Two of Ostrom’s (1990) institutional design principles emphasize the role of the local –rules must be adapted to local conditions and resource users must participate in the rulemaking process. These principles were determined empirically through cross-site analysis, but a large body of research from science studies supports these finding theoretically as well. The most clear example of including the community in management is through comanagement, which works at the collective level to shift how and where rules are made (Jentoft, McCay et al. 1998). The comanagement process also highlights the importance of different types of knowledge to the policy process by providing a more complete base of information on which to make decisions.
The supporting theory reaches back to early studies in game theory that determined the fairness of a rule was one of the critical factors in determining if cooperation would emerge (Axelrod 1984). Fairness does not necessarily mean that every citizen benefits equally, but instead that people are punished according to their transgressions and benefit according to their contributions. However, the perception of fairness matters more than actual fairness when people evaluate a policy. That perception depends on transparency of the policymaking process. Gusterson goes so far as to say “instead of seeking a definitive technical judgment, then, we should ask about the processes by which judgments come to be considered definitive and their authors authoritative” (Nader 1996). People are more likely to consider a policy fair if they consider the process fair. One way, arguably the best way, to make the process transparent and therefore fair is to involve citizens in that process. Continue reading Why Listen to the Local Guy?