Coding the Commons Wiki

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Welcome! This wiki exists to help researchers learn from others and compare approaches to their research on the commons. It can be used and improved by researchers, students, and practitioners engaged in the analysis of social-ecological systems or other coupled infrastructure systems to improve our collective understanding.

This wiki builds upon the work of Elinor Ostrom, Edella Schlager, and Shui Yan Tang -- who, in 1987, created the original common pool resource (CPR) coding database which has become a part of the Social-Ecological Systems (SES) Library.

Researchers on the commons, following in this scholarly tradition, have coded data from games, experiments, surveys and literature according to variables described in various frameworks and theories. Coding this data inductively also results in additional variables that may or may not fit within a pre-existing framework. Most of the frameworks and theories, and many of the models and codebooks, that have been used in this scholarly tradition are not sector-specific, though there are sector-specific databases (see below). A single case can be explored through different frameworks, etc., and two cases can be viewed through a single framework -- but only if tools for such comparisons are available.

This wiki is intended to be a collaborative repository to share codebooks and other sources of variables, to improve interdisciplinary vocabulary, and to enable comparative research.

This wiki is a work in progress. The initial variables that were added and linked through the wiki were the Coupled Infrastructure Systems (CIS) variables (aka "Robustness framework") and the Common-Pool Resource Systems Coding Handbook (aka "CPR coding manual"). Other variable sources, including those highlighted below, have been proposed for inclusion or are in the process of being added and linked. Though the wiki as a whole will never be complete, these individual contributions are at different stages of completeness. Feedback from new users of the wiki is an important part of this process and relies on contributions and feedback from the community

Variables in Case Study Examples

Hundreds of case studies of social economic systems have used variables derived from frameworks related to commons. Case study examples can help demonstrate how variables can be used and compared and new case studies can be uploaded.

Coding variable frameworks and codebooks

A code-book represents a set of variables that have been used together to inform an analysis, often derived from a specific framework

  • Program in Institutional Analysis of Social-Ecological Systems (PIASES) Framework

Basics of Coding


Post-Coding Methods


Approaches to Research on the Commons




Recommended Reading


Databases and Resources for Coding the Commons

Database Affiliation Case Studies Coding Variables Codebook Basis
Common Rules DB

(on long-term dynamics of institutions)

Utrecht University


~1000 cases ~100 variables Codebook available by request IAD Framework, IGT
Common Pool Resources (CPR) Database Center for Behavior Institutions and the Environment (CBIE) at Arizona State University


~ 90 cases ~600 variables Original codebook developed by Elinor Ostrom et al. (1987) IAD Framework
International Forestry Resources and Institutions (IFRI) Database University of Michigan


233 case studies 600+ variables Coding Manual and Forms are pubically available on website CPR Database, IAD Framework
Institutional Grammar Tool (IGT) School of Public Affairs at the University of Colorado Denver While many cases have been coded using the IGT, there is currently no database of such cases available to the public 6 primary variables (ABDICO) Crawford, S. and E. Ostrom. 1995. “A Grammar of Institutions.” American Political Science Review. 89 (3):582-600. IAD Framework, IGT
Nepal Irrigation Institutions and Systems (NIIS) Database Center for Behavior Institutions and the Environment (CBIE) at Arizona State University


274 cases (not currently publicly available) 600+ variables Codebook not currently publicly available CPR Database, IAD framework
Social-Ecological Systems Governance Database (SESGO) Martin-Luther University Halle-Wittenberg Currently no data publicly available ~500 variables No codebook is available SES Framework
Social-Ecological Systems (SES) Library Center for Behavior Institutions and the Environment (CBIE) at Arizona State University


130 cases studies publicly available CPR variables Utilizes the original codebook from the CPR database IAD Framework and Robustness Framework
Social-Ecological Meta Analysis Database (SESMAD) Dartmouth University


7 case studies available publicly 125 variables Coding schema and variable definitions are publicly available on website SES Framework