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Heterogeneity, Group Size and Collective Action: The Role of Institutions in Forest Management


Collective action for sustainable management among resource-dependent
populations has important policy implications. Despite considerable progress
in identifying factors that affect the prospects for collective action, no consensus exists about the role played by heterogeneity and size of group. The debate continues in part because of a lack of uniform conceptualization of these factors, the existence of non-linear relationships, and the mediating role played by institutions. This article draws on research by scholars in the International Forestry Resources and Institutions (IFRI) research network which demonstrates that some forms of heterogeneity do not negatively affect some forms of collective action. More importantly, IFRI research draws out the interrelations among group size, heterogeneity, and institutions. Institutions can affect the level of heterogeneity or compensate for it. Group size appears to have a non-linear relationship to at least some forms of collective action. Moreover, group size may be as much an indicator of institutional success as a precondition for such success.

Poteete, A., E. Ostrom. 2004. Development and Change 35(3): 435–461

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