Six Lessons Learned From ‘Unleashing the Power of Good Governance’

This blog post originally appeared on MSH’s Health Impact Blog.

The benefits of good health governance are far-reaching: Leaders who govern facilitate the work of health managers. Health managers facilitate the work of health service providers. 
– Management Sciences for Health

On May 11-13, 2015, the USAID-funded Leadership, Management & Governance (LMG) Project, led by Management Sciences for Health (MSH), conducted an online seminar on LeaderNet titled Unleash the Power of Good Governance. Over the three-day seminar, 93 participants representing 75 organizations in 36 countries discussed challenges to good governance among public and civil society organizations, and how to overcome them. The seminar was offered in three languages: English, French and Spanish, and encouraged learning through source materials, the facilitators, and one another.

Three themes emerged from among the online discussion threads:

  1. People do the work of governing bodies. They bring their unique knowledge and biases to the four essential practices of good governing boards:
    • Creating a culture of accountability;
    • Engaging diverse stakeholders;
    • Setting bold, wise, and shared; strategic direction; for the organization; and
    • Stewarding scarce resources to accomplish the organization’s mission.

    Members of governing bodies are “trustees” because they “hold in trust” resources that can help others achieve higher levels of health. They also need to: guard against conflicts of interest; come prepared to meetings to make smart decisions; have enough “emotional intelligence” that they can listen to others; and be passionate about the mission of the organization they are trying to govern. They should receive introductory orientation within 30 days of starting their governing role to understand their responsibilities, and they must continuously develop their knowledge, skills, and attitudes.

  2. Policymakers may not fully appreciate the importance of governing bodies. We need to do a better job of advocating to policymakers that governing bodies can help amplify the voice of the vulnerable, the needs of health workers, and the need to invest in governance capabilities and authorities. Policymakers need to better understand the value of governing boards.

  3. Health sector governing bodies will have problems; but, there are ways to remove or reduce the problems. Participants said they can apply the lessons learned in the seminar to unleash good governance. Eighty percent of people who provided feedback said this seminar will likely or very likely help their organizations improve governance and performance, and it provided them several tools, techniques, or approaches that will help them overcome governance challenges in their organizations. See more ideas captured in the summary of the seminar.
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What else did we learn from this seminar? Leaders need three things to support good governance:

  1. Leaders need fresh and practical insights about the importance of good practices for governing.
  2. Leaders who govern or support governing need to be prepared to attract competent people and the processes and systems to implement and continuously improve the essential practices of good governance.
  3. Leaders need to mobilize resources to make investments in capacity development for the people and processes of smart governance decision-making.

Want to unleash the power of good governance in your community, facility, board, governing body, etc.? Learn more about applying good governance here, download the Governance for Health (Govern4Health) mobile app (on Apple and Android), download the Governance Guides and Handbooks, and visit the seminar page.

Coming soon: MSH is launching a digital learning resource called Leaders Who Govern, and a new governance certificate course on the USAID Global Health E-learning Center platform this summer. Stay tuned! is a learning and social networking website that hosts a global community of those who lead, manage, and govern in the health sector of low and middle-income countries. Through LeaderNet, participants can benefit from self-paced distance learning courses, virtual seminars, and support for knowledge exchange across global communities of practice.

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