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Governance between abstraction and tangibility - lessons learned form an evaluation in a Malagasy slum area

Elisabeth HOFMANN, Presentation to the EES 6th Biennial Conference « Democracy, governance and evaluation », Berlin, Sept 29 – Oct 2, 2004

Since the nineties, the term « governance » has gained in popularity. Etymologically, the term has the same origin than government, namely the Latin verb « gubernare » which means « to steer the boat » [BASLE].

Rare are the political speeches nowadays that do not include an allusion to this concept, even though (or because ?) not many citizens have a precise idea of
what the term means [CASSEN].

In the academic world the expression is used to describe the institutional framework where interactions and transactions of organisations take place. The governance is « good » when the transaction costs between individuals, firms or different kinds of organisations can be reduced [NORTH, WILLIAMSON]. In other words, a framework of good governance should facilitate adaptations to technological and structural changes, avoiding serious political crises

Other definitions exist, but it is futile to look for any strict criteria they could have in common. The concept of governance is to be taken more like an analytical framework, allowing for different perspectives and different interpretations, drawing from various disciplines [SINDZINGRE].