The “Community Engagement Governance Framework” – Findings, Part 2

Judy Freiwirth’s Community Engagement Governance Framework is proving effective with non-profit governance, but how well does it transfer to elected local and tribal governing bodies?

The Community Engagement Governance framework is yielding some impressive findings as researchers work closely with nine pilot organizations. The first six findings are discussed in my previous article, Findings, Part 1. Here are the remaining 3, along with some additional observations.

  1. Increased fundraising capacity and sustainability – Nonprofits experienced broader grassroots fund raising success. Assuming Community Engagement Governance leads to greater visibility and understanding of the actions and results of government efforts, one would hope citizens would make the connection between paying taxes and receiving quality services from a responsive unit of government. No, I am not going to assume all government-funding issues would evaporate. Individuals have limited incomes and many spending priorities. However, a greater level of trust in government boards, and seeing that service decisions are driven by their friends and neighbors, might ease tax revenue concerns a bit, and might also open opportunities for creative financing alternatives such as foundation grants, increases in user fees, etc.
  2. Increased transparency and community ownership and more effective large-group decision-making through the use of social media and web portals – Several nonprofits reported these improvements. Governments can also benefit.
  3. Boards that are more engaged, passionate, and transparent about their organization’s strategic direction and programs – Boards have some tough decisions to make, often with little or no appreciation for their work. This is also true in government boards. It is no surprise that having stakeholders work alongside board members led to higher levels of engagement and satisfaction among board members, and I would expect the same on government boards.

There were a few more observations by the researchers. It is important to have an organizational champion with authority, such as an executive director or board chair to lead the process, someone who can keep others focused on why they chose this route when times get tough. This magnitude of change can be difficult, and some boards will not be willing to make the effort and take the risk. Such change almost always includes some problems, and organizations/governments need to recognize that up front and be willing to work through it in order to make the transition successful.

Including staff in this process can also be very beneficial, especially for governments, since they are also citizen stakeholders. Staff brings a wealth of knowledge of the day to day activities of both nonprofit and government organizations. This knowledge can often translate into excellent solutions and future direction.

It appears, from the observations of one person who has been a student of government for some 20 years, that the Community Engagement Governance framework has great potential for achieving success in government bodies as it has in nonprofits. What remains is the application and research to show the degree to which it can help government bodies improve their impacts, transparency, and real partnership with citizens.

Thanks to Judy Freiwirth for reviewing this series of articles. If you have some thoughts on the use of Community Engagement Governance by government boards, feel free to email me at . If your nonprofit or network is interested in learning more about the Framework, or participating in the Community Engagement Governance Project, you can contact Judy Freiwirth, Chair, at .

This is last in a series of six articles about the Community Engagement Governance framework on the Michigan State University Extension web site. Read more at:

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