Recent Posts



Collective action in Canadian Public Policy through an evolutionary theory lens

As indicated in today’s class, here is the text of the assignment for before class on Thursday, February 10th, 2011.

Pick a Canadian policy issue where you see the need for self-organization (examples):

  • Water management in the Fraser river basin
  • Policing and surveillance on buses in Metro Vancouver
  • Provision of health services for low-income folks
  • …. (your choice)

What kind of basic rules and norms would you try to enforce, and who would be both the target population and the responsible parties for enforcement? (according to evolutionary theory)

Post your reflections on this POLI 350A blog post (email me your pseudonym) before the beginning of next class.

6 Responses to Collective action in Canadian Public Policy through an evolutionary theory lens

  1. Annee

    Policy Issue: Provision of shelter for homeless.

    Basic Rules and Norms:
    – extended hours and increase of spaces available to homeless
    – lower standards and requirements for approval to be accepted into shelters
    – improved conditions of shelters
    – for long-term stay, application processes indicating active effort to find stable housing, employment, and/or education
    – priority based on proof of need or first come, first serve
    – no minimum stay required, but maximum with short in-between return time

    Target Population:
    – permanent or temporary homeless, low-income, those in need of safe shelter
    – residents or home owners of areas and property that are highly populated with homeless

    Responsible Parties for Enforcement:
    – general public via taxes
    – private tax cuts for financial contributors to program
    – individual tax cuts for volunteer time at shelters
    – social workers to assist with transitioning to stable home environment (job opportunities, information on continuing education, family counseling, etc.)
    – homeless individual(s) to actively participate in finding stable home and abiding by guidelines to be permitted into shelters

  2. LeftCoaster

    While I believe that self organization could provide effective policing and surveillance on board transit vehicles by promoting norms that include positive duties like observing, recording, documenting, and reporting incidents (perhaps even pooling funds to post information about the collective action and images of troublemakers on the commercial space on transit vehicles like shopkeepers have done with shoplifters), it seems that some efforts to deter criminal behavior could place actors in harms way (stopping fights, recording incidents).

    There is also a concern that self organization efforts to police and essentially spy on transit vehicles could create spillover effects from actual incidents to mere issues of etiquette. That is not to say that reforming the etiquette of some transit riders would not yield fruitful results, but that the lines between questions of etiquette and questions of violations of riders’ rights and Translink policy could potentially become blurred by the new-found power of collective. This could be potentially problematic if the collective steps beyond its legal means.

    At any rate it would be the responsibility of regular transit riders to enforce the norms of their collective agreements, since they would be most likely to know who might be deceitful and who might be a reliable reciprocator. Regular riders are also the most immediate population to issues of policing and surveillance on board transit. Their target population would be deviants: fare skippers, shouters, general troublemakers.

  3. MDW

    The effects of climate change are most apparent in Canada’s Arctic, with dwindling sea-ice making waters more accessible for longer periods of time, and warming temperatures threatening the habitats of many land-species. Given the dependence of the northern population on the wildlife of the Arctic, and the minimal presence of government actors, there is always the fear of free-riding on the part of individuals who may take more than their fair share of fish, caribou, etc. Indeed, some species that are protected under Canadian law (with either a ban on hunting, or strict limits) could be in jeopardy from those who opt to ignore regulations governing these essential resources knowing that there is little chance they will be found out.

    Among northern populations, the basic rules and norms that would need to be enforced would simply be limiting personal consumption of precious wildlife resources to what is a) needed by the individual in order to provide for his or herself and family members, or b) limited by law in the interests of preserving northern species.

    The target population in this instance is quite broad, encompassing all individuals who have a stake in the preservation of northern species. Any individual who relies on fish and game for sustenance is affected by the actions of those who exploit resources, and thus would be the beneficiary of enforcement mechanisms.

    While some species are protected by federally imposed limits on hunting and fishing, not all species are. And given that the limited government presence in the north would gave difficulty properly enforcing even those limits that do exist, it is up to members of northern communities to enforce the formal and informal rules and norms of behaviour in this area. A group of actors would have to feel it was in the common interest to ensure that other members of these often small communities adhered to these rules and norms. To allow a few actors to exploit these resources could mean disastrous consequences for the community as a whole if certain species’ populations are reduced, leading to long-term shortages of food.

    Seeing as these communities may indeed by quite small, the punishment for breaking the rules could be essentially exile or shaming from others, which means far more to a resident of the Northwest Territories than someone in Vancouver. If one were found to be breaking the rules, there is no doubt that much greater attention would be paid to any future actions by that person, meaning that a one-time exploitation of goods could lead to this actor suffering later on.

  4. CT

    Policy issue: lowering residence housing costs for UBC students who live on campus. (

    Target population: UBC housing and hospitality administration, UBC Senate.

    Responsible parties for enforcement: concerned students and student leaders (those who have integral roles on the Senate, AMS, board of governors, etc.)

    Rules and norms I would enforce would be to lower the residence rates across the board on all UBC residence buildings. Students are required to take out even more student loans to live on campus, especially given the fact that finding a place off-campus is more often than not more expensive than on-campus rez. Students would have to band together to establish a reasonable price for residence fees, given comparable rates off-campus and the profit margins UBC makes residence currently.
    Given the fact that UBC keeps expanding their housing endeavours, and that they save money based on the land’s bestowed integrity, it seems that UBC should be able to afford a slight lowering of the overall rates, especially in the older residence areas that are not up to date. Of course, all the normal rules would still be enforced: a minimum of 12 credits/year to stay in rez, paying fees on time, and not breaking any of the housekeeping rules.

  5. water

    Water management in the Okanagan Valley:
    Looks can be deceptive, despite the apparent abundance of water within the Okanagan valley; the region will face serve water shortages in the future if the status quo is maintained. A growing population, extensive agricultural production, and the desert climate mean that only around a metre of water is replenished in the regions lakes by steam flow every year; and much of that evaporates into the atmosphere. Given much of the valley receives less than 270 mm of rainfall a year, compared to the nearly 1200 mm received by Vancouver, water conservation is a must.
    In order to conserve the resource, new basic rules need to be applied. One small target population of this large problem would be local residents in the rural areas who continue to water their lawns during the day in the summer months, with 40 degree heat with zero humidity. Given the rural areas reliance on ground wells, the absence of ordinances and water metres, forcing citizens to cease this action would be one step towards a solution. The parties responsible for enforcement would be local neighbours themselves through social cohesion and collective enforcement. With the punishment for non-compliance being social shame (the region has a vast supply of grumpy old men willing to scold and shame their neighbours).

  6. Giraffe

    Achieving a sustainable Fraser River Basin is one of the most influential challenges facing the growing 2.7 million British Columbians occupying the geographical area. Managing a sustainable river basin includes addressing such issues as managing the effects of climate change, developing sustainable fisheries, maintaining water quality, controlling river traffic, and flood preparation. In order to tackle these issues, a number of rules need to be placed, namely water protection rules that limit the amount and timing of harvesting the valuable resource. Water metering would allow to measure the amount of water being used and would thus, control water usage. Modes of self-organizing governance, whereby individuals enforce aquatic management provides a viable solution to governing the resource. While this collective action can come from institutions, it can also originate in the community. A system of monitoring and surveillance of the resource in order to stop free riding is crucial. Monitoring and sanctions should be imposed by local and accountable individuals rather than rules established by unknown officials that are then imposed on the local participants. The target population, which is quite broad in this case and includes anyone who takes advantage of the resource, should ideally participate in governance and surveillance of the water. Most importantly, there needs to be access to local arenas to resolve any arising conflict. Communication has been proven to build trust among the participants and increases cooperation.

Leave a Reply

Spam prevention powered by Akismet