Theme: Governance

Governance refers to the ways in which social groups or collectivities organize themselves for deliberations, decision-making, management of their activities, and planning. These may be formal, in the case of states or large scale organizations, or they may be informal in the case of clubs, families, communities, or faith groups. The study of governance typically includes the identification and analysis of the ways in which activities are structured by rules or norms – and the ways in which they are regulated.

The NRE Governance Team focused particularly on the governance of rural and remote communities and the special challenges and opportunities emerging from the long distances and relatively low density of these communities. Their framework included a systems approach to the topic because of the many ways in which governance involved multiple dynamics, levels of control, and interactions.

Our NRE site research suggests that the most resilient communities are those where new rural governance is evident. These data challenge the classical view of rural people as traditional, passive, and with little capacity and supports the position that rural people are both knowledgeable and able to act effectively under many conditions (Giddens, 1984; Gunn and Gunn, 1991). The history of agricultural marketing co-operatives and socialized medicine demonstrate how rural people have been able to develop innovative social institutions in the face of external pressures. We expect, therefore, that the new economy will generate similar social innovations (Reed, 1993; O'Neill, 1994; Halseth, 1999; Jean, 2000; Carrier and Côté, 2000).

Our NRE research shows how “leading” rural communities have a more balanced form of leadership. In those sites, local power tends to be shared by various groups and interests, whereas in the lagging sites, power is controlled by a small group of persons (Odagiri and Jean, 2000). The Governance team contributed to understanding the underlying processes. They show the dynamics whereby local issues are identified, represented, and turned into social action. They also show how outcomes are affected by the different institutional, social, and legal structures in which they are embedded.

This team conducted research using two approaches. The first involved a comparison of how sites deal with common problems and issues. To meet the requirements of such a comparison, we identified two conflicts that are faced by most of our sites: those relating to land use and stewardship of the environment and those relating to the challenges of service delivery. We compared how existing governance structures deal with these issues under different conditions. In this way, the research not only contributes to our understanding of governance, but advances the objectives of both the natural resources and services teams. The sites were selected to ensure appropriate comparisons by governance structures and economic conditions.

Even as the new economy places stress on rural communities, its new conditions and technology provide opportunities for the governance of rural areas. The second approach of the governance team identified some of these innovations in governance and compared them to more traditional forms (Herbert-Cheshire, 2000). New local and regional agencies, municipal amalgamation, community-based resource management, co-operative ventures, and government/voluntary-group partnerships were examined for their contribution to local capacity and the conditions under which they emerge (Chouinard and Desjardins, 2000)

Bruno Jean Bruno Jean

Team Leader: Bruno Jean
Université du Québec à Rimouski

Number and level of students who worked with this team

  • Undergraduate students: 1
  • Master’s students: 2
  • PhD students: 3

Research activities undertaken (Selected)

  1. Formation and consolidation of the research team, with Bruno JEAN and Steve PLANTE (UQAR), Omer CHOUINARD (U.Moncton), Patrice LEBLANC (UQAT), Derek WILKINSON (Laurentian), Peter APEDAILE (U. Alberta) and the participation of Bill REIMER.
  2. Organisation of a First Seminar on Governance in February 2003, and planning of a Second Seminar for December 2004. 
  3. Identification of two sites (Néguac and Cap-à-l’Aigle) for in-depth case studies on local governance and discussions for two more sites to study in 2004, TaschereauSéguin or, from the West: Ferintosh or Hussar.
  4. Several telephone conference-based work sessions and one formal meeting at Carleton in the Gaspé region among the researchers involved in the Néguac and Cap-à-l’Aigle case studies in May. 
  5. First studies completed in Néguac and Cap-à-l’Aigle.
  6. Preparation of a theoretical and methodological document on governance.
  7. Preparation of a paper on governance for the CRRF Conference in Gatineau in November.


The NRE project was organized into four major themes—with teams of researchers who specialized in each topic. A Central Team, working out of NRE Headquarters located at Concordia University in Montréal, coordinated the activities of the entire project, as well as conducted research of a broader nature. 

Explore the four major themes relevant to rual society:

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