Original Research Article
Insights on fostering the emergence of robust conservation
actions from Zimbabwe's CAMPFIRE program
, Natalie C. Ban
, Juan Carlos Castilla
, Morena Mills
, Edson Gandiwa
, Michel Etienne
Andrew T. Knight
, Pablo A. Marquet
, Hugh P. Possingham
Environmental Futures Research Institute, Grifﬁth University, Nathan, Queensland, 4111, Australia
ARC Centre of Excellence for Environmental Decisions, Centre for Biodiversity &Conservation Science, University of Queensland,
Brisbane, Queensland, 4072, Australia
Department of Conservation Ecology and Entomology, Stellenbosch University, Private Bag X1, Matieland, 7602, South Africa
Centre for Complex Systems in Transition, School of Public Leadership, Stellenbosch University, Stellenbosch, 7600, South Africa
School of Environmental Studies, University of Victoria, PO Box 1700 STN CSC, Victoria, BC, V8W 2Y2, Canada
Departamento de Ecología and Estaci
on Costera de Investigaciones Marinas, Las Cruces. Facultad de Ciencias Biol
olica de Chile, Av Libertador Bernardo O'Higgins 340, Santiago, Chile
Laboratorio Internacional de Cambio Global (CSIC-PUC). Pontiﬁcia Universidad Cat
olica de Chile, Av Libertador Bernardo O'Higgins 340,
MERIC, Marine Energy Research &Innovation Center, Av. Apoquindo, 2827, Santiago, Chile
Center of Applied Ecology and Sustainability (CAPES) &Centro de Conservaci
on Marina, Departamento de Ecologia, Facultad de
ogicas, Pontiﬁcia Universidad Cat
olica de Chile, Santiago, Chile
Center for the Study of Multiple Drivers on Marine Socio-Ecological Systems (MUSELS), Pontiﬁcia Universidad Cat
olica de Chile,
Bren School of Environmental Science and Management, University of California Santa Barbara, Santa Barbara, CA, 93106, USA
Department of Life Sciences, Imperial College London, Buckhurst Road, Ascot, Berkshire, SL5 7PY, United Kingdom
School of Wildlife, Ecology and Conservation, Chinhoyi University of Technology, Private Bag 7724, Chinhoyi, Zimbabwe
Institut National de la recherche agronomique (INRA), France
Department of Botany, Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University, Port Elizabeth, South Africa
Departamento de Ecología, Facultad de Ciencias Biol
ogicas, Pontiﬁcia Universidad Cat
olica de Chile, Santiago, Chile
Laboratorio Internacional en Cambio Global (LINCGlobal), Pontiﬁcia Universidad Cat
olica de Chile, Santiago, Chile
Instituto de Ecología y Biodiversidad (IEB), Casilla 653, Santiago, Chile
The Santa Fe Institute, Santa Fe, NM, 87501, USA
The Nature Conservancy, 4245 North Fairfax Drive Suite 100, Arlington, VA, 22203-1606, USA
Received 19 January 2019
Accepted 20 January 2019
One strategy to address threats to biodiversity in the face of ongoing budget constraints is
to create an enabling environment that facilitates individuals, communities and other
groups to self-organise to achieve conservation outcomes. Emergence (new activities and
initiatives), and robustness (durability of these activities and initiatives over time), two
related concepts from the common pool resources literature, provide guidance on how to
support and enable such self-organised action for conservation. To date emergence has
received little attention in the literature. Our exploratory synthesis of the conditions for
emergence from the literature highlighted four themes: for conservation to emerge, actors
need to 1) recognise the need for change, 2) expect positive outcomes, 3) be able to
experiment to achieve collective learning, and 4) have legitimate local scale governance
authority. Insights from the literature on emergence and robustness suggest that an
appropriate balance should be maintained between external guidance of conservation and
*Corresponding author. Environmental Futures Research Institute, Grifﬁth University, Nathan, Queensland, 4111, Australia.
E-mail addresses: d.biggs@grifﬁth.edu.au,email@example.com (D. Biggs).
Contents lists available at ScienceDirect
Global Ecology and Conservation
journal homepage: http://www.elsevier.com/locate/gecco
2351-9894/©2019 Published by Elsevier B.V. This is an open access article under the CC BY-NC-ND license (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-nd/
Global Ecology and Conservation 17 (2019) e00538
enabling local actors to ﬁnd solutions appropriate to their contexts. We illustrate the
conditions for emergence, and its interaction with robustness, through discussing the
Communal Areas Management Programme for Indigenous Resources (CAMPFIRE) in
Zimbabwe and reﬂect on efforts at strengthening local autonomy and management around
the world. We suggest that the delicate balance between external guidance of actions, and
supporting local actors to develop their own solutions, should be managed adaptively over
time to support the emergence of robust conservation actions.
©2019 Published by Elsevier B.V. This is an open access article under the CC BY-NC-ND
Conservation aims to protect biodiversity to ensure persistence through time. However, conservation actions (e.g. pro-
tected areas, community-based management) commonly do not reach their desired goals, as they fail to be implemented, are
managed inappropriately, or are reversed as the social and political context changes (Salafsky et al., 2002;Mascia et al., 2014).
At the same time, threats facing biodiversity, such as habitat loss, unsustainable levels of hunting, and the spread of invasive
species continue to escalate, and available budgets and political will to mitigate against these threats are under renewed
pressure (Craigie et al., 2010;Rands et al., 2010;Waldron et al., 2013). Thus, a deeper understanding of the drivers of suc-
cessful implementation of conservation actions and their persistence through time is required. We argue that emergence and
robustness, two related concepts from the Common Pool Resources (CPR) literature, can provide insight and guidance into
achieving longer lasting conservation outcomes by harnessing and supporting the potential of self-organised action.
The CPR literature describes conditions that lead to long-term sustainable management of natural resources. Particularly
relevant for conservation is the focus on self-organisation of resource governance by communities. The development or
creation of new rules (also referred to as institutions or institutional arrangements) for sustainable resource management is
described as ‘emergence’in the CPR literature (Lubell et al., 2002;McCay, 2002). Within a conservation context, these rules
are often thought of as conservation actions (e.g. derived from new policies, local initiatives) that can deliver conservation
beneﬁts. Robustness refers to the ability of these actions, and the supporting rules and institutions of management, to persist
over time in the face of internal and external pressure (Ostrom, 2005;Cox et al., 2010). The principles for robustness have
achieved prominence in the literature (including a Nobel Prize in Economics for Elinor Ostrom, who developed these “design
principles”), and have been applied to a number of natural resource settings (e.g. Ostrom, 1990;Ostrom, 2009;Cox et al.,
2010). However, the conditions for emergence, and how they relate to principles of robustness, have received little atten-
tion to date. While several conditions have been identiﬁed that enable the emergence of new rules among groups of
stakeholders for collective action towards more sustainable management of common pool resources, and by extension the
conservation of biodiversity (e.g. Ostrom, 1990;McCay, 2002;Heikkila and Gerlak, 2005), they have not yet been synthesised.
We aim to address this gap in this perspective article. First, we present an exploratory synthesis of the conditions that un-
derpin emergence according to the CPR literature and focus on the Communal Areas Management Programme for Indigenous
Resources (CAMPFIRE) in Zimbabwe as a case study to illustrate the conditions. Second, we discuss how the conditions for
emergence interact with the principles of robustness and discuss these interactions in the CAMPFIRE program. Third, we
reﬂect on the implication for contemporary conservation initiatives through incorporating insights from efforts at
strengthening local scale resource governance around the world.
CAMPFIRE is an appropriate case study due to its focus on strengthening ownership, control, and decision-making power
of rural communities and the establishment of supporting institutions (Martin, 1986;Child 1996a,1996b). In addition, since
2000, a political and economic crisis (Balint and Mashinya, 2006,2008;Child and Barnes, 2010;Gandiwa et al., 2014),
including a controversial land reform program, has plagued Zimbabwe, which enables an exploratory assessment of how
these external pressures impacted the robustness of CAMPFIRE.
Through a series of workshops and discussions among the authors during which we drew on our knowledge of the CPR
literature (e.g. Ostrom, 1990,2005,2010a, b;McCay, 2002;Heikkila and Gerlak, 2005), augmented by non-systematic
searches of Google Scholar and the Web of Science database we searched through the articles that had cited the emer-
gence references listed in Table 1 to determine whether the conditions for emergence had been updated, adapted or eval-
uated. In addition we asked two common property researchers (Michael Cox (e.g. Cox et al., 2010) and Michael Schoon (e.g.
Schoon and Cox, 2018)) to review the conditions we identiﬁed and point us to additional literature we may have overlooked.
To evaluate the presence or absence of the conditions for emergence and robustness in CAMPFIRE for this exploratory
synthesis we combined searching through the peer-reviewed articles that had cited the initial peer-reviewed papers on
CAMPFIRE (Child, 1993;Metcalfe, 1994;Child, 1995,Madzudzu, 1995;Child, 1996a, b) for relevant papers together with the
authors knowledge of research outputs from CAMPFIRE.
D. Biggs et al. / Global Ecology and Conservation 17 (2019) e005382
3. Conditions for emergence
We identiﬁed ten conditions for emergence that can be divided into four themes (Table 1;Fig. 1).
A. Recognising the need for change (conditions 1e2): This entails the need for a shared understanding of a problem and
agreement among actors that action to address it is worthwhile (McCay, 2002;Heikkila and Gerlak, 2005).
B. Expectation of positive outcome (conditions 3e4): This includes a collective interest in adopting new rules, based on high
perceived beneﬁts relative to cost and the likely collective cost of not adopting the rules (Ostrom, 1990;Heckathorn and
Maser, 1987;Lubell, 2002;Heikkila and Gerlak, 2005;Schneider et al., 2003).
C. A context that facilitates experimentation and collective learning among actors (conditions 5e8): The presence of policy
entrepreneurs, individuals who take advantage of opportunities to inﬂuence outcomes (Kingdon, 2011), that can cham-
pion new rules and advocate for their adoption as well as a context that allows groups to communicate and share ex-
periences (i.e. understand beneﬁts of the new actions or rules based on experiences elsewhere) is required. In addition,
social norms that favour collaboration, such as reciprocity, trust, and an expectation that the group beneﬁting from the
adoption of new actions and rules will be relatively stable, are necessary.
D. An opportunity for legitimate local scale governance (conditions 9e10): Actors should feel that their interests are repre-
sented and that the decision-making structure is legitimate (Schneider et al., 2003). Moreover, there should be an op-
portunity for norms to be generated internally, rather than externally imposed, because externally imposed sanctioning
and enforcement seems to crowd out the development of cooperative behaviour (Ostrom, 2005;Bowles, 2016)
Conditions for emergence.
THEME A: Recognising the need for change
1 Collective recognition of the problem: The collective recognition of a
serious problem by a critical mass of actors is important for widespread
McCay (2002);Heikkila and Gerlak (2005)
2 Shared understanding of the problem: A shared view on the cause and
effect of the recognised problem is needed for the recognition that an
action is worthwhile.
McCay (2002);Heikkila and Gerlak (2005)
THEME B: Expectations of positive outcomes
3 Collective interest in adopting new rules: A shared understanding of the
perceived collective beneﬁt of adopting rules or the collective cost of not
adopting the rules. This includes the transaction costs of developing,
negotiating, monitoring, and enforcing the action.
Heckathorn and Maser (1987);Ostrom (1990);Taylor and Singleton
(1993);Lubell (2002);Heikkila and Gerlak (2005);Basurto and Ostrom
4 High expectation and value of future beneﬁts: Changing one's day to day
action to engage in a conservation action is more likely when the
continuation of activities from the area (e.g. farming or ﬁshing) is highly
valued. A recognition of the detrimental personal impact of a past
behaviour on the future of that activity can serve as an impetus to
Ostrom (1990);Schneider et al., (2003)
Theme C: Context that facilitates experimentation and collective learning among actors
5 Presence of policy entrepreneurs: Someone who will champion the rule
and advocate for its adoption will speed the rate of adoption by others.
6 Context allows for collective learning: Ability to share experiences and
ideas among members of the group, as well as other groups will allow
information from those who adopt the conservation action to pass to others
in the population.
McCay (2002);Schneider et al., (2003)
7 Social norms that favour collaboration: Reciprocity, trust and cooperation
should be valued by the actors in the system. There should be an alignment
of core values and beliefs sufﬁcient to want to work towards a solution.
Ostrom (1990);Ostrom (1998);Sabatier and Jenkins-Smith (1993);
Heikkila and Gerlak (2005);Ostrom (2005)
8 Expectations that the group will be relatively stable: The group
appropriating and beneﬁting from the new actions and rules will be stable.
Ostrom (1990);Lubell (2002);Heikkila and Gerlak (2005)
Theme D: Legitimate local scale governance
9 Perceived legitimate decision-making structure: Decision making
structures that provide stakeholders with an opportunity to present their
own interests and are perceived to deliver a fair outcome are required.
Ostrom (1990);Schneider et al., (2003)
10 Opportunity to generate new norms internally: The opportunity is
provided for norms to be internally generated rather than externally
imposed facilitates the spread of norms which suit the majority of the
D. Biggs et al. / Global Ecology and Conservation 17 (2019) e00538 3
4. Emergence in CAMPFIRE
4.1. Theme A: Recognising the need for change
From the late 1970s, a collective realisation began to materialize that Zimbabwe faced the dual challenge of rural poverty
in communal areas and increasing pressure on wildlife and their habitats (Condition 1; Child, 1996a;Child, 1996b). A shared
recognition of the problem emerged among conservationists, social scientists, social workers, economists, and politicians that
the allocation of rights over wildlife to rural communities presented an opportunity to tackle both challenges (condition 2,
Table S1;Child, 1996a;Child, 1996b).
4.2. Theme B: Expectation of positive outcomes
As a result of the shared recognition of the problem, and the need for change there was a collective interest in adopting
new policies to improve the livelihoods of rural communities and conserve wildlife, with an expectation that the beneﬁts of
action would exceed costs (conditions 3 &4, Table S1;Martin, 1986;Murphree, 1991;Metcalfe, 1994). Therefore in CAMPFIRE,
rural communities occupying land under communal tenure obtained the authority to use wildlife commercially and have
control over how to spend that income (Child, 1996a;Frost and Bond, 2008).
4.3. Theme C: A context that facilitates experimentation and collective learning among actors
The development of CAMPFIRE was further supported and enabled bythe presence of policy entrepreneurs which engaged
NGOs, representatives of government departments and community groups (Condition 5, Table S1)(Child, 1996a,b).
Furthermore, the CAMPFIRE Association enabled collective learning and developed guidelines and processes for contracts
with rural district councils and allowed for discussion of lessons learnt in Association meetings (condition 6, Table S1)(Child,
1996a). Social norms that favour collaboration were partially present as national government and rural district councils were
reluctant to decentralise power to community level, and wanted to maintain control, particularly over revenue (condition 7,
Fig. 1. How the conditions and robustness relate. The numbers refer to the conditions for emergence in Table 1 and S1 and the principles for robustness in Table 2
D. Biggs et al. / Global Ecology and Conservation 17 (2019) e005384
Table S1)(Child 1996a,1996b). Furthermore, although villages and wards were clearly deﬁned, and the beneﬁts associated to
CAMPFIRE were restricted to these deﬁned communities, and therefore there was an expectation that groups would remain
relatively stable, there was a challenge of in-migration to communities that received income from successful CAMPFIRE
projects (condition 8, Table S1)(Child, 1996a;Dzingirai, 2003).
4.4. Theme D: Opportunity for legitimate local scale governance
CAMPFIRE was based on strong principles of community participation and equitable beneﬁt sharing (conditions 9 &10,
Table S1), and the devolution of wildlife management and beneﬁts to the smallest feasible scale (Child, 1996a). However,
CAMPFIRE has been criticised for communities not being sufﬁciently independent of government, due to the reluctance by
national and local governments to decentralise power to community level (Mutandwa and Gadzirayi, 2007). For example, the
Zimbabwean national treasury tried to maintain control over all the income ﬂowing to CAMPFIRE communities, undermining
effective collaboration while CAMPFIRE was developing (Child, 1996b). As a result the weakened ability of groups in
CAMPFIRE to represent their own interests and the opportunity to generate new norms internally negatively affected the
perceived legitimacy of the decision-making structure (Condition 9 &10). In addition, areas such as the Nkayi and Lupane
districts were characterised by historic conﬂicts and violence which undermined the legitimacy of local scale governance
(Alexander and McGregor, 2000).
5. Emergence, robustness &CAMPFIRE
5.1. Emergence and robustness
The principles for robustness have been studied extensively in the common pool resources research, primarily focussed on
small communities, and small group settings (Ostrom 1990,2005;McCay, 2002) (See Table 2). Common characteristics of
these institutions (referred to as the design principles) have been developed and evaluated in a number of community-based
natural resource management and conservation settings (Ostrom 1990,2009;Cox et al., 2010;Mills et al., 2013).
Conservation actions that emerge must also be sustained through time. Therefore, understanding the similarities and
differences among the conditions for emergence and principles for robustness is critical. The conditions for emergence in
theme C (a context that facilitates experimentation and learning among actors) and theme D (opportunity for legitimate local
scale governance) (Table 1) are closely related to key principles for robustness (Fig.1). For example, the opportunity for norms
to be generated internally rather than externally imposed (emergence condition 10) is related to the existence of minimal
recognition of rights to organise (robustness principle 7). Similarly, the expectations that a group will be stable (emergence
condition 8) is congruent with having clear use and resource boundaries (robustness principle 1); knowing who is within the
group that beneﬁts from the conservation action is thus important in determining its emergence and robustness.
Principles of robustness. Source (Ostrom, 2005,2009;Cox et al., 2010):
1A Clear user boundaries: Boundaries between legitimate users and nonusers must be clearly deﬁned. De facto and de jure boundaries are clearly
deﬁned. Some Parks are protected on paper (de facto) but this designation is not recognised by local people.
1B Clear resource boundaries: Clear boundaries are present that deﬁne a resource system and separate it from the larger biophysical
2A Congruence with local conditions: Appropriation and provision rules are congruent with local social and environmental conditions.
2B Access, use, and harvest are proportional and appropriate with local conditions: The beneﬁts obtained by users from a common-pool
resource (CPR), as determined by access, use, and harvest rules, are proportional to the amount of inputs required in the form of labor, material,
or money, as determined by provision rules.
3Collective-choice arrangements: Most individuals affected by the operational rules can participate in modifying the operational rules.
4A Monitoring users: Monitors who are accountable to the users monitor the appropriation and provision levels of the users.
Monitors and enforcers are present and they are accountable to the community groups and individuals that they are monitoring
4B Monitoring the resource: Monitors who are accountable to the users monitor the condition of the resource.
5Graduated sanctions: Appropriators who violate operational rules are likely to be assessed graduated sanctions (depending on the seriousness
and the context of the offense) by other appropriators, by ofﬁcials accountable to the appropriators, or by both.
6Conﬂict-resolution mechanisms: Appropriators and their ofﬁcials have rapid access to low-cost local arenas to resolve conﬂicts among
appropriators or between appropriators and ofﬁcials.
Systems with low cost conﬂict resolution mechanisms are more likely to survive.
7Minimal recognition of rights to organise: The rights of appropriators to devise their own institutions are not challenged by external
Resource users have the rights to adapt harvesting and conservation rules themselves over time.
8Nested enterprises: Appropriation, provision, monitoring, enforcement, conﬂict resolution, and governance activities are organized in
multiple layers of nested enterprises.
Smaller scale institutions for design and implementation of rules and enforcement are nested within larger organisations and institutions and
that there are relationships between these scales
D. Biggs et al. / Global Ecology and Conservation 17 (2019) e00538 5
5.2. CAMPFIRE under pressure: impacts on emergence and robustness
From 2000 onwards, the political and economic crisis in Zimbabwe, including a controversial land reform program,
severely tested CAMPFIRE and counter-acted the favourable conditions for its successful emergence (Balint and Mashinya,
2006,2008;Child and Barnes, 2010;Nyamwanza, 2014). Following the onset of the land reform, an increasing number of
CAMPFIRE communities became subject to the resettlement of new people within their communities that laid claim to the
resources and beneﬁts, and donors withdrew support (Mutandwa and Gadzirayi, 2007;Gandiwa et al., 2014). Thus, user
boundaries became less clear and human wildlife conﬂict increased (Le Bel et al., 2011). As a result both the existence of
conditions for emergence and the presence of the robustness principles were weakened. In particular conditions for emer-
gence 7 (social norms that favour collaboration) and 8 (expectations that the group will be stable) and robustness principles 1
(clearly deﬁned user and resource boundaries) were weakened (Tables S1 and S2).
Additionally, the rights of groups to organise and decide how to harvest and manage their resources (robustness principle
7, Table S2) and the collective choice arrangements where individuals affected by rules should be able to participate in their
modiﬁcation (robustness principles 3 and 7) were undermined both internally and externally. Within Zimbabwe, national
government and rural district councils wanted to maintain control, particularly over revenue, and therefore resisted
decentralising power to communities (Child, 1996b;Balint and Mashinya, 2006;Muboko and Murindagomo, 2014). For
example, by 2001, over 40% of revenue from CAMPFIRE was retained by some government district ofﬁces compared to the
guidelines of 15% (Balint and Mashinya, 2006), changing the relative beneﬁts of engaging in the program. Externally, the ban
on the import of elephant hunting trophies into the USA (US Fish and Wildilfe Service 2015), a key source of income to
CAMPFIRE communities, has reduced beneﬁtﬂows to communities. These developments, weakened the perceived legitimacy
of the decision-making structures (emergence condition 9) and the opportunity to generate new norms internally (emer-
gence condition 10) (Tables S1 and S2).
Furthermore, the CAMPFIRE Association and NGOs supporting CAMPFIRE became weaker as a result of Zimbabwe's po-
litical crisis, impairing the existence of a nested structure of organisation and multi-level governance (robustness principle 8,
Table S2)(Balint and Mashinya, 2006). This hindered the ability of participant communities to access external support or
input if required (Balint and Mashinya, 2008).
5.3. Characteristics of robust CAMPFIRE communities
However, despite the challenges facing CAMPFIRE, the program remained robust in some communities. An analysis from
south-east Zimbabwe around Gonarezou National Park showed that communities that have been more robust joined the
CAMPFIRE program earlier and had more time to develop robust institutions and were characterised by higher levels of trust
and cooperation (Ntuli and Muchapondwa, 2018). These communities were able to resist pressures sufﬁciently to maintain
adequate levels of control over their deﬁned boundaries (robustness principle 1, Table S2), and make collective choice ar-
rangements (robustness principle 4, Table S2). Furthermore, adequate conﬂict resolution mechanisms were in place in these
more robust communities (Principle 6), and they maintained the right and ability to organise themselves (robustness
principle 7). Not unexpectedly, these communities characterised by the maintenance of the principles for robustness and
higher levels of cooperation were also responsible for achieving better wildlife conservation outcomes (Ntuli and
6. Insights for addressing contemporary conservation challenges
6.1. Balancing decentralisation with the provision of external support through multi-level institutions
For new actions to develop and persist over time, local groups need to be afforded sufﬁcient freedom to devise and adapt
their own rules (Condition 10, Table 1). However, multiple levels of continued external support are important for the
robustness of such new initiatives (Principle 8, Table 2). In the governance and CPR literature, multi-level institutions, also
known as polycentric institutions (a governance system with multiple governing authorities at different scales, Biggs et al.,
2012), have been shown to be effective at both enabling local autonomy, which allows for experimentation, whilst main-
taining external support and guidance in response to crises and change (Anderies et al., 2007;Ostrom, 2010a). In a polycentric
system, multiple organisations and governing bodies at a variety of scales (e.g. local to national and international) have
different responsibilities and roles for governance and support (Ostrom, 2010a).
Building and maintaining multi-level institutions and governance practices and achieving the balance between giving
local groups sufﬁcient freedom to develop their own solutions, whilst continuing to provide external support and guidance in
conservation and resource management initiatives was one of the key challenges facing CAMPFIRE (Tables S1 and S2).
Effective multi-level governance is a challenge beyond CAMPFIRE and Zimbabwe. For example, in the Gulf of California,
community groups that successfully established locally crafted harvesting rules and marine reserves experienced rapid in-
creases in marine resource abundance (Cudney-Bueno and Basurto, 2009). However, the increased resources attracted
outside poachers, which the communities did not have the capacity to counter. Effective multiple governance, and assistance
with the enforcement of local management and harvesting rights is recommended to strengthen these successful community
groups (Cudney-Bueno and Basurto, 2009).
D. Biggs et al. / Global Ecology and Conservation 17 (2019) e005386
6.2. The challenge of insufﬁcient decentralisation and local autonomy
The lack of willingness of both the national government in Zimbabwe as well as the rural district councils to devolve power
and control, particularly over revenue, to local communities was one of CAMPFIRE's key challenges (; Child, 1996b;Mutandwa
and Gadzirayi, 2007;Mapedza, 2009). A lack of willingness of governments to decentralise and devolve power has been
demonstrated across the tropics in forestry management (e.g. Ribot et al., 2006) and in African ﬁsheries (Bene al. 2009).
Furthermore, well-intentioned international environmental and conservation initiatives need to be carefully managed to
ensure healthy, and well-functioning multi-level institutions and governance (Gruby and Basurto, 2013). For example, the
Reductions of Carbon Emissions through Deforestation and Degradation program (REDD þ) has been criticised for initiating a
recentralisation of forest policy (Phelps et al., 2010). Consequently, local groups could lose effective ownership and rights over
forests, and also lose the ﬂexibility to manage their forest resources according to their own needs, reducing the environmental
and social beneﬁts of REDDþ(Chhatre and Agrawal, 2009).
6.3. Examples of successful multi-level governance
Examples of multi-level governance aimed at maintaining a balance between external guidance and support and local
management do exist. For instance, the ﬁsheries policy in Chile was recently revised in a way that strengthens the capacity of
actors to develop locally agreed upon ﬁsheries management plans (Gelcich, 2014). This new policy aims to maintain a
healthier balance between the need for external support for enforcement and monitoring through national scale rules and
institutions and allowing for local autonomy and adaptability (Ostrom, 2010b;Gelcich, 2014). This type of approach has
potential to inform novel conservation strategies inwhich local communities control conservation areas, whilst national level
institutions steer and support these processes (Gelcich et al. 2008,2012). Indeed, multi-national organisations such as the
European Union or international or national NGOs can be key to maintaining effective polycentric institutions by supporting
the enactment of sub-national, national, or global conservation policies, while simultaneously supporting a greater devo-
lution of rights to local groups. Support from these organisations could include technical advice, facilitation, subsidies or
ﬁnancial support especially at critical times, and assistance in communication and in applying political pressure where
necessary. The continuation of such international support during Zimbabwe's political crisis and the pressures faced could
have led to more CAMPFIRE communities remaining robust. Indeed, a long term commitment of support from external
agencies can play a critical role in maintaining conservation outcomes, especially during times of internal strife (Struhsaker
et al., 2005). Moreover, if this support is accompanied by a deep understanding and respect for local contexts, the support is
likely to be more effective at delivering sustainable outcomes locally (Lancaster, 1999;Ika, 2012).
6.4. Importance of ongoing communication and dialogue
To build and maintain multi-level institutions, communication that enables social learning between stakeholders across
multiple levels of governance is critical (Condition 6 and 7, Table 1 and Principle 8, Table 2)(Schusler et al., 2003;Blaikie,
2006;Cumming et al., 2006;Armitage, 2008;Gruby and Basurto, 2013). Structures and fora for communication between
community groups, supporting NGOs, technical advisors, and government ofﬁcials played an important role in the successful
development and implementation of CAMPFIRE (Child, 1996a). Adequate structures for communication among resource
users, researchers and the government were also essential in the development of new policy in Chile (Gelcich, 2014).
Adequate communication, supported by local and international non-governmental organisations, was also critical for the
adoption and spread of Locally Managed Marine Area Network in the Paciﬁc(Mascia and Mills, 2018) and in small-scale
community based initiatives ﬁsheries in other countries in Latin America (Castilla et al., 1998;Defeo and Castilla, 2012).
6.5. Constraints of donor cycles and political circumstances
Many conservation actions are subject to the constraints applied by donors and aid agencies. The constraints on donors to
continue to provide funding to projects in Zimbabwe after the onset of the political crisis from 20 00 onwards weighed heavily
on CAMPFIRE (Balint and Mashinya, 2006,2008). Political crises and constraints aside, donor cycles typically run for three
years, requiring reportable deliverables to be met within a speciﬁed timeframe (Sayer, 2004;Wells and McShane, 2004). In
addition, centralised management structures are often preferred by donors because these structures allowdonors to maintain
greater control (Morss, 1984). Donors’desire to maintain control and the relatively short funding cycles can be incongruent
with lengthy and unpredictable participatory processes that enable communities to develop their own rules (Atkinson et al.,
2006). The longer-term beneﬁts of taking a participatory approach aligned with the conditions for the emergence and
principles of robustness of conservation actions may not be visible over the time-frames of donor reporting (Wells and
McShane, 2004). Similarly, conservation actions that are led or implemented by governments can also be affected by
shorter term political and election cycles (Stein, 2001).
D. Biggs et al. / Global Ecology and Conservation 17 (2019) e00538 7
6.6. Emergence, robustness and enhancing resilience
The conditions for emergence and principles of robustness overlap with the principles that have been identiﬁed on how to
enhance the resilience of desired features of social-ecological systems (e.g. Anderies et al., 2007;Ostrom, 2009;Biggs et al.,
2012). There is a strong degree of overlap with three principles for enhancing resilience, as summarised by Biggs et al. (2012).
First, the principle of encouraging learning and experimentation overlaps with two conditions of emergence: a shared un-
derstanding of the problem (condition 2, Table 1) and a context that allows for collective learning (condition 5 Table 1).
Second, the resilience principle of broadening participation coheres with three conditions for emergence: social norms that
favour collaboration (condition 7, Table 1), perceived legitimate decision-making structure (condition 9, Table 1), and the
opportunity to generate new norms internally (condition 10, Table 1). The resilience principle of broadening participation also
concurs with two principles of robustness: collective choice arrangements (principle 3, Table 2), and minimal recognition of
the rights to organise (principle 7, Table 2). Third, the resilience principle of promoting polycentric governance systems
concurs closely with the robustness principle of nested enterprises (Ostrom, 2005;Cox et al., 2010) (principle 8, Table 2).
7. Limitations and future research directions
Our exploratory synthesis of the conditions for emergence aims to provide a basis for more in-depth, systematic, and
rigorous literature reviews and empirical analyses of emergence. For example, the types of analyses that have been conducted
testing the robustness principles in differing contexts would be useful to evaluate or modify the conditions for emergence
synthesised here (Cox et al., 2010;Mills et al., 2013). Moreover, the conditions for emergence described here were established
through studies that focussed primarily on small communities and groups (Ostrom 1990,2005). However, the extent towhich
the conditions hold at larger scales, and which conditions may be more important than others in particularcontexts, requires
Further research is needed on how the conditions for emergence and the principles of robustness of conservation actions
relate to the ﬁndings from work on the emergence of governance (e.g. O’Mahony and Ferraro, 2007). The development of a
shared conception of authority that is able to adapt and change over time is critical for a self-organised community to develop
successfully and work together to achieve shared objectives (Brechin et al., 2002). The role of authority and control, and its
establishment in a group, and how it changes and develops over time among groups working to achieve conservation out-
comes will provide additional insights to fostering the emergence of conservation actions and maintaining their robustness.
Finally, understanding how conservation actions emerge and are robust over time: 1) extends and deepens our under-
standing of enabling conditions and durability of conservation actions, 2) allows the identiﬁcation of conservation actions
achieved through harnessing self-organised action and 3) provides guidance on how to maintain the appropriate balance
between external support, and local autonomy. Therefore, we argue that conservation organisations should explicitly
consider emergence and its interactions with robustness in their policy and practice and that research that informs the
evolution and adaptation of the conditions for emergence presented here is urgently required.
Article impact statement
Principles of emergence and robustness can guide how to enable self-organisation to drive locally-developed conservation
We would like to thank Edwin Muchapondwa, Diane Skinner and Brian Child for their inputs on CAMPFIRE in Zimbabwe,
based on their personal experience with the initiative. We would also like to thank Common Property Researchers Michael
Cox and Michael Schoon for their review of the principles of emergence that we identiﬁed. We thank the Australian Research
Council CEED and Project on Marine Conservation CCM RC 130004 (IniciativaCientiﬁcaMilenio) and the Estaci
on Costera de
Investigaciones Marinas (ECIM), Las Cruces, Universidad Cat
olica de Chile for funding the workshops that led to this publi-
cation. Duan Biggs is supported by an Australian Research Council Discovery Early Career Researcher Grant (DE 160101182).
Julia van Velden and Abigail Brown assisted with ﬁnal proof-reading and formatting of this paper.
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