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Global Environmental CommonsAnalytical and Political Challenges in Building Governance Mechanisms$
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Eric Brousseau, Tom Dedeurwaerdere, Pierre-André Jouvet, and Marc Willinger

Print publication date: 2012

Print ISBN-13: 9780199656202

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: September 2012

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199656202.001.0001

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Polycentric Systems: Multilevel Governance Involving a Diversity of Organizations

Polycentric Systems: Multilevel Governance Involving a Diversity of Organizations

(p.105) 5 Polycentric Systems: Multilevel Governance Involving a Diversity of Organizations
Global Environmental Commons

Elinor Ostrom

Oxford University Press

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

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