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Module 4900
Comparative Institutional Analysis of Social-Ecological Systems


Prof. Dr. Andreas Thiel, International Agricultural Policy and Environmental Governance, University of Kassel
Dr. Christian Schleyer, International Agricultural Policy and Environmental Governance, University of Kassel
Dr. Nora Schütze, International Agricultural Policy and Environmental Governance, University of Kassel

Module description

Institutions are shaping the economy, society and the natural environment as sets of rules norms and conventions that guide human action. They are constitutive for the dynamics and outcomes of economic and social components of agricultural and social-ecological systems, such as property rights and regulations. This module introduces, applies and evaluates empirical and analytical methods used in Institutional Analysis of agricultural and other social-ecological systems. It covers research designs, frameworks, theories, empirical methods and empirical findings of Institutional Analysis. Comparative methods and the work of Elinor and Vicent Ostrom on the Institutional Analysis and Development Framework, the Social-Ecological Systems Framework and polycentricity will form a central part of the module and will be situated among other approaches to institutional analysis.

The core objective of the module is to equip participants with knowledge, skills and resources they need to select, develop and implement institutional analysis approaches that fit their research problems. A second objective is to enable them to critically evaluate research based on institutional analysis.

To these ends the module uses a diversity of teaching methods, ranging from short lectures over directed reading and exercises to group discussions and a field trip. The field trip provides first hand opportunities to apply the knowledge gained on the first days and to evaluate institutional analysis approaches in terms of practical empirical opportunities and challenges and analytical rigour. After the field trip the sessions will draw on the experiences and open questions that emerged to illustrate and embed more specific approaches such as the analysis of polycentricity in governance of social-ecological systems. There are limited preparatory reading and no specific knowledge requirements. However, active participation, including directed reading, is expected during the module.

Course outline


Research approaches and theory



Teaching methods: 25% lectures, 30% seminars, 20% group exercises, 25% field trip

Grading: Group presentation (50%), individual report (50%)

Credit points and type: 3 CP, Theory

Requirements: No requirements

Literature: Preparatory readings are provided 3 weeks before the course. Mandatory readings will be discussed in the course.

Software: None

Language: English

Organisation and time
All sessions are at University of Kassel, Faculty of Organic Agricultural Sciences, Steinstr. 19, 37213 Witzenhausen. This is also where the one-day field trip departs and ends.

Contact for information: Dr. Nora Schütze, schuetze@uni-kassel.de