• Logged in as Unregistered User
  • Sign in

Social-Ecological Systems Meta-Analysis Database: Theory

Communication and collective action

Variable relationship:

As discussed extensively in Poteete et al. (2010), the ability of a group of resource users to engage in person-discussions--even without the possibility of sanctioning,--(Personal Communication) has positive effects on their ability to act collectively (Collective Action) and sustain a resource (Commons Condition Trend). It does this by producing needed trust (Actor Group Trust) among the commons users.

As Poteete et al. (2010) state: "For example, face-to-face communication (and resulting verbal commitments) may change participants’ expectations of other participants’ responses. In particular, if a participant believes that other participants are reciprocators (i.e., will cooperate in response to cooperative play), that participant may play cooperatively to induce cooperation from others. In this case, cooperating can be sustained as rational play in the framework of incomplete information regarding participant types." 

Scientific Field
Component Type(s)


VariableRoleRole ExplanationValue
Personal communicationUnderlying independent variableThe ability to communicate regarding their shared dilemma has been shown to encourage collective action in many instances.Frequent (e.g. More than once a year)
Actor group trustProximate independent variableIn person communication increases trust among resource users.High
Collective actionIntermediate outcomeHigh levels of trust encourages collective among resource usersHigh
Commons condition trendFinal outcomeHigh levels of cooperation help to sustain the commons that is being managed.Remained the same or Improved

Related Theories

TheoryRelationshipCharacterizing Variables
Community-based natural resource management (CBNRM)nested
Past collaboration and social capitalrelated
Collective action and the commonscontains

Related Studies


Poteete, Amy R, Marco A Janssen, and Elinor Ostrom. 2010. Working Together: Collective Action, the Commons, and Multiple Methods in Practice. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press.