Chapter 4: Population Growth and the Governance of Complex Institutions: People Are More Than Mouths to Feed

Discussions of Elinor Ostrom’s key contributions to the study of polycentric governance of complex institutions are often framed as a challenge to biologist Garrett Hardin’s classic essay “The Tragedy of the Commons” (TC). Ostrom herself used the word “challenging” to describe TC, a contribution that both encapsulates and expands on Hardin’s then long-standing concern with […]

Chapter 1: Resource Governance in the American West: Institutions, Information, and Incentives

1. Polycentric Governance Much of Ostrom’s work refutes the notion that there is “a single solution to a single problem.”8 She argues instead that “many solutions exist to cope with many different problems.”9 Specifically, much of her work has explored the conditions under which local resource users can develop bottom-up, self-governing institutional arrangements to manage resources—but a […]

Chapter 3: Pacific Salmon Fisheries Management: An (Unusual) Example of Polycentric Governance Involving Indigenous Participation at Multiple Scales

1. The Polycentric Governance System of the Pacific Salmon Regime As Elinor Ostrom and her coauthors illustrated, common-pool resource management faces at least two broad types of collective action problems: “appropriation” problems and “provision” problems. One of the things that makes the salmon SES so complex is that the various governance functions addressing these types […]


Utah State University has had a long-term involvement in water resources management in the Dominican Republic. A few years ago one of us (Randy Simmons) visited the Dominican Republic’s National Institute for Water Resources. Behind a counter on the main floor of their offices, an entire wall was taken up by a map of the […]