Cases and Clients

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The Crossing Boundaries National Council Governance Working Group
Years ago, governments chose to create new instruments of public policy—crown corporations—to build up the essential communication, transport and power infrastructure Canada would need to link it together and succeed as a country. This choice was a departure from the norm—crown corporations became entities that hovered between government and industry, carving out a new kind of public space that had not existed before.

Now, another public space is emerging, this time driven by demands for government services to be delivered in new, better and integrated ways. Proponents of this new wave of service delivery envision a day when an entrepreneur can receive her business licenses and permits from all levels of government from a single website, telephone call or visit to a government office; or a new mother can get a new SIN for her child, find out about child care services in her area, and make changes to her Employment Insurance information in one fell swoop.

This is a compelling vision, but it is one that presents significant challenges for governments as they seek to bring together, and fit together services in a seamless way so that citizens can access them based on their wants and needs. These challenges are becoming especially clear as governments begin working across federal, provincial, and municipal jurisdictional boundaries to make this vision a reality.

Already there are experiments occurring in this new interjurisdictional space. Yet almost all of them depend on the goodwill of individual governments for their survival. Should one government choose to drop out, the entire project could end then and there.

Thus, the major challenge for these interjurisdictional integrated service delivery efforts is not technology; rather, it is building organizations equipped to oversee and sustain integrated service delivery efforts. At the heart of this challenge is creating the right governance arrangements that will help steer these organizations towards sustainability.

The Working Group
The KTA Centre for Collaborative Governance worked to establish the Crossing Boundaries National Council Governance Working Group to come to grips with this challenge by beginning to define the space, and by extension, the institutions, that citizens will use to access government services in new ways. By examining three case studies, the group has made some initial steps towards its goal, developing the beginnings of a methodology for creating the right governance arrangements. The main findings of the interim report are below.

Interim Conclusions

  • Efforts at integrated interjurisdictional service delivery (IISD) are at too early a stage to develop specific models of governance that can be applied generally.
  • To effectively address the governance needs of IISD initiatives, the group developed three groups of questions (diagrammed below). The first two sets, associated more or less with the conventional policy and operations distinction, are designed to provide enough contextual information to develop answers for the third set, associated with governance. The group hopes that this progression of questions will ultimately lead to the development of actual governance models for IISD initiatives.

Policy Questions

  1. Who is the client? Is it the citizenry as a whole? Is it a more specialized group (e.g. business, the elderly)? Is more than one client group served? Are citizens or governments the client?
  2. What is the overriding purpose of the project? Is it to share information? To harmonize policies, standards or regulations? To enable transactions? To save money?

Operational Questions

  1. How will integration happen? What kind of services or functions stand to be integrated? Who are the stakeholders involved in their operation? What can be achieved quickly? What will require longer-term investment? How much re-engineering or re-design must occur? What standards will be used to measure progress? How much will it cost? Who will pay?

Governance Questions

  1. Representation—If a number of governments are working together, how will board membership be decided? How will branding of the service be dealt with?
  2. Accountability—How will the tension between joint and jurisdictional accountability be managed? Who gets credit or blame for the initiative’s success or failure? How will reporting work?
  3. Funding—Will tax dollars be saved? How will the initiative generate revenue? Can fee structures be adjusted according to a jurisdiction’s ability to contribute?
  • Critically, any IISD governance model developed must be seen as evolutionary—meaning that the initiative will have different governance needs at its developmental, start-up and operational stages of existence. Importantly, these needs were seen to have both political and bureaucratic dimensions, and should be plotted out over time.
  • Finally, the group saw that political interest in this area must be created. One area of political activity that stood out for the group was the potential for establishing common language and standards for service delivery between governments.

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© 2005 Kaufman, Thomas & Associates Inc.