Psychological ownership, the feeling that something is mine, is a diverse social construct on the individual level with a measurable core dimension of possessiveness. It can be fostered through participative elements in combination with behaviour change interventions. The concept originally stems from the organizational context, where antecedents leading to, and consequences of psychological ownership were vastly researched. Initial evidence of the application of the construct to shared targets such as the environment or common-pool resources, for instance community-based water infrastructure, yielded promising results. However, causal evidence is scarce and a holistic adaptation of the construct, tests of theory-based interventions concerning the routes, validation of the measurement scale, and a systematic investigation of the consequences of psychological ownership are lacking.
This dissertation presents findings from two community development programmes in Nepal and India, where psychological ownership for community-based water infrastructure was the subject of the research.
Our results are in-line with existing evidence from the organizational context and applications in other domains. First, we found qualitative evidence for the importance of the construct in the specific context of Nepal and India, and we validated the measurement for individual psychological ownership. Second, we found that interventions should be targeting the three routes substantially, e.g. by participatory activities. Community participation can be seen as a means of implementation and therefore needs to be combined with individual-level behaviour change and embedded in institutional interventions to cause greater psychological ownership. Third, the results show that psychological ownership fosters behavioural determinants and organizational citizenship behaviour, but not the functionality of safe water supply infrastructure.
This body of work provides various connecting factors for future research. Apart from changes towards an enabling environment, it is important to disentangle complex interaction of stakeholders. There is a need for experts to take care of key infrastructure. In turn, psychological ownership plays an important role in the acceptance, use and sustainability of community-based safe water supply.