Governance and good governance

Good governance always involves a range of different elements.
(c) Can Stock Photo / vaeenma

The terms governance and good governance are increasingly being used in development literature. The concept of governance is not new. It is as old as human civilization. Governance describes the process of decision-making and the process by which decisions are implemented (or not implemented). These procseses can include the political, economic, administrative, social processes and institutions by which public authorities, communities and the private sector take decisions on how best to develop and manage water resources. Different modes of governance include hierarchy (centralised/regulatory), market (competition) and networks (collaborative), and these have an impact on which forms of knowledge occur and dominate in important decision-making processes. Governance can be used in several contexts and scales such as corporate governance, international governance, national governance and local governance. In the context of governance in the face of ongoing global change, increasing attention is being paid to linked concepts of adaptation and adaptive management.

Common to many reviews pointing to good governance are elements of equity and social justice, stakeholder inclusion, strategic thinking, accountability and fairness. Many of these key elements are also those that support social learning and lead to the development of resilient communities. The links on this page focus on collaborative or networked governance forms:


Governance principles for community‐centered conservation in the post‐2020 global biodiversity framework. 
Derek Armitage et al. (2020) Conservation Science and Practice
Core principles of community‐centered conservation governance include: (a) building multilevel networks and collaborative relationships needed to coproduce conservation solutions; (b) promoting equity and recognizing the central role of women as agents of positive change in conservation efforts across scales; (c) reframing conservation action through the lens of reconciliation and redress (e.g., responding to injustices from land grabs and territorial enclosures); (d) ensuring a rights‐based approach to conservation action in which community agency, access and decision making autonomy are supported; and (e) revitalizing the customary and local institutions that provide legitimate and adaptive strategies for the stewardship of biodiversity.


Social dimensions of resilience in social-ecological systems
Joshua Cinner & Michele L. Barnes (2020) One Earth
In this Primer, the authors introduce key social factors that provide resilience in linked social-ecological systems, including (1) assets, (2) flexibility, (3) social organization, (4) learning, (5) socio-cognitive constructs, and (6) agency. They show that emerging frontiers of resilience include applying social-ecological network approaches, investigating power relations, and exploring how transformative
versus adaptive changes can promote resilience.


Navigating towards marine co-management with Indigenous communities on-board the Waka-Taurua
Kimberley Maxwell,  Kelly Ratana, Kathryn Davies, CaineTaiapa, Shaun Awatere (2020) Marine Policy
This paper proposes a Waka-Taurua (double-canoe) framework, and outlines how it can be applied in developing a NZ marine management system (NZ-MMS), which includes both kaitiakitanga (a Māori concept of reciprocal care between Indigenous-Māori people and their territorial environment), and EBM, equitably. The authors argue that the Waka-Taurua framework can improve how marine co-management systems are developed by facilitating a more structured and equitable discussion of both Indigenous-Māori and broader societal worldviews, values, and practices.


Just Transformations to Sustainability
Nathan Bennett et al. (2019) Sustainability
Transformations towards sustainability are needed to address many of the earth’s profound environmental and social challenges. Yet, actions taken to deliberately shift social–ecological systems towards more sustainable trajectories can have substantial social impacts and exclude people from decision-making processes. The concept of just transformations makes explicit a need to consider social justice in the process of shifting towards sustainability. In this paper, the authors draw on the transformations, just transitions, and social justice literature to advance a pragmatic framing of just transformations that includes recognitional, procedural and distributional considerations.


How do environmental governance processes shape evaluation of outcomes by stakeholders? A causal pathways approach
Ryan Plummer et al. (2017) Plos One
The authors confirm a model showing that participation in more activities leads to greater ratings of process, and in turn, better evaluations of outcomes. They show the effects of participation in activities on evaluation of outcomes appear to be driven by learning more than collaboration. Original insights are offered as to how the evaluations of outcomes by stakeholders are shaped by their participation in activities and their experiences in management and governance processes.


Building capability by delivering results: Putting Problem-Driven Iterative Adaptation (PDIA) principles into practice
Matt Andrews, Lant Pritchett and Michael Woolcock (2015) in A governance practitioner’s notebook: Alternative ideas and approaches. OECD
This paper proposes an approach based on four core principles, each of which stands in sharp contrast with the standard approaches. First, PDIA focuses on solving locally nominated and defined problem sin performance (as opposed to transplanting pre-conceived and packaged ‘best practice’ solutions). Second, it seeks to create an ‘authorizing environment’ for decision-making that encourages ‘positive deviance’ and experimentation (as opposed to designing projects and programs and then requiring agents to implement them exactly as designed). Third, it embeds this experimentation in tight feedback loops that facilitate rapid experiential learning (as opposed to enduring long lag times in learning from ex post ‘evaluation’). Fourth, it actively engages broad sets of agents to ensure that reforms are viable, legitimate, relevant and supportable (as opposed to a narrow set of external experts promoting the ‘top down’ diffusion of innovation).


In the context of governance in the face of ongoing global change, increasing attention is being paid to linked concepts of adaptation and adaptive management.

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