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2011-01-25 | News

How can people interact to solve environmental issues?

Plans for the research program Human Cooperation to Manage Natural Resources were elaborated on January 17-19 at Indiana University in Bloomington. Project partners are Nobel laureate Elinor Ostrom's research group at Indiana University, Resources for the Future in Washington, and the Environmental Economics Unit, University of Gothenburg.

"It is exciting to start up a new research collaboration on these important issues of how people can interact to solve environmental issues, and it was wonderful to see the very cosy, unpretentious and work-oriented atmosphere at the “Workshop”, says professor Thomas Sterner (left), the Gothenburg team leader, when returning.

The Workshop in Political Theory and Policy Analysis at Indiana University was founded by Elinor and Vincent Ostrom. (  Its mission is to promote the interdisciplinary study of institutions, incentives, and behavior as they relate to policy-relevant applications. 

“Our research networks are complementary. The Ostrom network has already much presence in many low-income countries but not so much yet in Ethiopia where we have already quite a large amount of ongoing work, especially through the EfD initiative," says Sterner.

Agriculture, driving restrictions in developing countries, and forest management are only a few of the research areas which relates to ongoing EfD research.

The full research program is funded by Formas ( as part of an investment in "Strong Research Environment". It is divided into four interdisciplinary research themes: 1) Individual behaviour, cooperation and trust; 2) Quality of Life for People and Animals; 3)Fairness and Distributional Issues of Management and Policies, and 4) Governance, Policies and Sustainable Management.

This is a more detailed overview of the planned projects within each research theme:
1) Individual behavior, cooperation and trust
a. Social influence on behavior: experiments with farmers in Ethiopia
b. Role of institutes. Risk and ambiguity (farmers´ adaptation to climate change)
c. Experiment on low-cost land reform  in Ethiopia
d. The sustainability of social-ecological systems
e. Institutions and social dilemmas: (e.g. choice of punishment scale, monitoring, reporting)

2) Quality of Life for People and Animals
a. Quality of Life and the Environment
b. Animal Welfare

3) Fairness and Distributional Issues of Management and Policies
a. Distributional effects of fuel taxation 
b. Willingness to pay for effort-sharing rules
c. The value today of future costs 
d. Effect of repeatedly using grandfathering on incentives and fairness

4) Governance, Policies and Sustainable Management
a. Devolution of forest management and implications of tenure reform
b. Corruption and Forest Reform 
c. Management of community wildlife conservancies 
d. Adapting Institutions to Change
e. Clean Development Mechanism
f. Tradable Permits in Developing Countries
g. Theory on Policy Instruments
h. Environmental impacts of eco-certification in developing countries
i. Driving restrictions in developing countries
j. Land tenure and natural resource use in Latin America
k. Effectiveness of protected areas in stemming deforestation in El Salvador
l. Policentric approach to climate change, relationship central policies to local initiatives
m. Theory of policy instruments – ontology SES   

By Karin Backteman