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Governance


Governance can be defined as the ability of all stakeholders to design and commit resources to shape and implement a vision or a strategy.

Written by Christian Saublens

Reviewed by David Walburn

 

The concept

How to implement it?

Step in the RIS3 process

What can be expected?

A quote

References

Experts' comments

 

The concept


Governance can be defined as the ability of all stakeholders to design and commit resources to shape and implement a vision or a strategy.

 

How to implement it?


A good governance system requires collecting views from as many stakeholders as possible. The graph hereafter presents an overview of the stakeholders to be involved in the elaboration of a RIS3 strategy or any economic development strategy.

 

Several means allowing more ore less a large involvement of stakeholders can be put in place, i.e.

  • Organisation of several events in order to collect the views of the stakeholders followed by the drafting by a process facilitator of a first version of the strategy, based on a synthesis of the numerous contributions, which is put into further consultation;
  • Appointment of a consultant to draft or shortlist potential topics upon which the strategy can be built. Stakeholders are involved in the selection of the final list of priorities;
  • Assignment given to a consultant to draft the first version of the strategy for the attention of the policy makers. Once the latter have endorsed the draft, the stakeholders are invited to take part in a consultation process. This approach often turns out in an "alibi" governance process;
  • Organisation of a dual consultation process, open to all stakeholders and one restricted to the official consultative or legislative committees. At critical milestones, the proposals collected are merged into a single draft.

 

This means that collecting stakeholders' contributions can take different forms: seminars, workshops, hearings, web consultations, bilateral meetings with a focus group, ... Ideally, each contributor has to motivate its arguments.

 

Step in the RIS3 process


 

What can be expected?


  • A good balance between policy makers' views and stakeholders' expectations. In other words: a mix between top-down and bottom-up principles;
  • Avoiding asymmetry between the "usual suspects" or "strong lobbyist" requests and those of newcomers/innovators;
  • Ensuring that the priorities are designed according to the stakeholders' commitments and provide a sound base for mobilizing the required resources to successfully implement the strategy.

 

A quote


"Good governance is the simple most important factor in eradicating poverty and promoting development" - Kofi Annan, United Nations University 2002

 

References


Guide to Research and Innovation Strategies for Smart Specialisations (RIS3)

 

Mr Christian Saublens


 

Christian Saublens has more than 30 years of working experience in European trade organizations. Since 1992 he is the Executive Manager of EURADA, the European Association of Development Agencies, a network of 145 organisations. Christian has been involved in the organization of numerous conferences and meetings dealing with all matters related to regional development. He wrote several papers and working documents on business support schemes for SMEs. He played an important role for the dissemination in European regions of concepts such as benchmarking, business angels, investment readiness, proof of concept, clusters, open innovation, financial engineering, crowdfunding, … Several times Christian has been appointed as an expert by the European Commission and the Committee of the Regions.

christian.saublens@eurada.org

 

Experts' comments


If we are to really understand the importance of governance in economic development, and the many ways it can function, it will be helpful to reflect on the remark of the former Director General of the United Nations, Kofi Annan, cited in the paper, which identifies governance as the single most important factor in promoting economic development. Why might the issue of governance be considered more important than, for example, the size of the budget available, or the number and quality of a management team or the nature of the objectives which are being pursued?

Governance in some form has an over-arching role to play in the implementation of any economic development strategy. It is through governance that the objectives of strategy are identified and agreed, as well as the individual programmes of activity considered necessary to implement the strategy. The process of governance may secure the resources necessary to pursue the strategy, set the timetable and other practicalities of implementation, monitor the progress against agreed targets, ensure the maintenance of the integrity of the strategic objectives, and supervise the management of the programme in line with the levels of accountability and transparency which were set at the outset.

There can of course be good and bad governance. The paper makes much of the importance of stakeholder involvement. It is certainly possible to envisage an approach to governance which excludes key stakeholders resulting in a dictatorial, top-down governance by only a few self-interested players. We have enough experience to know that the results in such a situation are usually far from optimal. However, it is possible also to involve too many apparent stakeholders in the governance process so that the interests of the key players are crowded out. High profile programmes of economic development are likely to attract all sorts of people and organisations which want to be seen to be part of the action, whether or not their involvement is helpful to achieving good outcomes. Indeed, having too many or the wrong organisations involved can undermine strategic objectives.

Problems may also arise if stakeholder participants lack the knowledge or skills to contribute effectively and add value to the process of governance. The risk here is increased if the stakeholder involvement is wrong for the needs of the programme. There may also be difficulties if there is a disconnect between day to day managers and the people involved in overall accountability or strategic oversight. Systems of reporting, and the timing of such reporting, are often key to achieving good governance.

It is difficult enough to ensure good governance in countries and regions with a high standard of public administration. The many organisations listed in the paper as having a potentially useful role to play gives an indication of the scale of the problem. Where a background of sound public administration is lacking, achieving good governance is much harder. The message behind the comment from Kofi Annan is that where there is inappropriate stakeholder involvement in governance, the primary objectives of a programme are likely to be compromised, no matter how much resource has been committed or how much the stakeholders desire success. In extreme cases this may mean that corruption is taking place, but the more usual problems are that some kind of vested interest interferes, or there is incompetence in the process. In all cases this leads to objectives being missed and resources being wasted.

Good governance does not just happen and cannot be assumed. Putting the right structures in place to achieve it have to be part of planning of any economic development strategy or programme.

 

Mr David Walburn


After a career in business David Walburn joined Greater London Enterprise in 1986 where he was responsible for venture capital and other small business support, before becoming Chief Executive of the organisation. He was the Chair of the London Business Angels Network and played a key role in the setting up of the European Business Angels Network. He has worked with the UK government and the European Commission on developing public policy initiatives to improve the financing of small and medium-sized enterprises. He was the Chair of Capital Enterprise, the umbrella body for organisations supporting micro business development in London, until 2012.

For the last ten years he has been a Visiting Professor at London South Bank University where he headed the Local Economy Policy Unit and was the managing editor of the journal Local Economy.

He has served as President of EURADA, and been a member of a number of advisory bodies of the European Commission.  He has been an active member of the International Economic Development Council in Washington DC and has a wide range of international contacts with economic development organisations.

He continues to write and lecture on small business finance and regional economic development.

davidwalburn@europe.com

 

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