129 – The public: private benefits framework

Long-time readers of Pannell Discussions will recall the public: private benefits framework for selecting policy tools in environmental programs. I first presented the framework in 2006, and a lot has happened with it since then, so I thought it was time for an update.

The public: private benefits framework provides a simple graphical approach that spells out the logic for selecting the most appropriate class of policy tool for influencing the behaviour of private individuals in cases where their actions have positive or negative impacts on others in the community. It was developed in the context of land-use change for environmental management, but is relevant more broadly.

The framework has now been published in an American journal called Land Economics. The published version is an update of the original Pannell Discussions, fixing up a couple of problems in the more complex version of the framework. I’ve also done more work on the role of technology development as a policy response, and submitted the results to another journal. You can see copies of all papers at the new public: private benefits framework web page, together with a PowerPoint presentation, Excel files showing calculations and graphs, and a Frequently Asked Questions section.

The framework was originally developed as an element of SIF3, a tool for evaluating public investments in salinity management, and it is now a key part of INFFER, our more general environmental investment tool. Embedded within SIF3, the public: private benefits framework has been applied to a large number of potential projects in Victoria and Western Australia, and within INFFER, it is currently being applied in several new regions. We are encouraging governments to adopt and support INFFER as an endorsed approach for regional environmental managers to use (e.g. within the new Caring for our Country national environmental program), so with a bit of luck the public: private benefits framework will soon become well known to a lot of people.

I’ve started to see it cropping up in a number of reports and papers too. Recently I reviewed a paper for a European journal in which it had been used by some Dutch researchers, which was great to see.

All this interest! I think the key is that the simple version of the framework (which is what most people make use of) can be explained in a way that makes it feel like common sense, but actually gives people some novel insights.

David Pannell, The University of Western Australia

Further Reading

Brief summary and overview of the public: private benefits framework. Three pager (35K)

New public: private benefits framework web page.

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