Here is the recent [29 May 2020] letter I wrote, published in the Guernsey Press Opinion pages on Guernsey's response to the Corona Virus and how it reflects positively on its governance. But there is a word of caution.
Guernsey finds itself in an extraordinary situation. Probably the jurisdiction in the world that has moved closest to eliminating COVID-19 from its resident population.
It has been a beautiful illustration of community, of kindness and interestingly for me, governance.
There have been two reviews carried out recently of committees within The States of Guernsey; reviews of the Home Affairs and of the Policy and Resources Committees.
The outcomes were mixed and although I accept there are concerns over the independence and therefore the validity of these assessments, I expect some of the criticisms were due.
What’s interesting to me as a researcher and practitioner in governance has been, despite the criticisms levelled in these reviews, the way the Civil Contingencies Authority has brought together diverse representatives of the States Committees and sought to work collaboratively to tackle the global crisis of the corona virus.
Governance is an oft misunderstood concept, too easily cast aside, but it is integral to a coherent and forward-looking society. Good businesses know this and their leaders will work tirelessly to ensure good governance is executed throughout their organisations.
There are arguably three key elements that make up governance, and how well we manage each of these will determine its efficacy.
There are many definitions of governance, however the one I have come to prefer is from Stephen Bloomfield, he states
“…governance is the governing structure and processes in an organisation that exist to oversee the means by which limited resources are efficiently directed to competing purposes for the use of the organisation and its stakeholders including maintenance of the organisation and its long run sustainability, set and measures against a framework of ethics and backed by regulation and laws.”
There may be many reasons why Guernsey finds itself in this almost enviable situation, however two of these are:
The effectiveness of the CCA, its decision-making, the implementation of those decisions and how, along with #guernseytogether, it has positively influenced the culture and behaviour changes within our island; and
The constitutional status of not having party politics.
We have all watched with bewilderment and sadness at the state of many European countries, the US and the UK, as political spear throwing has all too often overshadowed their growing death tolls.
As businesses move towards different and as Guernsey treads with care on what methodology will both support the economy and mitigate risk of viral resurgence,
Our journey towards better governance, our 'stride out' in the direction of 'doing things better, because it's better' will be led through authentic, open and compassionate leadership.
Leadership that welcomes challenge and candour from its Members, electorate and other stakeholders;
Leadership that invites failure as a possibility and rewards those that work hard to try the new, just because it might work;
Leadership that understands the significant role that risk management plays in sustainability and long-term growth; and
Leadership that realises the world is changing and social capital is emerging as a key ingredient to societal improvement.
So, finally two notes:
A note of thanks to the CCA, its collaborative leadership and to the Guernsey people.
Aside from the huge and sometimes overwhelming individual and organisational contributions and support that have been offered and given across our island, the leadership from our politicians and business and community leaders has been remarkable.
Our government has led with transparency and openness, made clear and decisive decisions based on ‘hard fought’, valid information, and has instilled a community culture based on clear values resulting in a huge shift in collective behaviour. The benefits of which we are now seeing.
If ever there was a clear illustration of the importance of governance, the benefits of such and how it can lead to societal good and an enhancement of social capital, I see this as it.
Guernsey has placed itself very high on the list of jurisdictions that have managed this crisis with clear thinking, openness and compassion.
And a note of caution;
As we run headlong into the next election, we really need to consider carefully,
How the governance of our island might be shifted by the choices we make,
How the education of our children might be stifled, or
How the existent inequalities within our island might be exacerbated and not reduced.
Guernsey has benefitted tremendously from a non-party framework and we need to be ever mindful that inadvertently or by design, we find ourselves with a quasi-party political States with the emergence of organisations like the 2020 Association.
The world is shifting, business and the governance of it is also shifting, moving towards a more encompassing stakeholder model, which seeks to value social capital more, positively influence environmental change and integrate businesses further within governmental and societal improvements.
Guernsey has the opportunity to be at the forefront of this change, a leader in global governance. Let’s not lose the chance.