MRI’s governance activities include checking accountability for Council’s organisational decision-making and behaviours, such as in Council meetings, customer servicing and other public and operating interactions (eg local issues management).
What is Governance?
The Australian Centre of Excellence in Local Government (ACELG, 2012) says:
Governance can be classified into three types: corporate governance, democratic governance and community governance.
- Governance as corporate governance – When the term governance is used within Australian local government it most commonly refers to accountability for organisational decision-making and behaviour. This understanding is linked to the term corporate governance which is concerned with the structures and processes of decision-making, accountability, controls and behaviour within corporations (OECD, 2004). Guides produced for Australian councils on corporate governance focus on the collective responsibility of councils to put in place the necessary systems to ensure good governance and the individual responsibility of councillors to ensure these systems are implemented.
- Governance as democratic governance – The term democratic governance is used to refer to deepening democratic engagement through the participation of citizens in the processes of governance. Public discourse about democratic governance and its importance was heightened in Victoria following the period of local government amalgamations in the 1990s, and legislative requirements for compulsory competitive tendering of council services. Brian Galligan from the University of Melbourne explores democratic governance in the context of these reforms which were undertaken for efficiency purposes. Galligan argues that “Even if we understand local government as enabler rather than provider of services, the distinction between local government as a system for ensuring efficient service provision and local government as a system of democratic governance remains a crucial one. That is because local government as enabler still has to determine the range and standards of services that its community requires.
- Governance as community governance – Closely linked to the notion of democratic governance, with its focus on external relationships, is the concept of community governance which concerns genuine collaboration between public, private and non-profit sectors to achieve desired outcomes for a jurisdiction – be it a neighbourhood or a whole local government area. For governments this represents a change of focus from the delivery of specified services to developing creative ways to meet community needs.
Community governance is a growing philosophical approach to local governance in which municipal agencies, city leaders, and the community (e.g., nonprofit and community-based organizations, individuals, and businesses) view themselves as partners and collaborate to address community problems and improve the overall quality of life (US Dept of Justice, 2009).
The Australian Centre of Excellence in Local Government (ACELG, 2012) highlights that:
Community governance is regarded as genuine collaboration between public, private and non-profit sectors to achieve desired outcomes for a jurisdiction. Community governance is growing and involving community centred activities that involve community members in:
- Localising service delivery more
- Place shaping and governance of place
- Community engagement and empowerment
- Civic leadership
- Metropolitan governance.
For governments this represents a change of focus from the delivery of specified services to developing creative ways to meet community needs. It will lead to shifting local government as a “controller and doer” councils to become “enablers” of community actions. Current community consultation and engagement practices will change to increase community involvement in decision-making and replace the current scope of Council controlling decision making on matters of significance to one or more of the communities they serve. This means community governance will bring about reforms in local government and alternative approaches to new managerialism changes in how Council operates and manages its service delivery.
MRI’s Good Governance program involves advocating for community governance – the initial projects we started to undertake include:
- Developing an consistent approach for community to monitor behavioral and decision making compliance to legislative and good governance standards during Council meetings. We observe the quality of Councillor behaviors in their meeting communications and their decision making arguments and check for quality deficiencies in supporting documents and decisions’ followup implementation actions
- Facilitate escalated resolutions of long standing local issues that distress the community and that Council are unable to address to the satisfaction of the affected ratepayers and residents.
- Respond to public inquiries and submit community perspectives for feedback to inquiring government agencies
- Future pipeline plans include disseminating customer feedback digital apps for the community to lodge compliments and complaints in consistent manners that would easily integrate and enhance most Council’s current systems; defining the civil rights of ratepayers and residents in what the can clearly expect when engaging and transacting with their Councils; etc.
Click the Governance tab to access more details of these projects: