Journal of Bioeconomics

, Volume 16, Issue 1, pp 3-30

First online:

Do institutions for collective action evolve?

  • Elinor OstromAffiliated withCenter for the Study of Institutional Diversity, Arizona State UniversityWorkshop in Political Theory and Policy Analysis, Department of Political Science, Indiana University

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In this paper I will provide an overview of our findings from studying irrigation systems in the field so that readers who are not familiar with our prior research gain at least an initial sense of these findings. I will provide a second short overview —this time of the institutional analysis and development (IAD) framework offering a general method for doing institutional analysis. I will then introduce the possibility of looking at the change of rules as an evolutionary process. The method for studying the evolution of rules will be based on the IAD framework and on our long-term study of rules related to irrigation systems. In the conclusion, I return to the question as to why it is important to authorize resource users’ relative autonomy in the development of their own rules and to learn from the resulting institutional diversity.


Institutions Institutional change Rule diversity Evolution Irrigation systems