Social dilemmas and individual/group coordination strategies in a complex rural land-use game

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Strengthening ongoing bottom-up capacity building processes for local and sustainable landscape-level governance is a multi-dimensional social endeavor. One of the tasks involved – participatory rural land use planning – requires more understanding and more awareness among all stakeholders regarding the social dilemmas local people confront when responding to each other’s land-use decisions. In this paper we will analyze and discuss a version of our game SIERRA SPRINGS that is simple to play for any stakeholder that can count to 24, yet entails a complex-coordination land use game – with an extensive and yet finite set of solutions – which can mimic in a stylized form some of the dilemmas landowners could confront in a landscape planning process where there livelihoods are at stake. The game has helped researchers and players observe and reflect on the individual coordination strategies that emerge within a group in response to these stylized dilemmas. This paper (1) develops a game-theoretical approach to cooperation, competition and coordination of land uses in small rural watersheds, (2) describe the goal, rules and mechanics of the game, (3) analyzes the structure of each farms’ solution set vs. the whole watershed’s solution set, (4) derives from them the coordination dilemmas and the risk of coordination failure, (5) describes four individual coordination strategies consistently displayed by players; mapping them in a plane we have called Group-Level Coordination Space, and (6) discusses the strengths, limitations and actual and potential uses of the game both for research and as an introductory tool for stakeholders involved in participatory land use planning.




García-Barrios, L., García-Barrios, R., Waterman, A., & Cruz-Morales, J. (2011). Social dilemmas and individual/group coordination strategies in a complex rural land-use game. International Journal of the Commons, 5(2), 364–387.

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