Polycentric Systems: Multilevel Governance Involving a Diversity of Organizations

Elinor Ostrom

in Global Environmental Commons

Published in print July 2012 | ISBN: 9780199656202
Published online September 2012 | e-ISBN: 9780191742149 | DOI:
Polycentric Systems: Multilevel Governance Involving a Diversity of Organizations

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Collective-action problems vary in scale from very small problems involving only a few individuals, such as a farmer-managed irrigation system, to extremely large problems involving global resources, such as the atmosphere and the oceans. If we are to solve collective-action problems effectively, we must rethink the way current scholarship analyzes market and governmental institutions. We need to recognize the importance of entrepreneurship in both the public and private spheres. Further, we need to recognize that the existence of a large number of governmental units at multiple scales is not automatically a negative indicator of performance. When governance systems are arranged in a polycentric system — from small to very large — collective-action problems at multiple scales can be more effectively tackled. This chapter analyzes how polycentric systems enable citizens, public officials, businessmen, and resource users — the public entrepreneurs of society — to tackle collective-action problems at diverse scales.

Keywords: polycentricity; collective action; common-pool resources; natural resources; institutions

Chapter.  8933 words. 

Subjects: Economic Development and Growth

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