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In resource governance, understanding the factors that influence individual behavior and collective action is crucial for sustainable management. A recent study conducted by a team of researchers sheds light on the values that determine individual behavior in collective action for resource governance. The findings challenge the prevailing notion that pro-environmental values are the primary driving force and highlight the significance of other values such as tradition and conformity. This groundbreaking study combines survey data and a resource management game to explore the relationship between personal values and resource governance.
The publication was co-written with the Centre for Systems Solutions Science Director, Piotr Magnuszewski, in collaboration with Glenn Wright, Carl Salk, Joanna Stefanska, Krister Andersson, Jean Paul Benavides, and Robin Chazdon. Additionally, our team member – Michał Pająk – co-designed the Forest Management Game.
The study adopts a hybrid research design. It combines observational techniques using surveys to measure cultural values and experimental techniques – the Forest Management Game. Additionally, another survey’s questions are used to capture participants’ real-life experiences with forests and individual characteristics.
Participants in eight forest-dependant sights in Uganda and Bolivia were surveyed on their values and then engaged in a natural resource governance game.
Resource Management Game
The researchers developed a dynamic common-pool resource management game, played by eight participants in each session, spanning 15 rounds. Players are tasked with managing a stylized forest resource and make decisions on harvesting, monitoring other players’ actions, and imposing sanctions. This game captures the ecological dynamics of real-world resources, making it a more realistic representation of resource management challenges.
Contrary to initial expectations, the study finds that pro-environmental values do not strongly influence resource governance behavior. Instead, findings show that the values of tradition and conformity have a negative and significant association with harvesting behavior in the simulation.
Implications and Policy Recommendations
The emphasis on environmental values in resource governance may need reconsideration. The study highlights that taking local values into account when designing incentives and policies may lead to better outcomes in resource management. Local institutions developed by resource users that align with their values may be more effective in resource governance, while in cases where such institutions are absent or inadequate, developing new institutions may be necessary, particularly in settings where tradition and conformity are valued.
Access to the full research paper can be found here.