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Communication, Observability and Cooperation: a Field Experiment on Collective Water Management in India

Tanya O'Garra and Katherine A. Alfredo
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Tanya O'Garra: Middlesex University

No bsg75, SocArXiv from Center for Open Science

Abstract: This study is an empirical investigation of the potential for communication and observability interventions to increase cooperation around communal water treatment systems amongst villagers in rural India. Despite the dependence of many rural communities in India on communal water sources and treatment plants for safe drinking water, they often fail to collectively manage these resources, resulting in abandoned water points and treatment systems with consequent health and mortality impacts. Results of public goods games framed in terms of the management of communal water treatment systems suggest that observability (public disclosure of behaviour) had the very significant effect of decreasing contributions to the public good. Analysis suggests this was mainly due to conformity to frequently-observed free-riding. Only when participants were actively encouraged to negotiate agreements, did cooperation increase significantly - albeit intermittently. These results show that the success of institutional design principles devised to increase cooperation depends on existing social norms and practices in the community of interest. A failure to account for these informal rules and standards of behaviour may result in unintended consequences, such as a decline in collective action around the public good.

Date: 2018-06-22
New Economics Papers: this item is included in nep-cdm, nep-dev and nep-exp
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DOI: 10.31219/

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