What strikes me as most impressive in Ostrom’s paper is her dedication to making her point understood by all – which is also the basis of why she’s arguing in favor of a more complexly defined framework for social-ecological systems. Ostrom writes: “Without a framework to organize relevant variables identified in theories and empirical research, isolated knowledge acquired from studies of diverse resource systems in different countries by biophysical and social scientists is not likely to cumulate.” The intent is clear: lots of data and research can be done by lots of different types of scientific communities, but unless all that information is placed in an immensely detailed, overarching framework, it’s just going to cause a mass of confusion.
The framework is also important in its simplifying of terms so that even people without a background in ecology, economics, social science, etc., can comprehend it. This part is key – because it allows business owners, farmers, and other self-interested groups to actually grasp the research findings the framework asks for. This is all summed up in her questioning of “What will interested parties be willing to do to avoid a tragedy of the commons?” It’s a whole lot easier for those parties to come up with responses when they’re better able to understand the research they’ve been presented with.
Though Ostrom’s framework may appear messy and chaotic – what with there being seven settings, ten second-level variables, and endless outcomes – each one is very easily and clearly defined. Olstrom has provided us with a rudimentary formula, all we need to do is plug in the numbers.