Why focus on governance rather than government? Because we have seen changes in the nature of the social problems that we are confronting and in the way they can be talked about and addressed. In the past governments could direct people to do things but this is not so easily done now. The problems we face are often multi-dimensional and complex. Moreover, we live in a world where more interests have specialized knowledge and control, more citizens are educated and articulate, and more individuals use social media to rapidly form and then reform collective identities. As a result, to solve the collective problems we face often requires action from government but also action from a range of non-governmental actors. Governance is the phrase we use to capture this new terrain of governing.
The governance terrain is fraught with dilemmas. Can politics change to get us focused on resolving social and economic problems together rather than the endless demand for others to take action? Can governments work without having the stick of hierarchical control as their dominant tool? What are the new strategies for change? Could these include experimental governance, behaviour change or new forms of deliberative exchange and action? Can we ensure that powerful groups do not dominate decision-making and issues of exclusion are addressed? Can we construct solutions that work from the local to the global?