Good governance is not really a thing, it’s a process. For that reason, it’s not something a local government can say is ever really ‘done’ or complete. The frequent application of the principles of good governance and creating feedback loops to find out what worked and what didn’t are ways that a local government – or any organization really – can assure itself and those who depend on it that the best interests of everyone involved is being regarded as well as possible.
When I think of the principles of good governance, there are some that are fundamental to the practice, others that are important, and yet others that are ‘nice to have’. Each organization will likely have a different focus on the various principles, but most of them will be present in one form or another.
To me, the absolute bedrock of good governance principles are respect and accountability. With these principles present, the local government can either build a new organization based in good governance, or it can revitalize a local government that has perhaps lost its way over the years.
After planning, there is work to be done. Revisiting plans allows for revaluation of information, saving a municipality both time and money. There are several processes that can support the development and application of good governance principles. Perhaps the most significant of those is strategic planning or sustainability planning. The development, application and revision of a governance-level plan shows anyone who is interested that the local government has thought about what a successful future looks like, what the priorities are now, and how the government can measure progress from here to there.
Putting the municipality’s money where its proverbial mouth is also gives a good illustration of what the community’s priorities are. If that budget is aligned to delivering on the priorities in the strategic plan, we see a real focus. Even if there is no strategic plan, the budget really is an indication of where the municipal priorities lie because resources are scarce, and council needs to put limited money, time, energy and effort into places it thinks will move the community from where it is now to where it ought to be in their estimation. The spend reflects the priorities.
I will end where I began, with the statement that Good Governance is never really complete. It is a process that strives to show that the council and administration are working together to get better, challenging themselves to be better, thinking about the marriage and not just the wedding.
If you’re interested in some of what Strategic Steps does, including exploring strategic planning and how the principles of good governance apply, here’s a link to the services page on our website.
As always, I’m interested in your thoughts about this topic. What do you see as a wise practice in the application of good governance brought to life? You can find me at email@example.com or on Twitter @strategic_steps.