The Institutional Work of Payments for Ecosystem Services: Why the Mundane Should Matter

Kristjan Jespersen, Caleb Gallemore

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal articleResearchpeer-review


While the literature on ecological economics often notes the importance of institutions, there has been less attention to the ways in which these institutions are created in practice. We contribute to the literature on institutions in ecological economics by examining the practice of institutional creation in the context of the literature on Payments for Ecosystem Services (PES). While a large literature outlines ideal PES models, PES literature tends to overlook the demanding everyday work involved in building and maintaining the institutions upon which successful PES models depend. Drawing on the theory of institutional work, we conduct an extensive survey of the literature on PES to find examples of everyday work undertaken to build and maintain PES institutions, or else to disrupt institutions that stand in the way. Finding very limited discussion of the work of institutional creation, we present a case study of efforts to develop Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation (REDD +) in Central Kalimantan, Indonesia, identifying numerous examples of institutional work essential to the initiative. We suggest that institutional work, with its highly developed typologies of actions involved in institutional creation, can be a helpful tool for critical institutionalist studies of ecological economics.
Original languageEnglish
JournalEcological Economics
Pages (from-to)507–519
Number of pages13
Publication statusPublished - Apr 2018

Bibliographical note

Published online: 11 December 2017


  • Payments for ecosystem services
  • Institutional work
  • Institutions
  • Work
  • Institutional creation
  • REDD +

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