Governance through communication

Date01 May 2015
Published date01 May 2015
Governance through communication
This special issue of the Journal of Public Affairs is
devoted to governance, and all but one of the
articles collected here were originally presented as
papers at the International Communication Associ-
ation pre-conference Governance through commu-
nication; stakeholder engagement, dialogue and
corporate social responsibility, organised jointly
by Queen Margaret University and Copenhagen
Business School in 2013. The concept of governance
has wide-ranging applications signalled by adjec-
tives such as public, corporate, organisational,
global or good governance, to mention just the most
commonly used ones. Depending on the context,
governance may have a somewhat different focus
and practices. For example, while public gover-
nance may be focused on state institutions, their
decision-making processes and their relationship
with citizens as shown in the extensive work of the
World Bank or OECD, corporate governance safe-
guards shareholdersrights and is, in the rst in-
stance, established through appropriate legal and
regulatory frameworks (OECD, 2004). These differ-
ences have also been mirrored in the academic divi-
sion of labour in respect to the practices taken as a
focus: while public engagement or public dialogue
tend to be studied more as part of public policy,
public administration and community develop-
ment, corporate social responsibility belongs to
business and business ethics. One of the aims of this
special issue is, therefore, to explore ways in which
these different domains of life and academic
activity, rather than separated, could be seen as con-
nected and, more to the point, connected through
the role communication plays in the constitution of
governance and it its enactment.
We understand governance by the well-known
and widely quoted, broad denition as ‘… the pro-
cess of decision making and the process by which
decisions are implemented (or not implemented)
(UNESCAP, 2007). However, the authors of the
articles published in this issue are quite clearly
interested not simply in processes of governance
but, rather, in what is known in development stud-
ies as good governance, understood as: participa-
tory, consensus oriented, accountable, transparent,
responsive, effective and efcient, equitable and inclu-
sive, following the rule oflaw (UNESCAP, 2007).This
interest emerges across the articles as the preoccupa-
tion with power (Trowbridge; Willis), accountability
(Burnside-Lawry & Ariemma;Tsetsura);participation
as access, or collective learning (Roper, Collins & de
Jong; Burnside-Lawry & Ariemma; Trowbridge),
competence (Aakhus & Bzadak) and identity
(Bartlett, McDonald & Pini), issues that are
further problematised by the use of social media
(Johnston; Lutz).
The articles presented in this special issue can be
loosely grouped into three sections, exploring
questions of collective learning and participation in
public policy and decision making processes, the
implications of new technologies for governance
and probing specic communication practices or
dilemmas (nal four articles).
In the rst group, Burnside-Lawry and Ariemma
examine issues of democratic participation in policy
decision making in the case of a transnational orga-
nisation, and the particular dilemmas of account-
ability encountered in such cases. Trowbridge
similarly examines stakeholder issues in a transna-
tional governance situationthat of USCanadian
water management in the context of the Lake
Ontario-St. Lawrence River, and the controversies
Roper, Collins and de Jong describe innovative
approaches, primarily based in what is commonly
termed the business case for sustainability, that
were used to facilitate stakeholder engagement in
achieving changes in governance aimed at improv-
ing water quality of a critically important lake in
New Zealand.
These articles are followed by two that deal with
governance and the implications of new communi-
cation technologies: Johnston examines policy
guidelines developed in a range of sectors in re-
sponse to threats posed to organisations by social
media use, in particular by employees; Hoffmann
and Lutz conduct a literature review to map the
contours of the discussion on using the internet for
stakeholder engagement and proposes a framework
for future research.
Journal of Public Affairs
Volume 15 Number 2 pp 127128 (2015)
Published online in Wiley Online Library
( DOI: 10.1002/pa.1571
Copyright © 2015 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.

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