Collective Action and Social Contagion: Community Gardens as a Case Study
Regulation and Governance, 2019, DOI: 10.1111/rego.12256 (Final Version).
35 Pages Posted: 30 Aug 2019 Last revised: 5 Oct 2019
Date Written: 2019
Institutions for collective action (ICAs), comprising individuals that informally organize to manage collective resources, have gained recognition as a significant means of informal governance of common resources alongside the more formal schemes of privatization and top-down regulation. Using the case study of community gardens, this Article locates ICAs within the broader phenomenon of self-organization in complex systems, and inquires whether ICAs exhibit dynamics of social contagion and diffuse in accordance with patterns that prevail in self-organized complex systems.
Applying quantitative methods derived from the field of complexity, we measure the temporal, spatial and spatiotemporal diffusion of community gardens in the city of Jerusalem. The results suggest that the spread of community gardens in the urban space displays patterns of self-organization and social contagion. More generally, these findings suggest that ICAs may scale from the micro to the macro level in a bottom-up, self-expanding manner, while maintaining the advantages of local, commons-based, arrangements. This perspective carries significant policy implications, and highlights the potential use of ICAs as a means for governance of public resources, not only on a local, micro, scale, but also on a more global scale.
Keywords: Institutions for Collective Action; Complexity; Fractals; Community Gardens; Governance of Common Resources; Nudge; Scaling; Self Organization; Social Contagion; Diffusion of Innovation; Regulation; Urban Areas
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