Islands of effectiveness

(extracts from pp. 150-153)
“How might autonomous zones of decision-making – islands of effectiveness – come about in difficult governance environments? Two sets of challenges in particular shape the quality of these multistakeholder engagements. First, there is the ubiquitous challenge of facilitating cooperation among participants to achieve joint benefits, in a way that limits the classic free rider and other moral hazard problems. This is the classic challenge of work on collective action.

“What does it take for a group of principals to co-operate successfully? Over an almost forty year career, Nobel-prize winner Elinor Ostrom analyzed the incentives for co-operation, via both field work and structured laboratory-style experiments to assess the incentives for co-operation, part of the burgeoning field of behavioral economics. Based on this work, she went beyond the standard depiction of institutions as a set of rules, monitoring and enforcement arrangements, and laid out a disaggregated framework of ‘working rules’ which, she argued, could be used to describe any and all institutional arrangements. With these rules as backdrop, she identified a set of eight ‘good practice’ principles for the successful governance of collective action……..

“There is also a second challenge. When co-operation works it creates a valuable asset (a quasi-rent, in formal economic parlance). Especially in the absence of formal institutions of restraint, this asset potentially can attract the attention of powerful actors seeking to capture the returns from multistakeholder governance for themselves – even though over the longer-term this predation would kill the goose that laid the golden egg. To be successful, collective action must fend off predation. How?

“A useful point of departure is to recognize that all collective action initiatives are populated with multiple interested stakeholders. Some are directly associated with the collective endeavor; others are on the periphery. Some are protagonists of the development purpose; others are predators who seek to capture for their own private purposes what the protagonists are seeking to build. Predators and protagonists each have their own channels of influence. ‘Threat’ resources comprise the influence networks on which predators might draw to over-ride with impunity rules intended to facilitate achievement of the development purposes. ‘Trumping’ resources comprise the countervailing influence networks on which protagonists might draw to facilitate compliance with rules. These influence networks – the structure of the alliances which bind them together, and their relative weight– are, in turn, shaped by the broader political and institutional dynamics within which the collective endeavor is embedded. Under what conditions might trumping influence networks prevail over the threat from predators? Three broad conditions seem to be key…..” (continues on p. 153)

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