The “Community Engagement Governance Framework” – Principles, Part 2

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?

Democracy and self-determination is the fourth key principle in the Community Engagement Governance framework. A sidebar to Freiwirth’s article in The Nonprofit Quarterly explores the role of social media. We have all read the mixture of thoughtful, insightful dialogue and ill-informed attacks which often follow online news articles and occur in various social media formats. Imagine the empowerment of citizens if we could develop ways to use social media to both inform and gather input from citizens who want to provide meaningful input but can’t take time from their jobs and families to sit for hours attending meetings.

Key principle number five is “No One Right Model”. No cookie-cutter approach, rather the application of the best principles and processes for each governmental unit. We would not expect a five-member township board with a few thousand citizens to use the same model with the same level of detail as a 110-member state legislature representing over 8 million people. The principles, however; sharing power, self-determination, focus on results, etc. apply equally-well to both.

Distributing functions creatively among stakeholders is the sixth principle. This principle encourages boards to focus on functions rather than roles. So things like planning, finance, evaluation, etc. would be the focus. For governments, encouraging citizen involvement at this functional level makes a lot of sense and allows individuals to contribute in their area of expertise. There is also a role for those who are able to see how the pieces all fit together. Some governing boards tend to deal with issues without adequate consideration of how it all fits together. A citizen group of “big picture thinkers” could help prevent problems with unforeseen consequences.

Transparency, open systems and good information flow is the last of the seven key principles. Most governments are already required to conduct business in a transparent manner. Greater involvement of citizens in the process, whether through social media or some other two-way communication effort, will only help to provide greater transparency.

This is the third 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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