Transaction costs in the evolution of transnational polycentric governance

  • Caleb Gallemore
Original Paper


Polycentric systems of governance may help address two key challenges in the transnational governance of socioecological systems, the problems of fragmentation and fit, but there is limited understanding of the processes through which polycentric governance systems emerge. This paper draws on institutional economics and accounts of international regime formation to develop an ideal-type model of the evolution of transnational polycentric governance. In particular, the model highlights systematically different transaction costs across different phases of polycentric governance evolution. These costs result in important trade-offs between building a broad coalition during agenda setting and addressing complexity in implementation. The plausibility of the model is probed using the case of Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation (REDD+), drawing on global-level data on REDD+ collaboration, as well as fieldwork in Central Kalimantan, Indonesia. This case suggests that low transaction costs in the agenda-setting phase led to a confused vision for what REDD+ should be, ultimately hampering implementation.


REDD Polycentricity Governance Transaction costs 



Funding for this research was provided by the Norwegian Agency for Development Cooperation, the European Communities, the United Kingdom Department for International Development, and the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade of Australia, through the Center for International Forestry Research’s Global Comparative Study on REDD+ (GCS-REDD+), which developed the methodology for fieldwork in Central Kalimantan. Additional funding was provided by the Environmental Policy Initiative and the Mershon Center for International Security Studies, both at The Ohio State University, which had no input into research design. Methods for the GCS-REDD+ Component 1 on policy networks were developed with support from the Comparing Climate Change Policy Networks (COMPON) Project, headquartered at the University of Minnesota. The author is grateful for comments from Anthony Brunello, Erick Howenstine, Devin Judge-Lord, and two anonymous reviewers.


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© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Geography and Environmental StudiesNortheastern Illinois UniversityChicagoUSA

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