Adoption of community monitoring improves common pool resource management across contexts

Tara Slough*, Daniel Rubenson, Roee Levy, Francisco Alpizar Rodriguez, María Bernedo del Carpio, Mark T. Buntaine, Darin Christensen, Alicia Cooperman, Sabrina Eisenbarth, Paul J. Ferraro, Louis Graham, Alexandra C. Hartman, Jacob Kopas, Sasha McLarty, Anouk S. Rigterink, Cyrus Samii, Brigitte Seim, Johannes Urpelainen, Bing Zhang

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review


Pervasive overuse and degradation of common pool resources (CPRs) is a global concern. To sustainably manage CPRs, effective governance institutions are essential. A large literature has developed to describe the institutional design features employed by communities that successfully manage their CPRs. Yet, these designs remain far from universally adopted. We focus on one prominent institutional design feature, community monitoring, and ask whether nongovernmental organizations or governments can facilitate its adoption and whether adoption of monitoring affects CPR use. To answer these questions, we implemented randomized controlled trials in six countries. The harmonized trials randomly assigned the introduction of community monitoring to 400 communities, with data collection in an additional 347 control communities. Most of the 400 communities adopted regular monitoring practices over the course of a year. In a meta-analysis of the experimental results from the six sites, we find that the community monitoring reduced CPR use and increased user satisfaction and knowledge by modest amounts. Our findings demonstrate that community monitoring can improve CPR management in disparate contexts, even when monitoring is externally initiated rather than homegrown. These findings provide guidance for the design of future programs and policies intended to develop monitoring capabilities in communities. Furthermore, our harmonized, multisite trial provides sustainability science with a new way to study the complexity of socioecological systems and builds generalizable insights about how to improve CPR management.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere2015367118
JournalProceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America
Issue number29
StatePublished - 20 Jul 2021
Externally publishedYes


FundersFunder number
Government of the United Kingdom


    • Common pool resources
    • Community monitoring
    • Institutional adoption
    • Meta-analysis
    • Multisite trial


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