Self-governance

November 18, 2009 at 9:33 pm | Posted in Governance | Leave a comment

Governance doesn’t have to be paternal and forced on groups by higher powers.  Here’s a quote from an article in the Oct 15th 2009 issue of the Economist (“Reality bites“):

In 40 years of studying how common resources—from lobster fisheries in Maine to irrigation systems in Nepal—are actually managed by communities, Ms Ostrom found that people often devise rather sophisticated systems of governance to ensure that these resources are not overused. These systems involve explicit rules about what people can use, what their responsibilities are, and how they will be punished if they break the rules. In particular, she found that self-governance often worked much better than an ill-informed government taking over and imposing sometimes clumsy, and often ineffective, rules.

I haven’t read Ostrom’s research, but I’m guessing that self-governance meant that governance occurs between small groups, not that every individual is self-governing.  That’s an interesting finding, since governance is often assumed to be top-down and bureaucratic.  But it doesn’t have to be.  According to my governance definition, the goal of governance is to to resolve ambiguity, manage short- and long-range goals, and mitigate conflict within an organization.  A higher level authority may not be required to address these goals if a community can do it themselves.  Indeed, if the higher power doesn’t know enough about what they are governing to put good rules in place, it’s better to simply give the group a mandate to put people, process, and policy in place, but to let them create their own rules.

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