4 Steps Councils Can Take Towards Modern Governance

Theresa Sintetos

Through our interactions with public governing bodies, we’ve learned a few things: Good governance is dynamic—it can look a little different from one organization to the next. Yet, there are a few modern governance principles that hold constant.

1. Re-examine your community’s structure and priorities.

When you join a local government council, you’re inheriting a community structure (i.e., an existing set of rules, roles and processes that govern the council and the broader community). New members must get up to speed quickly on necessary processes and protocol, but they can also offer a fresh perspective on how things could be done better. Council members should not be afraid to re-examine or challenge the current processes that are in place and ask, “Can we be doing this a better way?” Keeping a close eye on the effectiveness of your current community structure and any established priorities will allow your council to more precisely pinpoint areas of improvement.

2. Focus on council composition and development.

Local governments that support the principles of modern governance align council member skills with long-term strategy; they see diversity of all kinds as an advantage, not a requirement. However, executing on these principles is where many councils fall short. Modern governance councils must work to identify gaps, understand the skills and perspectives required to answer the needs of the community, and recognize any potential conflicts of interest.

3. Improve visibility around key risks and opportunities.

It’s not enough to simply identify key risks—councils must then design the dashboards, reporting frameworks, and info-gathering networks that allow them to monitor these risks and identify red flags. A modern governance product solution ensures that local government councils remain aligned with their goals with strategic progress tracking, that they practice strong transparency, and that they stay in compliance with open meeting laws and regulations.

4. Avoid easy cyber mistakes.

Council members are notoriously guilty of using text messaging or personal email to share sensitive information and materials. For public boards, discussing board business outside of scheduled meetings not only violates open meeting laws, but puts the public’s information at risk. Local governments that practice modern governance do not make these mistakes; they centralize council and management collaboration, using role-based authorizations to view certain council materials, allowing for a level of privacy while also ensuring that the public has easy access to required information.

Key Takeaways

As difficult as the pandemic has been, it’s provided multiple opportunities for local boards to reground themselves in modern governance practices that allow them to meet the needs of their communities. Technology will play an important role in driving security, engagement and trust.