Concept Outline

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Under whose auspices is the Initiative to be carried out?

The seeds of the Project come from many sources and, by virtue of its collaborative nature from inception, there will be no single institutional identity although some have been instrumental in providing early encouragement and support. A number of Commonwealth institutions, particularly the Commonwealth of Learning , the Commonwealth Secretariat and the Commonwealth Foundation have hosted planning meetings and provided logistical support. Strong interest in partnership is also being shown by a number of academic and leadership training institutions in South Africa and Malawi and by the University of Cambridge where the concept was incubated. These institutions are also harnessing their considerable networks to facilitate wider participation from reputable institutions and governance practitioners so that expertise and other resources can be drawn from ever-widening circles. Expressions of interest and useful suggestions are coming from a wide variety of institutions in different parts of the world.

What makes the Initiative different from other governance training programmes?

There is an impressive array of research, leadership and other educational programmes worldwide supporting good governance in various ways. There is no need to duplicate the important work already being carried out and the Initiative does not seek to do so. Rather it seeks to limit duplication and build upon existing approaches and programmes by reducing the compartmentalisation and fragmentation of the subject that is a consequence of its relevance to so many institutions irrespective of mandate and jurisdiction. Increasing a shared understanding of the structure and elements of good governance and their interdependence will encourage a more balanced and strategic approach to embedding good governance in all sectors of society. This will give greater leverage to existing programmes.

How is the information to be managed?

The pool of knowledge, experience and insight that resides in so many widely scattered institutions constitutes a significant global asset to be recognised and cultivated as such. Its potential can only be realised, however, if it can be assembled in a form that can be conveyed to others. Core curriculum content fashioned into teaching materials will be disseminated through traditional and open distance learning approaches designed to reach selected target audiences.

As a first step in a continuous process, the Initiative draws upon many sources, sifting and selecting the material so that it can be synthesised into coherent, targeted curricula. The second step is to facilitate dissemination by making the material freely available to those responsible for existing training and educational programmes. Drawing on advanced teaching and learning methods and technologies, the Initiative also helps to optimise learning techniques employed.

Who will implement the Initiative?

Initially, a team based in Cambridge and/or London (UK) and in Canada will work closely with a team based in Malawi and South Africa. They will be answerable to an international Steering Committee of representative Partners and other stakeholders and will organise research and generate materials to promote Partner participation. Once a critical mass has been reached, it is expected that, with limited ongoing facilitation, the Initiative will be largely self-implementing as Partners derive benefit from ongoing participation, research, training and education, and contribute accordingly.

For whom is the Governance Curriculum Intended?

Four key beneficiary groups are:

  • senior and local level government officials
  • schools and universities through existing courses (politics, economics, law, development studies, business programmes)
  • civil society: through media, professional associations, charities, faith communities and other civil society organisations
  • international development practitioners through in-house training and reference tools.

How much demand is there for such information?

There is a genuine thirst for this kind of knowledge in a usable, pragmatic format and targeted to specific user needs in virtually all sectors identified. Evidence in the field suggests that where this sort of training is done systematically impact is high. Demand will depend upon the quality and utility of the content, which is why an emphasis is placed on wide participation and feedback mechanisms, as well as quality control through expert panels. The learning materials developed and ultimately the Initiative itself will be tested by peers in the marketplace of ideas and proven by the level of participation and demand for materials. This will be closely monitored, adapted and adjusted to local needs.

How will course content be decided?

Course content will be determined by panels of experts selected for their knowledge of the subject area. They will compile and/or draft material suitable for inclusion based on quality and utility in relation to particular target audiences. The composition of the panel will be representative and have gender balance, but will vary according to the matter under consideration and the particular target group for which the material is being prepared.

It will be necessary to ensure that a manageable number of Partners are engaged in any one subject area to work to agreed objectives, to ensure coordinated forward movement. One of the steps yet to be taken is to find an acceptable mechanism to select panel membership and for panels to make rulings on the selection and formulation of content.

What will ensure that course material is reliable and authoritative?

The material derives its authority from the status and nature of the instruments on which principles and rules are based, as well as the experience, standing and credibility of the Partner institutions and expert panels involved in their selection and preparation. Where there is a lack of clarity in a subject, it is proposed that panels of experts will formulate agreed statements through a process of consultation and consensus-building. There will also be space provided for reasoned dissenting opinions to accommodate differing views so that the user can exercise choice. Discussion forums will also inform the process of selection and formulation.

Who will conduct the training and what training methods will be employed to reach these groups?

Training and dissemination of materials will be done primarily through Partner institutions who wish to incorporate the material and techniques developed by the Initiative into their existing training programmes. Much of the material will be available online through Wiki-Educator and through related links. There will be a facility to download Wiki materials in PDF format for application as needed in non-formal and formal education settings. Where needed and the cost of production is covered, teaching manuals and materials will be developed in more traditional formats for dissemination. There will also be distance learning opportunities that provide direct access to technology-based learning through DVDs, CDs, radio and other platforms. Training materials will focus on pragmatic, interactive approaches and case studies.

At what stage is the Initiative presently?

The Initiative is at the pilot stage, partnering with the University of Malawi to develop a visiting lectureship in good governance. Visiting lecturers will contribute to open distance learning materials being developed for the Governance Education Network programme. Exploratory talks are under way to develop a child rights education project for local government officials and communities in Malawi.

What Partners will be approached to participate?

It is anticipated that Partners will include multi- and inter-governmental organisations, regional organisations, educational and research institutions, government agencies and international development agencies, NGOs, private foundations, faith communities, media representatives, representatives of the private sector and the not-for profit sector, and by self-regulating hybrid bodies such as professional associations that carry out quasi-governmental standard-setting and/or disciplinary functions. There will also be vehicles for participation by actors in the private sector such as consultancy companies, law firms, accountancy firms, and freelance specialists.

Strategically important institutions are being approached in various representative countries already. We are in discussions with potential partners in South Africa and Malawi, with additional pilot projects in Ghana and Nigeria being explored. An indicative list is provided in the Annex II. At the inception phase, governance experts will be approached in their personal capacity to assist with conceptualisation and design. Many are advisers to organisations that are potential partners, or will be as the Initiative matures.

What Roles will institutional Partners play and how will those roles be defined?

Institutional Partners will contribute voluntarily according to their mandates, interests and commitment to the particular topic under scrutiny at any given time. At the present design stage, interested parties can assist by providing constructive suggestions and feedback on design aspects at meetings or online, facilitating access to networks and potential Partners, and through formal expressions of interest and endorsement. Once the Initiative is up and running, contributions can be made by submitting or identifying materials for use as a basis for core teaching content, participation on panels, submitting views on proposals and draft materials that are posted on the platform for comment. With respect to dissemination, the Initiative’s effectiveness is enhanced by the incorporation of materials into education and training programmes facilitated by Partner institutions.

Voluntary participation will be facilitated through Memoranda of Understanding incorporating agreed protocols. These will offer flexible arrangements enabling colleagues and institutions to gravitate to subject areas and activities that interest them and to engage as they see fit. Where more substantial contributions are needed that are not otherwise underwritten, funded consultancies will be commissioned to prepare reports and/or teaching materials to fill gaps that have been identified.

What Incentives are there for Initiative Partners to participate and contribute?

By offering a credible forum of reputable Partners and powerful dissemination vehicle, the Initiative provides an excellent opportunity for institutions to further their own objectives and mandates. They will have an opportunity to get their messages across, with names and logos displayed in a way that associates them with the message and with the Initiative. They are also provided with unprecedented access, not only to sources of information, but to a wide range of dissemination programmes that target strategically placed audiences. As noted, in some cases, Partners will be commissioned to carry out certain funded research or other tasks for the Initiative on a remunerated basis.

Will there be a charge to participate?

There will be no charge.

Will there be a charge for products?

Because education is a public good that should not be restricted by ability to pay, it is proposed that there be no charge for the information that is posted on Governance Curriculum Wiki-Educator site. If more expensive media are needed, then the expense could be passed through to the user at cost, depending on circumstances.

How will participants and beneficiaries share knowledge and exchange views?

To encourage participatory, inclusive communications, several tools will be used, including: Google groups or other threaded discussion platforms, real time audio conferencing, email notices and announcements, periodic reports and newsletters, briefing papers and a collaborative document management platform called Wiki-Educator. This platform employs systems and protocols using Mediawiki software, which is open source software licensed under the same software that powers the Wikipedia website. The platform enables collaboration through document sharing, revision tracking, discussion groups and other techniques. More information is available at

Through what stages is the Initiative expected to progress?

The Initiative will commence by articulating the most fundamental principles of good governance and the forms and rules of executive, political and judicial decision-making. As the Initiative develops, it is expected that that there will be a natural tendency to apply rules and protocols to specific applications in increasingly greater detail and to branch out into ever-widening spheres of activity. Differentiation and refinement will be driven by the development of course content for specific target audiences and by online discussion groups around issues. It is hoped and expected that institutional Partners, individually or through cooperative arrangements, will assume responsibility for Initiative activities in specific subject areas according to their respective mandates and capacity to host Initiative activities, and their administrative capacity, their ability to organise, preserve and make information available to others. This aspect will be actively promoted by the Initiative and there may be opportunities for capacity-building to enable Initiative activities to be phased out to the extent that they are picked up by other institutions. An important component of the Monitoring and Evaluation section will be the development of governance indicators.

What subjects will be covered?

It is anticipated that, over time, a broad range of specialist subjects will intersect with the Initiative owing to the fact that the tools of enhanced decision-making are relevant to them, and because those tools are shaped by the context in which they are applied. It is therefore likely that points of contact will be found with subjects such as public administration and public sector reform, parliamentary practice and procedures, electoral systems, criminal justice and penal reform, human rights, gender justice, access to information, ethics, anti-corruption, consumer protection, rights of the child, minority and group rights, rights of persons with disabilities, NGO law and the regulation of charities, environmental protection, international law, constitutional law, administrative rights, trade law, security sector regulation, private sector development, corporate citizenship and compliance, intellectual property, foreign direct investment, expropriation and equitable treatment, management systems and labour law. This list is neither definitive nor prescriptive. It is especially hoped that the decision-making focus of the Initiative will have an impact in developmentally significant areas where the law has traditionally remained in the background, such as in political decision-making, as well as service delivery in areas such as health, education, sanitation, agriculture, transport and communications.

How can one Initiative cover numerous topics in very different subject areas?

The participation of specialist groups in various fields will make it possible to address the specific needs of many subject areas. The Initiative is ultimately a facilitating process, empowering Partners and users to build the content that meets their needs and aspirations by drawing on collective knowledge available. The Initiative does not seek to control or own ideas or content, but rather to encourage their creation, organisation, preservation and dissemination. The Initiative embraces people and institutions drawn from all key sectors that have a stake in governance and that have specialist knowledge to contribute. Using Wiki-Educator, the Initiative can support exponential growth without corresponding demand on resources.

Who holds the copyright?

This is under consideration and views are welcome. As education and learning is a development right for all people, and because good governance is critical to development, it is proposed that by default use of products of the Initiative will come under the Creative Commons license with the BY (attribution) clause, and that the SA (share alike) clause will be used when utilising material on this site. This will not alter the copyright status of material on other websites referred to by hyperlinks or the rights of individuals who are entitled to assert copyright for work they have produced themselves.

What language(s) will be employed?

Initially, English and, as soon as possible, French will be the primary working languages but it is anticipated that as the Initiative grows, materials will be developed for other language groups and that are oriented to the cultures of users.

How long will the Initiative Last?

The inception phase is expected to last approximately two-to-three years by which time essential curriculum teaching materials will have been developed. Partners and other institutions will have had an opportunity to expand and refine their own materials with assistance from the Initiative and from other sources. Reference materials, web-based discussion forums and teaching materials development in additional languages could continue if there is a clear need.

From where will financial support come?

Seed funding has been made available from private and public sources to support the Initiative through its early consultation and planning phase. It is hoped that partners will provide introductions and expertise to facilitate fundraising, as well as subject-related input, in due course. The Commonwealth of Learning has facilitated access to the Wiki-Educator platform on which the Initiative is presently based, as well as expertise in open distance learning techniques. Once key institutions have endorsed the Initiative and start to participate, it is expected that funding will not be an issue.

What principles will govern the Initiative itself?

The Initiative places a strong emphasis on legitimate processes in its own way of working for two reasons. First, a principled approach produces more effective collaboration among trusted institutions which in turn leads to a better outcomes. Second, in order for norms and principles to be influential in guiding behaviour, they must be credible; if they are seen as the product of a legitimate and technically reliable process, they will have greater acceptance and impact. It is a feature of the subject that the effective delivery of messages is undermined by a failure to observe the principles being espoused.

How will the Initiative be monitored?

To enable the Initiative to evolve and improve, as well as to render it more accountable and ensure confidence of partners, all elements of the Initiative will be monitored and evaluated throughout the life of the Initiative through a combination of self-assessment and independent evaluations. Financial accountability will be assured by periodic audit through Hughes Hall at the University of Cambridge.

What is needed at this stage?

At the present time the organisers are seeking suggestions as to methodology and recommendations of experts and institutions that may wish to collaborate in the Initiative. Interested parties are asked for their views on whether the Initiative addresses a genuine need and whether the proposed methodology is viable and sound, together with an indication of whether they would like to participate. This will help those interested in funding the Initiative to assess its worth and its prospects.

Whom do I contact for more information or if I want to become involved?

Contact can be made with Dr John Barker at the University of Cambridge by email at or on +44-1223-335358.

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