What is Governance?

posted in: Policies 0

Good governance is usually used in conversations about nonprofits and government entities, but many of its characteristics apply to good management as well. Good governance is competent management of an organization’s resources and affairs, in a manner that recognizes the needs of all stakeholders.

Mores specifically, good governance is:

  • law-abiding
  • accountable to stakeholders
  • transparent
  • responsive to the organization’s needs
  • equitable and inclusive
  • effective and efficient

Some of these are easier to accomplish than others. Law-abiding requires someone to pay attention the the laws; good intentions aren’t enough. Transparency can be as simple as making sure that minutes include enough context to explain why a decision was made, and making them available to all stakeholders; this generally covers accountability too, especially if there are elections involved. Being responsive to the organization’s needs seems like the basic purpose for a board or management, but sometimes power becomes its own purpose and the response is lacking.

For many organization, there seems to be a trade-off between the last two, equitable and inclusive vs effective and efficient. Multiple long public meetings aren’t efficient, at least not immediately, but they are inclusive; conversely, decisions made with a few people are efficient but too often not inclusive of multiple stakeholder perspectives. The important thing is to remember that they are competing criteria and they both need to be considered equally when finding the balance.

If things don’t seem to be going smoothly or effectively in an organization, check this list and see if there are improvements that need to be made to the governance, before blaming everything on some external factor.