Starting up questions
No one size fits all! Think about the following questions as they will affect what your particular governance model will look like:
• Are you a small, informal organising group?
• Or are you a formally elected committee with your own constitution/legal structure?
• Are you part of a larger, established NGO, iwi, hapū, whanau, church or cultural group providing umbrella support to a local CLD initiative or community-led action?
• How long have you been going?
• How big is your budget?
• What cultural traditions do you need to consider in terms of how governance will work?
• What legal/constitutional constraints do you need to be aware of?
We’ve learnt that it’s important to embed CLD principles in what we do and how
• Grow from shared local visions: The most important work of governance is to be a wise kaitiaki, enabling the wider community (not just those elected or appointed) to shape dreams and plan activities to enable shared local visions
• Build from strengths: Governance needs to empower action focused, project-based teams to work with their strengths, assets and passions and get on with their work in a nimble, adaptable way
• Work with diverse people and sectors: Governance can take the lead in building movements for collective impact. They can intentionally focus on enabling broad participation: making decisions with rather than for people and proactively looking for collaboration opportunities
• Grow collaborative local leadership: Governance needs to be about relationships more than a hierarchy. Lightweight, flexible, flat governance structures promote high trust and shared decision-making, leadership and power
• Learn by doing: Being courageous and taking risks is all part of CLD. Along with the wider community, a governance team intentionally learns from the doing at every step. They hold themselves accountable as guardians/kaitiaki of shared values and vision. They are accountable to the community and other stakeholders and are up for experimenting to see what works, actively adapting to ensure things keep moving forward
Things that work
Here are some ideas for a CLD group or project that is just getting started.
• The most important thing is to let your vision, values and culture shape your structure, not the other way around! Aim to apply CLD principles to all that you do. That includes embedding them in the governance structure you decide on.
• Get started by doing some things together that people have energy for. Focusing on governance structures early on can be a bit dull and can dampen community energy.
• Look for an organisation to support you that has shared or similar values. They might be able to help fund your project, employ team members, provide a venue, etc. You might not always need their support, but they can help to get your organisation off the ground. Make sure you have a clear agreement with them about roles, responsibilities and relationships, recognising that things may change with time.
• Think about who needs to be involved in the group and who’s included when making decisions and how. Can some decisions by made by action teams, rather than the governance team? How will you encourage wider community participation? You could do some of the following:
- Have open community gatherings (meetings, afternoon teas, pizza nights, picnics in the park) every 3 or 4 months to bring people together and share what’s happening in the community. Look for opportunities to actively involve others in the thinking, planning and action. Have some fun, acknowledge people doing great things, welcome others to join in, ask some powerful questions to get feedback, create space for people to raise issues or ideas.
- Hold community story evenings or awards nights, where people can share stories about their projects, what they’ve learnt and their ideas for the future.
- Host yearly reflection and sense-making processes so you can look at what’s happened in the last year and why, as well as shaping together what could happen next. And make it fun! Why have a meeting when you could have a party?
- Reinvent AGMs as purposeful, fun, interesting community conversations and celebrations. Reach out to get some new voices and ideas at these events. E.g. what ideas do teenagers in your community have?
- Include some planning and purposeful engagement in community events and activities during the year. For example, at your local Easter Egg Hunt you might set up a wishing tree so people can add to it what they value in their place or what changes they’d like to see. Or you could interview people with your smart-phone, asking them the same questions.
The following resources give some great examples of community-led initiatives that have thought quite differently about how to do governance.
Note that the Inspiring Communities model is a living example of how we, as an organisation, have adapted traditional models to align with our values and to allow us to apply CLD principles to how we operate.