Literature review

This paper introduces community governance to an Australian local government audience and provides the foundation for further research on the topic. It summarises the findings of a literature review on community governance from a local government perspective and sets out the theoretical underpinnings.

Literature on the governance theme is vast, so this paper is necessarily selective. The focus is on key ideas and theories of community governance that are well researched and on authors who are recognised as leading researchers in the local government field. With some exceptions the paper draws from academic research and government publications produced within the last ten years. Key questions covered by this review include:

  • How is the term governance defined in international literature and how is it different from ‘government’?
  • How is the term 'community' understood?
  • From a community governance perspective what does the literature tell us about the changing nature of the relationship between citizens and local government - and about the role of local government?
  • How is the term governance currently used by Australian councils?
  • What are the key theories and ideas underpinning the term community governance?
  • How has the term evolved and what have been some of the key influences?
  • What can we learn from recent Australian experience about the practice of community

The paper also reviews some of the challenges in applying community governance approaches, summarises international comparisons of the practice of community governance and briefly covers an evaluation of local governance in four European countries as a case study. Finally, as part of a project which is comparing the evolution of community governance through local government and through the community banking network of the Bendigo and Adelaide Bank Ltd, this paper also briefly considers the experience of community-based financial institutions internationally.

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