“The range of what we think and is limited by what we fail to notice. And because we fail to notice that we fail to notice there is little we can do to change until we notice how failing to notice shapes our thoughts and deeds.”
R.D. Laing

Elinor Ostrom and the Tragedy of the Commons

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I see the tragedy of the commons for manifesting around me, and though I do believe it doesn’t have to manifest, it seems that often it does.

This article pays respect to the work of Elinor Ostrom and cites her set of design principles for avoiding the tragedy of the commons:

 

  1. Clearly defined boundaries: members knew they were part of a group and what the group was about (e.g., fisherman with access to a bay or farmers managing an irrigation system)
  2. Proportional equivalence between benefits and costs: meant that members had to earn their benefits and couldn’t just appropriate them
  3. Collective choice arrangements: meant that group members had to agree upon decisions so nobody could be bossed around
  4. Monitoring (together with 5)
  5. Graduated sanctions: meant that disruptive self-serving behaviors could be detected and punished
  6. Fast and fair conflict resolution: meant that the group would not be torn apart by internal conflicts of interest
  7. Local autonomy: meant that the group had the elbow room to manage its own affairs
  8. Appropriate relations with other tiers of rule-making authority (polycentric governance): meant that everything regulating the conduct of individuals within a given group also was needed to regulate conduct among groups in a multi group population

 

In the world as I know it that seems like a big ask and that these patterns the tragedy of the commons is bound to manifest. To me, this seems like a good map for an aspiring group or community.

  1. Boundaries to be drawn based on who is really vested and who is not.
  2. Currencies as signaling mechanisms that indicate an “earned status”.
  3. Sociocracy for collective decision framing and making.
  4. Transparency using information technology to create a unfungable audit trail and inherent, continuous “monitoring”.
  5. Sanctions manifest initially as negative currency signals and ultimately as shifting boundaries.
  6. Non violent communication with abundant of space and time for expression, digestion, experimentation and resolution.
  7. Sociocractic circles keep decision making and actions as close as possible to the ground affected by those decisions and actiong.
  8. Assuming  these tools serve one group well … how do they (intentionally?) propogate to others?

 

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