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Governing complexity tends to produce complex governance. This book has aimed to provide a conceptual and empirical analysis of polycentric governance that can help carry detailed research on the determinants, change and performance of polycentric arrangements into a future research program as well as new fields of application. The chapter reviews the main points of the preceding chapters.
This introductory chapter describes the rise of interest in polycentric governance and locates the book in the current literature on complex governing arrangements. It also explains why the illustrations and examples throughout the book are mainly about natural resources, and water in particular. It previews the chapters and overall organization of the book.
This chapter compares insights from our empirical cases of three kinds of interactions: cooperation, conflict and conflict resolution, and competition. The elements of authority, information, and resources affected incentives and interactions differently. Focusing on interactions as a unit of analysis points to a variety of performance criteria that may be appropriate. These criteria for assessing outcomes and processes cannot all be optimized at once, as trade-offs are evident, and different types of interaction are likely to entail different performance combinations. In our case studies, no performance criterion scored high across all cases, and no case performed well across all performance criteria.
Cooperation is an important way that decision centres interact in a polycentric governance system. Cooperation in governance has been studied by numerous scholars in the field of 'collaboration', although such scholarship seldom explicitly sets it within the framework of polycentricity. Cooperation involves multiple decision centres working across boundaries to pursue shared goals, and it is especially prevalent for addressing complex socio-ecological systems. This chapter examines cooperation in the Puget Sound basin, USA, for ecosystem restoration. This chapter describes how authority, information, and resources affected cooperation in formation of the Puget Sound Partnership and related Local Integrating Organizations, development of ecosystem recovery plans, and implementation of ecosystem recovery projects. It assesses polycentric governance performance in terms of outcomes and processes. The Puget Sound ecosystem restoration efforts exhibit relatively high levels of coherence, representation, and adaptability; relatively low levels of efficiency and accountability; and mixed results on efficacy and network building.
The delivery of public goods often spurs competition between different authorities. Competition for scarce natural resources also triggers the creation of multiple decision-making centres as different actors seek venues where they can exert authority. Competition takes multiple forms and is linked with cooperation and conflict resolution to shape the rules governing resource users' interactions. We compare the evolution and performance of market-based water reallocation, and associated institutional reforms, in two polycentric water governance arrangements: the Ebro Basin of NE Spain and the US portion of the Columbia Basin. The chapter examines how authority structures, information and capacity influence competitive interactions within and across constitutional, collective choice, and operational levels of action. Polycentric governance arrangements vary in their distribution and coordination of authority, which shapes competition and performance. The comparison reveals trade-offs between efficiency and other performance criteria; efforts to facilitate efficient water reallocation may limit accountability and representation, and vice-versa.
There has been a rapid expansion of academic interest and publications on polycentricity. In the contemporary world, nearly all governance situations are polycentric, but people are not necessarily used to thinking this way. Governing Complexity provides an updated explanation of the concept of polycentric governance. The editors provide examples of it in contemporary settings involving complex natural resource systems, as well as a critical evaluation of the utility of the concept. With contributions from leading scholars in the field, this book makes the case that polycentric governance arrangements exist and it is possible for polycentric arrangements to perform well, persist for long periods, and adapt. Whether they actually function well, persist, or adapt depends on multiple factors that are reviewed and discussed, both theoretically and with examples from actual cases.
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