Global concepts, local meanings: comparing the third sector experience of governance in four countries
Howard, Jo; Lever, John (2008)

by Jo Howard and John Lever, University of the West of England

Much has been written about the move from government to governance in the UK and its implications for the third sector. But while the trend towards governance, partnership working and community participation is a global phenomenon, is the third sector experience of this trend similar in other parts of the world? Does it pose the same dilemmas and what can be learnt by comparing experience across different countries? In 2005, we began a research project which aimed to address this question, to explore the ways in which trends towards governance play out in different regions with different political and civil society traditions and to explore the ways in which third sector organisations at local level experience and ‘navigate the tensions’ of working in these spaces – the countries in question are Bulgaria, Nicaragua, England and Wales. The research has centred on four localities – one is each country.

Carrying out this research has posed dilemmas of its own. How can we arrive at common understandings of governance across very different settings? What resonance do concepts of voice, accountability and autonomy have in the different countries? Is it possible to develop a meaningful dialogue between the countries on these issues and what are the important commonalities and differences? This paper will explore some of the dilemmas of working in this way and reflect on the meaning and significance of the concepts we have been exploring in the light of our initial findings.

The team carrying out this work consists of Marilyn Taylor, Chris Miller, Jo Howard, John Lever and Vicki Howard of the University of the West of England in the UK, Luis Serra Vasquez of the University of Centre America in Nicaragua and Rumen Petrov and Antaoneeta Mateeva of the New Bulgarian University in Sofia.

Jo and John’s presentation is available here (Powerpoint format).

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