This paper aims to move the theoretical and empirical work on the role of social capital and leadership in natural resource governance (particularly fisheries) forward by deepening the discussion around the conceptualization and operationalization of social capital. We also extend empirical work on TURF performance by examining multiple social and ecological outcomes. We put forth four theoretically informed propositions about the relationship between key explanatory variables and outcomes. Using empirical data from six Chilean Territorial User Rights areas we provide an early assessment of the validity of these propositions using a case comparative approach, and test their usefulness in operationalizing and analyzing such multifaceted data.
Findings show that social capital may not be a useful predictor of success, while the presence of engaged leadership and agreement among members around sanctions appears more closely linked to performance across all social and ecological outcome variables. A key finding is that the use of social capital as a broad term encompassing multiple pro-social variables may not be a fruitful way forward for improving our understanding of the determinants of success in resource management. Instead results indicate that leadership interacts with specific aspects of what is generally referred to as social capital to affect outcomes. To allow theoretical refinement and hypotheses testing regarding determinants of governance outcomes we suggest the social processes measured under the broad umbrella of social capital should be kept separate.
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