One of the many difficult issues in thinking about civil society is what models we have for 'who is in charge', and where responsibilities lie. Is it the individual, the Board, organisation and its members or shareholders, the elected government? All at some time. And how can you make changes in messy systems with many stakeholders?
I have just finished working on a review for the UK government of governance in the voluntary and community sector, as part of planning for an £90 million spend on sector capacity building and more effective service delivery. My role has been mainly consultation events, blogging and editing - but others in the team have produced some governance frameworks that I think could be more widely useful. You can find the framework here on the blog we developed to report proposals.
The main point of the framework, we argue, is that to think about more effective governance - and effective organisations - you have go beyond training for the management committee or trustees. You have to look at the other stakeholders in the 'big system' who are in total
• Policy makers
• Board members
• Support or intermediary organisations
• Employees / professional membership organisations
and then consider what each could do to improve effectiveness. We came up with recommendations relating to five areas - training and development; information and advice; funding; culture change; monitoring and regulation.
Each of these areas may require action by or for each of the stakeholders - so it gets pretty complicated. You can see the draft recommendations of our consultancy team led by Christine Morrison of The Foundation for Good Governance, and the summary recommendations prepared from those by our client Jon Fox in the Home Office Active Community Unit. They are open for comment until February 18.
Although these proposals have been developed for the voluntary and community sector, I think that the framework could be used more widely.
Or is this all too mechanistic? Do we need less structured, more networky, organic models? Can anyone really be in charge? Suggestions welcome...