This study explores the governance of new infrastructure development projects. When planning a new scheme, it is common for project promoters to consult prospective users but keep design decision-making authority centralized to preempt scope creep and cost and/or time overruns—often to no avail. A case where authority was decentralized and results were reportedly good sparked this research. The setting is a program to develop school buildings where design decision-making authority was shared across the national government, local government, and the schools’ faculties. To make sense of the empirical observables, the study first extends Ostrom’s theory of polycentric commons governance to design co-production. Using this cognitive lens, the analysis shows that design choices can qualify as a common-pool resource and be subjected to polycentric commons governance. The analysis also reveals a nuanced story about performance. A polycentric commons is advantageous to keep multiple autonomous actors satisfied and encourage unpaid contributions of resources. But there is variance in the extent this structure gets things done to target and yields innovation. The discussion traces this outcome back to, first, how this complex form of governing delineates decision-making authority; and two, its capabilities in preempting an unmanageable number of disputes and chaos from ensuing, and in resolving unavoidable disputes.
|Publication status||Published - 2015|