Governance options for Sustainable
Good governance and formalising your group
Accepted definitions of ‘sustainability’ generally include environmental, economic, and social sustainability, underpinned by good governance. Good governance is about open, inclusive, and transparent decision-making frameworks.
Formalising a local Sustainable Neighbourhood group becomes important when the group wants to undertake projects or other activities. Effective and sustainable groups have agreed goals, systems, and processes to assist their operations. Often detailed in a ‘Terms of Reference’ or other document, effective groups have an agreed set of rules and procedures, governing:
• their vision, values, and objectives (eg a Sustainable Neighbourhood Action Plan - SNAP);
• membership of their group;
• how the group makes decisions;
• roles and responsibilities of group members;
• how the group manages its funds;
• other operations (eg meeting protocols, communications, documentation etc); and
• how the group manages grievances or disputes.
Agreeing upon and communicating these rules will ensure that everyone understands their rights and responsibilities when organising and participating in group activities.
All Sustainable Neighbourhood groups need to consider how they want to formalise their membership. At the very least, each group should develop a written agreement about how they will function, make decisions, keep on track, and ensure they continue to represent the needs and wishes of their particular community.
Options for governance
There are four main options for Sustainable Neighbourhood groups to manage their governance arrangements.
Option 1: Formalise membership, by joining the Lake Macquarie Sustainable Neighbourhood Alliance (Inc).
The group can undertake activities and apply for funding under the umbrella of the Lake Macquarie Sustainable Neighbourhood Alliance (the Alliance). Joining the Alliance will enable a Sustainable Neighbourhood group to benefit from established resources, networks, and procedures. See About the Alliance (Fact Sheet).
Option 2: Incorporate as an association.
A Sustainable Neighbourhood group may wish to incorporate as an independent association. Incorporation provides a group with the highest level of autonomy in undertaking their business. Incorporation is governed by the Associations Incorporation Act 2009, and is managed NSW Fair Trading (www.fairtrading.nsw.gov.au).
Option 3: Function as a sub-committee under the auspice of an existing incorporated association or group.
This model works effectively in a community where there is already a strong and functional community group with an existing constitution that could include the activities of the particular Sustainable Neighbourhood group. This model has the potential to increase cooperation and resources, whilst reducing costs and duplication of paperwork etc. In this case, it is the group’s responsibility to come to an agreement with an auspicing association regarding their operations.
Option 4: Continue to function without formalising membership.
This model provides the least protection for its members, is not transparent, and is restricted in its function due to the lack of insurance coverage. This model is better suited to issue-based groups, and is limited in its ability to function over time.