Published: Nov. 29, 2018 By

Krister Andersson became a professor in the CU Political Science Department in 2005 after a career with the United Nations. Andersson worked for the Food and Agriculture Organization of the UN, focusing on issues of forest conservation.

“During my time at the UN, we were asked by member governments to provide advice for how they could develop policies that were more supportive of local people using and protecting forest resources.”

Andersson’s career with the UN and his exposure to the problems within public policy is what ultimately pushed him into Graduate school.

“I became more interested in trying to contribute to the scientific knowledge of what actually works in forest protection and what allows certain communities to be really good at using the forest sustainably, while other communities do not seem to care about the long-term sustainability of forest resources.”

Professor Andersson attended Indiana University to examine this topic of interest. “I became a research assistant during Graduate school and ended up working with Professor Elinor Ostrom who had already done a lot of work on the local governance of natural resources. I learned how to do research on my topic of interest with her and other colleagues at the university.”

Andersson’s interest in forest sustainability has brought him around the world – specifically to countries in Latin America, where his primary research is focused. “I really enjoy working in Latin America and with Latin American colleagues. Also, it helps that my wife is from Chile and that we speak Spanish at home.”

“Travelling has been integral to my research because so much of my work is about issues where there are no readily available databases. To test new theories and ideas I am required to go out and collect the data.”

As the Director of the Center for the Governance of Natural Resources at CU’s Institute for Behavioral Sciences, Andersson conducts research with other faculty members and students from various departments on campus. Andersson funds this research with grants from the National Science Foundation and other organizations.

“The research we do all has one thing in common and that is we are interested in how policy interventions affect decision making on the ground. We have looked at rural-development interventions in Brazil, groundwater taxes in Colorado, Payments for Environmental Services in Tanzania, and Decentralization policies in Bolivia, to mention a few.”

In another project, Andersson and students from CU studied a decentralization reform in Honduras and its effect on the quality of healthcare that citizens were receiving. “We interviewed 9,500 households in Honduras about how they perceived this reform and we measured the degree of malnourishment among kids in all households. Our analysis, which is still underway, is showing that the reform made a difference in improving public health services, especially when it comes to providing improved access to women and children.”

This project was conducted over the course of five years, indicating the time and dedication that these research projects take.

Andersson is also working on a research project with Nathan Cook, a political science graduate student. “With funding from the National Science Foundation, we are going to look at issues of inequality in community managed forests in India and Nepal.”

“The idea of community managed forests is becoming a really popular strategy for forest conservation and it has some substantial benefits to local communities, but often the richest members of the community are benefiting the most and we will investigate this problem and together with colleagues in Nepal and India, identify and test possible solutions.”

Outside of his research, Andersson teaches public policy classes and encourages students to get involved in research.

“In my Introduction to Environmental Policy class, students do term projects that are linked to specific problems and issues here on CU campus. For example, one group is looking at the cost and benefits of the CU recycling program. The students in my class work on practical issues where they do original research on local problems and at the end of the course they present a report to stakeholders on campus.”

Andersson provides opportunities for students to learn how to research and apply it in a practical way that will inform a good response to a public problem.

Andersson is also applying these concepts to graduate level courses. Next semester, Andersson is teaching a graduate level seminar called Behavior Science Public Policy Analysis.

“The idea with this course is to explore how we can make public policies better and more effective by incorporating findings from the behavioral sciences.”

“A lot of our public policies are based on old-fashioned understandings of human behavior, so the course will examine the assumptions behind policies and discuss alternative policy approaches based on a better understanding of human behavior.”

When asked what advice he would give to students wanting to become involved in research, Andersson said: “Take public policy courses in the Political Science Department because in these classes you will learn how research can help make a difference in local and national decision making and activism.”

You can read more about Professor Anderson and his research here

Caption: Professor Andersson in Barundani, Rajastan, India, interviewing Mr. Pradeep Singh, a former Member of the Legislative Assembly for Mandalgarh, India.

Photo Credit: Rahul Chaturvedi 2014

Andersson interviewing Community Council Leaders in Khoda Ganesh, Rajastan, India (October 2014).

Photo Credit: Rahul Chaturvedi 2014

Participants in a focus group discussion in rural Indonesia in 2014, discussing the lessons learned from an interactive decision-making game that simulates decisions about individual use of common pool resources.  Results published in Andersson et al 2018.

Photo Credit: Tuti Herawati/CIFOR

Ugandan villagers participating in a group discussion as part of a behavioral field experiment about Payments for Environmental Services. Results published in Andersson et al 2018.

Photo Credit: Michal Pajak

Boy on horse in one of Professor Andersson’s field sites in the municipality of San Rafael in the Bolivian lowlands. Interviews with local decision makers and NGOs in this site contributed to several publications, including a paper on the environmental impacts of a public policy reform, published in the Proceedings of the National Academies of Science (PNAS) in 2016

Photo: Daniel Beams