derived from both inside and outside the management regime. Contextual factors are one set of such factors and include dynamic forces based locally and remote from the resource management regime: they are constituted in the user groups' social, cultural, economic, political, technological and institutional environment and can have an important part to play in establishing the choice sets from which common property users can select strategies (Edwards & Steins, 1996; Steins, 1997). In this respect, they are important in determining the evolution of decision-making arrangements for managing common pool resources (CPRs). "Contextual factors define (i) what is physically, legally, economically and socially feasible in terms of the supply of products and services from a resource and (ii) what is economically, socially and culturally desirable, by establishing the demand factor. As a result, the choice sets related to use of the resource system are expanded in terms of (i) the number and types of users; and (ii) the type and extent of use. In addition, contextual factors often redefine choice sets related to revision of the decision-making arrangements governing the resource (see Feeny, 1988; Edwards, 1996; Barrett, 1991). Lack of knowledge of contextual factors can lead analysts to make simplified judgments about the state of management of the resource. The paper advises researchers to focus on the choice sets available to individual users of the resource, in terms of (i) products and services demanded of the resource, (ii) the different decision-making arrangements possible and (III) different action strategies, and tracing back the derivation of these choice sets to contextual factors. This has particular relevance in multiple-use CPRs, where there is more than one type of user group and analysis must address expected differentials in the adoption of individual strategies according to use of the CPR."
IASC, common pool resources--theory, decision making--theory, rules--theory, institutional analysis