The concept of governance has become an important concept for the study of social and political relations. Governance is concerned with human interaction and its coordination, in and between organizations and communities. It asks what the forms, processes and mechanisms of governance are, as well as what they should be. To paraphrase the World Bank, governance is the exercise of authority and the use of institutional resources to manage a group’s problems and affairs. The “group” can be a society, a corporate organization, or a local community.

In general terms, there are three basic kinds of governance arrangements:

  • Top-down methods that primarily involve governments and the state bureaucracy
  • Market mechanisms whereby market principles of competition serve to allocate resources while operating under government regulation
  • Collaborative networks, including both traditional organizations and emerging aggregations of partnerships and alliances.

Governance concerns the collective choice mechanisms, including the structural arrangements, through which groups of individuals make decisions. Corporate organizations, for example, often use the word governance to describe the manner in which boards or their like direct a corporation and the laws and customs (rules) applying to that direction. The term governance also occurs in information technology (IT) to describe the processes used by departments, teams or projects to perform functions, activities, or tasks. The concept of governance thus encompasses what is generally meant by “management.” It provides an integrating construct for all of the pedagogical and research functions carried out at Atkinson across the business, government, and not-for-profit sectors.

Four foci of attention seem especially relevant for our center:

Governance Arrangements and Collective Choice Mechanisms . This research area comprehends issues of good governance; participation; shared governance; the relationship between difference and equality in business, government, and non-profit settings, including relationships between boards of directors/trustees and managers; trends in voting; governance developments in developing and transitional states; international market arrangements, especially in finance; and issues of organizational design.

Ethics and Governance . Ethical principles, shared norms, and ideas about rights and obligations play important roles in the governance of diverse realms of interaction. It is important to understand and evaluate the complex ways these conceptual mechanisms underlie, enable and resist contemporary modes of governance.

Global Governance . Governance arrangements at the global level are evolving in a context of economic, technological and political changes. Research can help us understand these trends, studying the groups that influence the transformations on the basis of the interests, norms and institutions that are present in the global arena, such as governments, NGO’s, and multinational corporations.

Knowledge, Complexity and Governance . The issue of how systems of knowledge shape contemporary modes of governance defines a rich research domain. We may ask, on the one hand, whether some governance and knowledge sharing arrangements are more conducive to good governance than others; and, on the other hand, to what extent contemporary governance mechanisms and processes hinder our ability to deal with complex, knowledge specific social and policy challenges.

Governance Links