This article presents constitutionality as a new approach for analyzing bottom-up institution-building processes emphasizing local perceptions and local agency in common pool resource management. Using four case studies—fisheries in Zambia; pasture and forestry in Mali; fisheries in Indonesia; forestry in Bolivia—this approach analyzes examples of local institution building differing from top-down imposed participation. Our analysis highlights six components of constitutionality: emic perceptions of the need for new institutions, participatory processes of negotiation, preexisting institutions as a basis for institution building, outside catalyzing agents, recognition of local knowledge, and higher level acknowledgment of the new institutions.
The article was selected as “Designated Award Finalist” for the second annual “Rabel J. Burdge and Donald R. Field Outstanding Article Award” of Society and Natural Resources. Read more here (link no longer available).