Challenging the myths about governance

Working in strategy, research & partnerships, and since starting in a frontline social worker role, I’ve always had an ambiguous relationship with governance.

When I started working with asylum seekers, I could see the governance of processes — what decisions we needed to make and how different agencies I worked with understand how best to support asylum seekers to access support, eligibility for aid or safeguarding for the children.

Then, there was the governance of the Home Office, which decided who could stay in the country or not and how the government worked from a legal perspective in terms of rights of appeal. For me, though, this felt more like the exercise of power than governance.

When I went to work for think tanks, I didn’t occupy myself with governance, as I was looking for innovations in different sectors and communities, even though I’ve learnt that often these innovations were one-trick ponies or didn’t always have the infrastructure needed to support them. If only I had read the Boring Revolution by

Indy Johar


Dark Matter

and the stack of interventions to support innovation in governance.

Then I helped set up a network of different groups across three and ten European cities, which we turned into a cooperative. There, I learnt how important governance is to hardwire values and ways of thinking and doing what we wanted into a set of rules & rhythms to support people to co-produce festivals and projects in their cities within a network.

Even then, I didn’t think this could be adapted to a local government context. We had been friends that attracted people passionate about the purpose, and only a couple of years later did we recruit paid staff.

Then I started supporting participation in my local government role with residents, enabling them to develop ideas on what we spend our money on, run activities and programmes and even develop cooperatives.

I’ve also developed partnerships, but even then, I’ve focused more on investing time in how we work together rather than how we make decisions.

But in life, as humans, we make decisions all the time…So the series by Forum for the Future on exploring transformational governance made me think I’d got it all wrong about governance, reimagining the myths we have about it to move it to:

  • How can we work relationally and with collaboration at the core of governance?
  • How can we create the conditions for flows of healthy power?
  • How can we embrace the messy, joyous parts of governance?



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Head of Policy Design, Scrutiny & Partnerships @newhamlondon #localgov Co-founder of #systemschange & #servicedesign progs. inspired by @cescaalbanese