The “Community Engagement Governance Framework” – Findings, Part 1

Judy Freiwirth’s Community Engagement Governance Framework is proving effective with non-profit governance, but how well does it transfer to elected local and tribal governing bodies?

So, what has the Engagement Governance research team discovered about using the framework? Nine key findings/benefits have emerged (the remaining 3 will be discussed in Findings, Part 2). These are discussed in greater detail in a Nonprofit Quarterly article. I believe most of the benefits would also be evident in governments using the framework as well:

  1. Increased responsiveness and accountability to the community – All the pilot organizations report this benefit, some using descriptive terms like more proactive, adaptable, and nimble. Governments would likely see similar results.
  2. Improved quality and efficiency of governance decision-making: increased strategic thinking, creativity and problem-solving ability – One might think this process would be more cumbersome and time-consuming. The experience of the pilot organizations suggests that is not a problem. The experience, knowledge and mission-driven process is allowing organizations to make decisions more quickly. No reason to believe that governments’ experience would be different.
  3. Increased shared ownership of the organization’s mission and strategic direction – It is a widely-experienced result that those who share in a decision-making process have more ownership in the results. Pilot organizations have reported this, and governments likely would also.
  4. An increase in new and more distributed leadership – Learning by doing is also recognized as a successful learning strategy. Here again, pilot organizations report seeing this occur, and governments likely would too.
  5. Improved ability to engage in deep collaboration with other nonprofits – Pilot organizations report increased joint governance decisions across numerous organizations, though the article did not suggest why this is happening. Perhaps there are individuals participating in the shared leadership efforts of multiple organizations and improving the sharing of ideas. I’ve heard Dr. Joe Ohren, Professor of Political Science at Eastern Michigan University, speak about people desiring good roads, good schools and safe communities, without knowing or caring much about which local government provides them. His point was that we need to work together across local boundaries for more effective provision of government services. Imagine for a minute the impact of asking individuals who participate as stakeholders in this Community Engagement Governance framework, to also do so as a connector in their neighboring unit of government. Having a small percentage serve in this way could quickly open doors to recognize similar challenges and opportunities in neighboring units, and perhaps pave the way to more shared solutions.
  6. Increased visibility within the broader community – Several reported greater visibility and greater support from secondary stakeholders. With a network of citizens participating, good decision-making will be noticed, shared, and perhaps might counteract the increasingly negative press which serves to convince citizens that government is all bad.

This is fifth in a series of six articles about the Community Engagement Governance framework on the Michigan State University Extension web site. Read more at:

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