What do we mean by governance, engagement and accountability?

Governance refers to the process of making decisions which define the expectations, systems and management, in this case, of a neighbourhood. It is influenced by the local institutions and agencies which deliver services to an area and should also be shaped by local people.

PostboxThe word 'governance' can conjure thoughts of an appointed board of people making decisions for an organisation that will affect people other than themselves. However, governance - and particularly what is meant by community governance as opposed to organisational governance - is changing. Governance can be a collective activity that is entered into by those whose lives are affected by the decisions that are made. Not only this, but through their positive contributions to the life of their community, people living there are able to shape the community in a way that suits them. The Goodwin Trust in Hull is an example of an organisation, run by a board of local people, that works to improve the quality of life for local residents.

A route to good governance is to ensure that decision making is accountable - in other words that it really reflects the wishes of those being governed. It is good accountability that makes it possible for others who are not living in a place to be involved and to do a job on behalf of residents, while at the same time making sure that what they are doing is endorsed by local people. Good governance also needs to be transparent, so that people are clear how decisions are made and what evidence and justifications are used to inform the decision-making process.

Good community governance is a process that, at its best, is totally bound up with engagement of residents. Residents should have opportunities both to be involved with decision-making processes in a range of ways - from being informed of decisions, to being consulted, to actually helping to make decisions. Strong resident engagement processes are important for offering local people information and involvement in making decisions for their local area.