9.4 Networked governance
Definition: A net is an open fabric of string or rope or wire woven together at regular intervals. Like the string that is woven together to form a basket, a network weaves together different people, relationships, things and organisations. A network is a connected group of people with similar interests or concerns who get together to work and support each other.
9.4.1 Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander networked governance
Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander governance is networked governance. It is dynamic and sophisticated, having:
- interdependent connections between people, places and things (past, present and future)
- layered systems of representation and leadership
- overlapping memberships and mandates
- dense networks of relationships and mutual responsibility
- corresponding dispersed layers of decision making, accountability and authority.
Networked structures not only form the bases of traditional Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander governance, they are also visible and inform many contemporary Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander governance solutions across Australia.
Snapshot: Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander networked governance at work
|You can see networked Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander governance at work in the structure and operation of:|
The more ‘visible’ leaders of organisations are also part of wider networks of leaders and extended families, often extending well beyond their own group.
In such governance systems, networked leaders are people who can consider multiple options and ideas, and who can facilitate connectivity and mobilise community support.
This is a more sustainable form of leadership for the kind of governance needed for development.
It is this kind of networked logic and leadership that are also likely to inform ongoing Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander initiatives in nation rebuilding.
How common goals united Girringun
Girringun Aboriginal Corporation was awarded Highly Commended Category A in the 2014 Indigenous Governance Awards. Here CEO Phil Rist outlines how Girringun’s leadership fostered a common goal to bring nine tribal groups together. By working together as ‘one voice’, and building relationships with surrounding stakeholders, a form of contemporary sovereignty has been established.
9.4.2 Why networks and networking are important
There is an Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander preference for local control of decision making, action and responsibility.
But at the same time, local networks are usually flexible and open-ended.
The very great advantage of such networks is that governance arrangements can be (and always have been) linked across to other similar scales of networks (such as across several outstations), and scaled up vertically (for example, to form larger federations and alliances).
This means that the local parts of any nation’s networked governance are directly connected to many other surrounding parts, and each part will have bridging relationships and shared goals that connect it outwards to the governance networks of other nations.
9.4.3 Networked governance: problem signs and tips
9.4.4 Mapping and maintaining networks: practical tools
Building governance capacity—that of individuals, organisations or nations—is greatly strengthened when it includes long-term partnering and support from within your wider networks. So managing and maintaining relationships with your key stakeholders is very important.
Some of the relationships in your networks will be enduring and close (your members and partners); others are short term and issue specific (professional advisors, consultants, casual contractors, volunteers, bureaucrats).
Some relationships may be informal and based on common interests or simply a willingness to help; others will be formalised through written partnerships, contracts, grant conditions or agreements.
It is likely that in many of these, you will have governance relationships with people or organisations that have very different values to your own.
As a first step in successfully managing these, it is useful to identify or map your nation, community or organisation’s important networks and relationships.
A ‘map’ visually shows specific kinds of information by its spatial and geographic location and interrelation.
A map of your governance and development networks does the same thing. It will help you ‘locate’ and analyse:
- your important networks for governance and development
- where your networks are weak, and where are they strong
- your high-influence network members
- whether they are antagonistic, neutral or supportive
- their concerns, values and priorities
- whether they have a high or low impact on your plans and capacity
- how you can build upon your networks and better manage key relationships.
The various templates below will help you map and monitor your important networks, and then consider how to manage and make the most of your relationship with them.
Template: Monitoring our governance environment
This governance environment monitor is from the governance development and action plan provided below and in Topic 9. You can complete it by itself or as part of the larger work set out in that plan. It will help you identify the important external stakeholders in your wider networks and environment, and trends and issues that are influencing or having an impact on your governance.
Template: Our governance stakeholder influence
This resource is from the governance development and action plan provided in Topic 9. You can complete it by itself or as part of the larger work set out in that plan. Stakeholders are the people and groups that have an interest or ‘stake’ in the success and legitimacy of your governance and development outcomes.
What can we do? Managing our stakeholders
This resource will help you to identify the influence, concerns and impact of the key stakeholders in your networks, and determine ways to better manage those factors.
Template: Our culture scan
This tool is from the governance development and action plan in Topic 9. You can complete it by itself or as part of the larger work set out in that plan. It will help you to identify important similarities and differences in the cultures of your key network members, partners and other stakeholders that might affect your governance.
What can we do? Improving our networking
Here are some basic questions and suggestions about ways other Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander groups and organisations have successfully tried to expand their networks.