Bryan Bruns, Ph.D.

Consulting Sociologist: improving participation in irrigation, water resources management, and institutional development

Independent Scholar
: water governance, institutional analysis and development, designing commons, and solving social dilemmas

Professional work experience in Thailand, Indonesia, Vietnam,  Laos, Cambodia, Philippines, Bangladesh, Nepal, China, Tajikistan, Yemen, Egypt, and Nigeria, including consulting for the Ford Foundation, World Bank, International Water Management Institute, International Food Policy Research Institute, United States Agency for International Development, Asian Development Bank, WWF, CARE, Oxfam-America, and United Nations agencies.


  • Plan and facilitate public participation
  • Water user association development
  • Institutional analysis and design
  • Social assessment and research: rapid appraisal, case studies, surveys, and action research
  • Project preparation, implementation, and review: proposal drafting, team leadership, project management, supervision, monitoring and evaluation
  • Report writing, technical editing, conference proceedings and book editing, peer review


  • Ph.D. Sociology of Development, Cornell University.
    Minor Fields: Agricultural Economics, Southeast Asian Studies
  • M.S. Sociology of Development, Cornell University.
  • B.A. Major in Anthropology, Beloit College.

Training and Fellowships

  • Fulbright Research Award. Thailand. 1985-1986.
  • Certificate in Public Participation. International Association for Public Participation. 2003.
  • Visiting Scholar, Workshop in Political Theory and Policy Analysis, Indiana University Bloomington. 2009-2010.

Professional Memberships

  • International Association for Public Participation - IAP2
  • International Association for the Study of Commons - IASC
  • Fellow of the Society for Applied Anthropology - SfAA

Representative Accomplishments

  • Increased water user participation in irrigation system design and management
  • Improved capacity of agencies and farmers to work together
  • Prepared social and institutional aspects of rural development and water resources projects
  • Analyzed water rights system development in China
  • Co-edited books: Negotiating Water Rights and Water Rights Reform: Lessons for Institutional Design
  • Developed applications and enhanced visualizations of topology of two-person two-strategy games
Curriculum Vitae and additional information available upon request.

Recent papers

Visualizing the Topology of 2X2 Games: From Prisoner’s Dilemma to Win-win. International Conference on Game Theory, Stony Brook, NY, July 11 - 15, 2011

Switching Games: Visualizing the Adjacent Possible in the Topology of Two-person Two-strategy Games. 2X2 Working Group Session 2, Canadian Economics Association, Ottawa, June 4, 2011

Informing and Enabling Local Ground Water Governance for Yemen. Taha Taher, Bryan Bruns, Omar Bamaga, Adel Al-Weshali, and Frank van Steenbergen. National Conference on Management and Development of Water Resources in Yemen, January 15-17, 2011

Design Patterns for Customizing Irrigation Governance. Sustaining Commons: Sustaining Our Future. International Association for the Study of Commons, Hyderabad, India, January 10-14, 2011

Transmuting Samaritan's Dilemmas in Irrigation Aid: An Application of the Topology of 2X2 Games. International Association for the Study of Commons North American Meeting. Tempe AZ, September 30-October 2, 2010

Working with Institutional Artisans: Co-evolutionary Visions and Multiple Roles for Practitioner Participation in Redesigning Commons. Paper read at Society for Applied Anthropology. 70th Annual Meeting. Vulnerabilities and Exclusion in Globalization. Mérida, México. March 24-27, 2010.

Selected earlier publications

Water Rights Reform: Lessons for Institutional Design. Edited by Bryan Bruns, Claudia Ringler and Ruth Meinzen-Dick. Washington, D.C.: International Food Policy Research Institute. 2005.

Negotiating Water Rights. Edited by Bryan Bruns and Ruth Meinzen-Dick. London: Intermediate Technology Publications. 2000.

Promoting Participation in Irrigation: Reflections on Experience in Southeast Asia. World Development v. 21, No. 11 (November 1993): 1837-1849.

Just Enough Organization: Water Users Associations and Episodic Mobilization. Visi: Irigasi Indonesia 6 (February 1992): 33-41.

Negotiating Water Rights book cover

Water Rights Reform book cover

2x2 games chart