Frank van Laerhoven

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Frank van Laerhoven studies environmental governance, particularly the governance of natural resources in developing countries. Although starting from the local level, he approaches governance as a multi-tiered, multi-actor affair with network characteristics. His research agenda includes an interest in decentralization reforms, local democracy and participation, and the solving of collective action dilemmas. He combines his interest for environmental governance with a general interest in development issues. Most of his work so far, focuses on Latin America.

Frank received his Ph.D. in Public Policy from Indiana University in 2008. For his dissertation he studied local governance regimes concerning the environment and rural development in Brazil, Mexico, Peru, and Chile. His findings point to the fact that reforms aiming at decentralization (i.e. leaving the organization of provision and production of public goods and services to local governments) and democracy (i.e. giving local constituents the opportunity to get involved in the coprovision and coproduction of these goods and services) may be necessary, but are not sufficient to guarantee relevant governance outcomes. The success of democratic decentralization reforms seems to depend to an important extent on whether or not institutions for collective action emerge.

Frank’s research has appeared in Comparative Political Studies, The International Journal of the Commons, Society and Natural Resources, and Global Environmental Change. Together with Krister Andersson (University of Colorado) and Gustavo Gordillo de Anda (Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) (ret.)), Frank is the co-author of a book, published by the University of Arizona Press in 2008 (Decentralization and Rural Development: Local Governance Lessons from Latin America).

Between 1996 and 2002, Frank has worked with environmental policy issues as an international civil servant and consultant for the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) in Senegal and Chile, respectively.


Van Laerhoven, F. (2010). Governing community forests and the challenge of solving two-level collective action dilemmas—A large-N perspective. Global Environmental Change 20(3), 539-546

Andersson, K, Gordillo de Anda, G. & Van Laerhoven, F. (2008). Local Governments and Rural Development: Comparative Lessons from Brazil, Chile, Mexico, and Peru. University of Arizona Press.

Bartley, T., Andersson, K., Jagger, P., & Van Laerhoven, F. (2008). The Contribution of Institutional Theories to Explaining Decentralization of Natural Resource Governance. Society and Natural Resources, 21(2), 160-174

Van Laerhoven, F., Ostrom, E. (2007). Traditions and Trends in the Study of the Commons. International Journal of the Commons 1(1), 3-28

Andersson, K., & Van Laerhoven, F. (2007). From Local Strongman to Facilitator: Institutional Incentives for Participatory Municipal Governance in Latin America. Comparative Political Studies 40(7), 1085-1111


Commons specific

Together with Erling Berge (Norway), Frank van Laerhoven is the Editor-in-Chief of the International Journal of the Commons. The International Journal of the Commons (IJC) is an initiative of the International Association for the Study of the Commons (IASC). As an interdisciplinary peer-reviewed open-access journal, the IJC is dedicated to furthering the understanding of institutions for use and management of resources that are (or could be) enjoyed collectively. These resources may be part of the natural world (e.g. forests, climate systems, or the oceans) or they may emerge from social realities created by humans (e.g. the internet or (scientific) knowledge, for example of the sort that is published in open-access journals). Using resources collectively is often believed to be problematic. In practice however, many cases can be found of common pool resources that are used in a sustainable way. IJC hopes that its interdisciplinary approach will contribute to creating a balanced and nuanced view of how common pool institutions emerge, develop and perform.


Frank van Laerhoven teaches at the faculty of Geosciences, Department of Innovation and Environmental Sciences of Utrecht University (Netherlands).

More information

International Journal of the Commons:

IJC on LinkedIn:

Frank van Laerhoven on LinkedIn:

Interview in

Copernicus Institute for Sustainable Development and Innovation:

Department of Innovation and Environmental Sciences:

Research Master in Sustainable Development at Utrecht University:

International Joint Master’s Degree Program in Sustainable Development: