Increasingly, collective governance is seen as part of the solution, with state and non-state actors working together
In a world characterised by globalisation, governments increasingly find themselves unable to govern. Corruption is everywhere, natural resources are being exploited, the environment damaged, markets distorted, and the fight against poverty is often ineffective.
For years there has been talk about collective governance, involving civil society, companies and governments. However, when we survey the governance terrain, we see remarkably few of these efforts. There are plenty of multi-stakeholder consultation processes, plenty of self-regulation checked by other bodies, and plenty of dialogue forums. But rarely do government, companies and civil society come together to collectively make decisions.
Collective governance is therefore much discussed and little practised. This is because, in our view, it is rarely practical. We conclude that there are two conditions that need to exist for such a process to be effective, or even appropriate. Firstly, that there is actually a governance challenge that cannot be tackled by governments alone, and secondly, that the issue is fired by conflict. It might seem strange that conflict is the driving force for bringing parties together, but it is the fuel that means that each party has something to gain by coming together, and more to lose by not doing so.
Such conditions exist in the oil, gas and mining sectors. Corruption and lack of trust are still big challenges in these sectors, but progress has been made. It is time to learn how collaboration has helped address these challenges. We believe that these preconditions might also exist in parts of the banking sector, infrastructure planning, land buying projects, press regulation, and perhaps many other areas.
HOW TO BE A GOVERNANCE ENTREPRENEUR
Establishing collective governance to address these challenges is one thing. Managing this innovative form of governance is another.
Based on eight years of running possibly the most advanced example of collective governance at international level – the Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (EITI), which promotes open and accountable management of natural resources – this is our guide for ‘governance entrepreneurs’ wishing to implement collective governance, involving civil society, companies and governments as key actors.
- Output and process go hand in hand – you don’t need all the furniture in place before you sit on the sofa
Build organisational and governance capacity alongside the development of the output. This lies at the heart of what we call ‘governance entrepreneurship’ – making progress on the product (in this case production of data about oil, gas and mining) whilst also making progress on governance and capacity building. If diplomats are at the helm, it is likely that early negotiations about governance drag on until others lose patience. If civil society has it their way, consultations and building capacity can become too time-consuming for others. If companies rule, there may not be sufficient organisational and governance foundations in place. The trick to ‘governing the governance’ is to communicate in ways all understand, and allow incremental growth and refinement.
- Move the consensus from the narrow to the meaningful
Collective governance is not like most development projects. Think of a peace negotiation rather than a project management mindset. Instead of agreeing broad objectives amongst wildly disagreeing constituencies, focus on small areas of consensus; build on agreements; allow trust to take root; and over time it will lead to ever more important decisions. Peace negotiators in Syria do not try to sit warring factions together to agree a map of Syria in ten years’ time. Instead they start with a narrow point of consensus such as a humanitarian access route to Homs, and build trust and consensus from that to the more meaningful.
- Leadership is often as much about the heroism of quiet compromise as it is about the moral crusade
The heroes of the EITI process – and there have been many on all sides – have been those who have kept their eyes on the long-term mutual benefits of compromise to find consensus. They have broken out of their limited-constituency conventional thinking to try different ways for governments, companies and campaigners to work. Hollywood characterises heroic leadership as indefatigable, stubborn, uncompromising, with moral conviction. In collective governance, it is heroism of quiet compromise which yields results.