What is the Governance Cube?

The governance cube is a framework that we developed. It helps multi-disciplinary teams understand what makes up a government system. This is so that they are better equipped to design or redesign systems that are more efficient and effective.

The governance cube looks at government systems as having 3 dimensions. These dimensions are:

  1. Governance Domain: these are the places where constraints can be imposed on a system to modify the behaviour of the entities operating within a jurisdiction; e.g. Legal, Policy, Operations, ICT etc.
  2. Governance Functions: these are the tasks that are carried out by governments to ensure the entities adhere to the rules; e.g. Register, Authorise, Monitor, Investigate, Enforce etc.
  3. Governed Entities: these are the entities whose behaviour we are trying to govern; e.g. Citizens, Companies, Vessels, Vehicles, Utilities etc.
Visual representation of the Governance Cube
A visual representation of the Governance Cube Framework

Why is it useful?

People from different disciplines have different understandings of a government system. To be able to effectively and efficiently coordinate the efforts of a multi-disciplinary team, the members must share a common understanding of the system and how it works. The governance cube framework helps build that understanding by providing a common framework and language. This is useful to teams when trying to assess the scope, complexity and priorities when designing systems.

Governance Cube in Detail

The Governance Domain

The governance domain is the dimension in a system of governance where the rules can be set. There are several “places” where these rules can be created and set:

  • International Agreements – International agreements are formal understandings or commitments between two or more countries of the rules that they have agreed to.
  • Legislation and Regulations – The rules that govern the entities and assets within a country.
  • Policies – The guiding principles used to help choose a course of action from a set of possible actions.
  • Processes and Procedures – The set of rules guiding how things are done.
  • Technology – The rules that are embedded in the software that enforce the rules of the system.

The rules that are set at these layers are created to help shape the behaviour of the entities and assets operating within a certain jurisdiction. These rules help create the environment in which people, businesses and organisations can function.

You can think of the governance stack like the soil in a taro patch. Citizens, businesses and organisations are like the taro. Without the right conditions, it is difficult to grow healthy taro. The role of government is like the role of the taro farmer, it is to create the right environment for the taro to grow well. The environment in this case can be created via the governance stack.

All these layers in a governance stack are interconnected. Shifts in one layer creates a ripple effect in the other layers. Since digital transformation is a change in the technology layer. It has a ripple effect up the governance stack. For example in the operations layer it changes the way we do things and this has ripple effect that goes up the governance stack. So before designing a system it is critical that you understand what rules you can change within the governance stack given the resources available at your disposal. Understanding this allows you to better assess the scope of what is feasible against what your resource constraints are.

Note: When referring to entities we mean citizens, organisations, businesses etc. that have decision making capabilities. With the rise of Machine Learning and Artificial Intelligence this will in the future encapsulate these types of entities.

The Governance Functions

The governance functions are the things that a government does to ensure that the entities residing within its jurisdiction (area of control) follow the rules. The purpose of these rules is to encourage good behaviour and discourage bad behaviour. The things that the government needs to do to ensure that the entities operating within its jurisdiction are behaving themselves is listed below:

  • Registration: A government must know all the entities and assets operating within a jurisdiction.
  • Verification: A government must verify claims about who an entity claims to be and / or the assets it owns and operates within a jurisdiction.
  • Whitelisting: Once verified the entity and it’s assets are then whitelisted by the government.
  • Authorisation: Once whitelisted entities are then allowed by the government to carry out certain activities under certain conditions and with certain constraints.
  • Routine Monitoring: A government then monitors the entities to ensure that they are playing by the rules.
  • Routine Inspection: A government also does routine inspections of entities and assets to ensure the rules are being followed.
  • Watchlisting: Any suspicious activities from entities that have been flagged during monitoring and inspection activities are added to a watchlist
  • Targeted Inspection: Entities that are on the watchlist or that have a high likelihood of breaking the rules can be subjected to targeted inspections.
  • Targeted Surveillance: Entities that are on the watchlist or that have a high likelihood of breaking the rules can be subjected to targeted surveillance.
  • Investigation: Entities that are caught not playing by the rules are investigated and evidence is collected about their violation of the rules.
  • Enforcement: If enough evidence is collected, the entity is prosecuted in a court of law to determine if they are guilty or not. If found guilty the entity is fined and / or incarcerated.
  • Blacklisting: An entity can be blacklisted if found guilty.

Before designing a system it is critical that you understand what functions of government you are designing for. Understanding this let’s you understand in what order to structure implementation.

The Governed Entities

Governed Entities are the things that are being governed within a jurisdiction. These can be:

  • Entities: An entity is a person or organisation that is assigned a set of rights. Entities can be subdivided into 2 specific categories.
    • Natural Persons: A person
    • Legal Persons: Companies, Corporations, Partnerships, Industry Associations, Trade Unions, Non- Profits etc.
  • Assets: A useful thing e.g. Land, Property, Cars, Vessels, Factories etc.
  • Activities: An action that is performed e.g. Fishing, Mining, Importing, Exporting etc.

Within a jurisdiction Entities, Assets and Activities are governed by a set of rules. These rules help shape the way the entities behave within a jurisdiction. The role of policy makers is to attempt to set rules that are designed to promote behaviours that are considered good and to discourage behaviours that are considered bad. The goal is to create an environment for entities to co-exist peacefully within a jurisdiction without having to return to the law of the jungle i.e. survival of the fittest.

Before designing a system it is critical that you understand who the governed entities are in your system and what good behaviour looks like. Understanding this helps you monitor any unintended consequences during the implementation of a design.

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