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An iterative approach to case study analysis: insights from qualitative analysis of quantitative inconsistencies

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Large-N comparative studies have helped common pool resource scholars gain general insights into the factors that influence collective action and governance outcomes. However, these studies are often limited by missing

Large-N comparative studies have helped common pool resource scholars gain general insights into the factors that influence collective action and governance outcomes. However, these studies are often limited by missing data, and suffer from the methodological limitation that important information is lost when we reduce textual information to quantitative data. This study was motivated by nine case studies that appeared to be inconsistent with the expectation that the presence of Ostrom’s Design Principles increases the likelihood of successful common pool resource governance. These cases highlight the limitations of coding and analysing Large-N case studies. We examine two issues: 1) the challenge of missing data and 2) potential approaches that rely on context (which is often lost in the coding process) to address inconsistencies between empirical observations theoretical predictions. For the latter, we conduct a post-hoc qualitative analysis of a large-N comparative study to explore 2 types of inconsistencies: 1) cases where evidence for nearly all design principles was found, but available evidence led to the assessment that the CPR system was unsuccessful and 2) cases where the CPR system was deemed successful despite finding limited or no evidence for design principles. We describe inherent challenges to large-N comparative analysis to coding complex and dynamically changing common pool resource systems for the presence or absence of design principles and the determination of “success”. Finally, we illustrate how, in some cases, our qualitative analysis revealed that the identity of absent design principles explained inconsistencies hence de-facto reconciling such apparent inconsistencies with theoretical predictions. This analysis demonstrates the value of combining quantitative and qualitative analysis, and using mixed-methods approaches iteratively to build comprehensive methodological and theoretical approaches to understanding common pool resource governance in a dynamically changing context.

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  • 2016-09-09

Challenges and opportunities in coding the Commons: problems procedures, and potential solutions in large-N comparative case studies

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On-going efforts to understand the dynamics of coupled social-ecological (or more broadly, coupled infrastructure) systems and common pool resources have led to the generation of numerous datasets based on a

On-going efforts to understand the dynamics of coupled social-ecological (or more broadly, coupled infrastructure) systems and common pool resources have led to the generation of numerous datasets based on a large number of case studies. This data has facilitated the identification of important factors and fundamental principles which increase our understanding of such complex systems. However, the data at our disposal are often not easily comparable, have limited scope and scale, and are based on disparate underlying frameworks inhibiting synthesis, meta-analysis, and the validation of findings. Research efforts are further hampered when case inclusion criteria, variable definitions, coding schema, and inter-coder reliability testing are not made explicit in the presentation of research and shared among the research community. This paper first outlines challenges experienced by researchers engaged in a large-scale coding project; then highlights valuable lessons learned; and finally discusses opportunities for further research on comparative case study analysis focusing on social-ecological systems and common pool resources.||Includes Supplemental materials and appendices publications in International Journal of the Commons 2016 Special Issue. Volume 10 - Issue 2 - 2016

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  • 2016-09-09

Explaining Success and Failure in the Commons: The configural nature of Ostrom's Institutional Design Principles

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Governing common pool resources (CPR) in the face of disturbances such as globalization and climate change is challenging. The outcome of any CPR governance regime is the influenced by local

Governing common pool resources (CPR) in the face of disturbances such as globalization and climate change is challenging. The outcome of any CPR governance regime is the influenced by local combinations of social, institutional, and biophysical factors, as well as cross-scale interdependencies. In this study, we take a step towards understanding multiple-causation of CPR outcomes by analyzing 1) the co-occurrence of Destign Principles (DP) by activity (irrigation, fishery and forestry), and 2) the combination(s) of DPs leading to social and ecological success. We analyzed 69 cases pertaining to three different activities: irrigation, fishery, and forestry. We find that the importance of the design principles is dependent upon the natural and hard human made infrastructure (i.e. canals, equipment, vessels etc.). For example, clearly defined social bounduaries are important when the natural infrastructure is highly mobile (i.e. tuna fish), while monitoring is more important when the natural infrastructure is more static (i.e. forests or water contained within an irrigation system). However, we also find that congruence between local conditions and rules and proportionality between investment and extraction are key for CPR success independent from the natural and human hard made infrastructure. We further provide new visualization techniques for co-occurrence patterns and add to qualitative comparative analysis by introducing a reliability metric to deal with a large meta-analysis dataset on secondary data where information is missing or uncertain.||Includes Supplemental materials and appendices publications in International Journal of the Commons 2016 Special Issue. Volume 10 - Issue 2 - 2016

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  • 2016-09-09