, Volume 16, Issue 1, pp 3-30
Date: 22 Mar 2013

Do institutions for collective action evolve?

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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.

This paper draws sections from the annual Neale Wheeler Watson Lecture presented at the Nobel Museum, Stockholm, Sweden, April 12, 2008, and “Crafting Analytical Tools to Study Institutional Change” (with Xavier Basurto), 2011. I am appreciative of support from the National Science Foundation, the MacArthur Foundation, and a current project with David Sloan Wilson supported by the Templeton Foundation. Thanks also to the colleagues who have given me excellent feedback on earlier drafts—Sue Crawford, Nicolas Faysse, Robert Holahan, Marco Janssen, and Brian Steed—and to Patty Lezotte for all of her great spirit and editing skills.