Center for Behavior, Institutions and the Environment / CBIE Working Papers / A Multi-Method Approach to Study Robustness of Social-Ecological Systems: The Case of Small-Scale Irrigation Systems

A Multi-Method Approach to Study Robustness of Social-Ecological Systems: The Case of Small-Scale Irrigation Systems

CBIE_WP-2013-001

Abstract

Elinor Ostrom was a leader in using multiple methods to perform institutional analysis. In this paper we discuss how a multi-method approach she pioneered may be used to study the robustness of social-ecological systems. We synthesize lessons learned from a series of studies on small-scale irrigation systems in which we use comparative case study analysis, experimental methods in lab and field settings, and mathematical models. The accumulated insights show the importance of creating institutional arrangements that fit the human ecology within the biophysical constraints of the system. Critical for success is the ability to maintain trust relationships, low levels of inequality and low transaction costs of coordination. Those systems that can leverage biophysical characteristics to help address challenges of monitoring, sanctioning, and coordination have an even higher chance of success. 

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Published January 7, 2013

Marco Janssen, Arizona State University, School of Sustainability

John M. Anderies, Arizona State University, School of Sustainability/School of Human Evolution and Social Change