Local knowledge (part 4, Nobel Prize-winning edition)

One of the elements of local knowledge that’s most interesting is local modes of dispute resolution. As a political scientist, I’m fascinated by these because they’re about power exercised and order established within a legal framework but outside state authority. How local modes of dispute resolution interface (or not) with the formal legal system may be a key transition stage between failed state/anarchy/lawlessness and functional state/governability/law & order. (I know that the opposite of anarchy is not governability, but go with it for the moment.)

It may also be an important element of economic development, and I suppose of varieties of capitalism. Last year, Elinor Ostrom won the Nobel Prize in Economics for a lifetime of work on alternative modes of dispute resolution. Here’s a brief blurb on Marginal Revolution, one of my favorite blogs by a couple of small-c catholic economists.

Local knowledge is interesting in philanthropy because it’s a bipartisan issue that folks on the left and right would encourage foundations to privilege more than they do. Presumably this is because the people meant to benefit from foundation-supported programs should be involved in the development of the programs meant to benefit them. So in this case local knowledge is about how resources should be allocated, what problems and their solutions are. Ostrom’s work seems to suggest that local knowledge is also about how disputes can be resolved. What’s the lesson for philanthropy? Seems worth exploring….


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One Response to “Local knowledge (part 4, Nobel Prize-winning edition)”

  1. The Blog Briefly Known as "Democratizing Philanthropy?" » Blog Archive » Local knowledge (part 5, Nobel Prize-winning edition continued) Says:

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