Special Viewpoints

Social Capital and the Collective Management of Resources

Science  12 Dec 2003:
Vol. 302, Issue 5652, pp. 1912-1914
DOI: 10.1126/science.1090847

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Abstract

The proposition that natural resources need protection from the destructive actions of people is widely accepted. Yet communities have shown in the past and increasingly today that they can collaborate for long-term resource management. The term social capital captures the idea that social bonds and norms are critical for sustainability. Where social capital is high in formalized groups, people have the confidence to invest in collective activities, knowing that others will do so too. Some 0.4 to 0.5 million groups have been established since the early 1990s for watershed, forest, irrigation, pest, wildlife, fishery, and microfinance management. These offer a route to sustainable management and governance of common resources.

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