Ostrom’s work challenges the orthodox polarities of either government or private sector imposed solutions on common pool problems. For example, a study she conducted comparing self-organised, farmer-managed resources showed that they were nearly twice as productive as similar government run schemes. Meanwhile, in another study, informal fishery groups allocated space, time, and technology to try to reduce over-harvesting. A study of irrigation systems in Nepal compared systems designed by engineers and run by government with those built and run by farmers. The farmer-systems were quite “primitive” in terms of construction, but they were able to: grow more crops, run their systems more efficiently, and get more water to the tail-end. Complexity, she argues, is not to be rationalised away or denied: rather it needs to inform how best to sustain our resources held in common.
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