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A new report from the University of Wisconsin Oshkosh Whitburn Center for Governance and Policy Research offers guidance for local governing boards on how to improve their performance.

Despite so much attention on politics at the highest levels, local government is where Wisconsin residents are most likely to see their day-to-day life impacted, and the democratically elected governing boards making local policy remain understudied in the state. Using research-based ways to identify and address the most common issues holding governing groups back, the report can be a benefit to Wisconsin’s towns, cities, villages and school boards.

Michael Ford

The report, titled Governing for Results in Wisconsin Local Government, is co-authored by Michael Ford, associate public administration professor and director of the Whitburn Center, and MPA students and research assistants Renee Christensen and Beth Bouche.

The authors’ key findings include:

  • There are clear linkages between governing board behaviors and organizational outcomes.
  • Governing boards tend to fail in identifiable ways, including getting mired in unproductive conflict, failing to understand their roles, and failing to define key governing concepts.
  • Trust is a key component of governing board success. The level of trust present on a board can be identified and increased through deliberate actions.

Along with the report, the team produced a toolkit of resources governing boards can use to immediately improve their performance. Both elements are supported by academic research, available for free to anyone, and specifically tailored to Wisconsin government.

► The report is available here.

► The toolkit is available here.

About the Whitburn Center for Governance and Policy Research

UW Oshkosh’s Whitburn Center conducts practical applied research focused on evaluating and improving governance, professional management and public policy in Wisconsin and beyond. Its vision is to build local government, nonprofit and community capacity to promote the common good, bringing people together across ideological divides to discover nonpartisan solutions. The Whitburn Center shares innovative, research-based knowledge, equipping partners to address their most pressing needs, while utilizing equitable, efficient and effective strategies.

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