An Exploration of What Governance Is


There is no single definition of governance. We often use this one, adapted from Mark Hufty’s Governance Analytical Framework:

Every culture (in a family, a business, government, etc.) produces governance — the processes of interaction and decision-making and the systems by which decisions are implemented. Governance is how we set up systems to live our values and leads to the creation, reinforcement, or reproduction of social norms and institutions. Governance systems give form to the culture’s power relationships. It becomes the rules for who makes the rules and how.

We also like to give a shout out to Resonance Network’s #WeGovern principles and definition of governance, which we participated in co-creating:

Governance is the process by which people determine the norms and rules that guide people’s everyday life and behavior, including:

    • How we choose to live together,
    • How we choose to recognize and uphold each other’s well-being and freedom,
    • How we choose to use our resources together,
    • How we choose to build systems and structures that reflect our shared values, and
    • How we choose to care for the land, which provides us everything we need.

For attributes of good governance from the United Nations, see our resource, Rate Your Governance System.

Some may ask, “Doesn’t governance imply domination and a colonized mental model?”  We don’t believe so. Colonization is a particular form of governance. It has produced social norms and institutions that do not reflect our values.

We want to change systems to better align with and reflect human values and dignity.  Governance is a key leverage point for systems change.  

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