National Commission on 

The future of governance in the public sector

Models of Governance

The Commission is guided by the work of the King IV Commission report on corporate governance and particularly its focus on governance outcomes.  We believe the extensive analysis and the conclusions set out in the report provide a sensible starting point for our work.  The issues it raises around good governance need further exploration to meet our specific aims as a Commission.

So, having Professor Mervyn King as one of our Commissioners, allows us to engage directly with the thinking and implications of that report, as we gather further evidence for the Commission. 

Three organising themes

The Commission identified three organising themes to guide its work on the first report.  They were:


  1. Communities and place

  2. Digital

  3. People


These were explored in research and in evidence sessions leading to the first report in November 2019.  

The themes as strongly connected and interactive.  Together, they provide a way to frame the key scenarios, issues, questions and lines of enquiry for the Commission.

Each theme provided the focus for a specific evidence session, involving the Commissioners and invited guests, facilitated by the Good Governance Institute. Each session was supported by a stimulus paper.

Communities and place

Place has become a well-established concept, used as an anchor between sectors and policy areas.  Place is now regularly used to frame practical issues of governance between public sector organisations and partners to achieve local social, environmental and economic outcomes.  

Place also has obvious resonance with the public who relate to an idea of place as much, if not more, than individual organisations and civic leaders.  Consideration of place supports an open and grounded discussion on the future relationship between the citizen and the state, around mutual contribution and desired outcomes and impact. 

Place also challenges the limitations on the meaning of public sector since a wide variety of public-facing organisations, which are not state-funded, play a key role in the delivery of public value.  Place is a rich and resonant term with many implications for good governance.  It has huge value in shaping the lines of enquiry for the Commission.

Read the background paper here.


The implications of digital futures for the governance of the public sector are numerous and complex. Digital futures, used here in the sense of transformational use of technology, artificial intelligence, machine learning and innovation, demands we get to grips with the governance of endless potential and risk.  Although digital futures may not yet be entirely clear, the demand for future-proofing governance now is already with us, and to some extent is already being engaged with. 

This definition of digital may seem loose, but that is deliberate.  We like the focus of Public Digital’s approach as it engages with one set of issues – 'Applying the culture, processes, business models and technologies of the internet era to respond to people’s raised expectations' – but the future of good governance requires a deeper engagement which goes beyond a focus on an organisation transforming itself.  It has to engage with new landscapes challenging the sources of legitimacy, ethics, trust, power and ownership of data.  These potentially have profound implications depending on different future scenarios which is why this theme is core to the Commission's work.

Read the background paper here.


Good governance is ultimately defined by human behaviour. Guiding principles of what should be reasonably expected of individuals taking on professional and governance responsibilities have been laid out for decades in codes and value statements.  

Changes in the world now seem to be directly challenging their effectiveness in supporting good governance.  Current models of public sector governance are struggling to embrace the consequences of engaged citizens, to accommodate the ethical demands of effective stewardship demanded by new forms of intelligence and to get to grips with a rapidly changing world of work. Trust and lack of confidence by the public is an obvious issue.

Good governance is inherently personal - so what can reasonably be expected of people in 2030 as leaders, as workers and professionals, as consumers, as citizens and creators of public value?  The lines of enquiry in this area are central to the Commission’s work.

Read the background paper here.   


Nelson Mandela

The time is always right to do right.

National Commission on 

The future of governance in

the public sector

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