“Being good is easy, what is difficult is being just.”

Victor Hugo

Good governance because fairer is better

On Good Friday we launched our eighth annual Festival of Governance. This year, we focus on the Nolan Principles and ask whether fairness should be added to the list.

It’s the Good Governance Institute’s mission to help create a better, fairer world through good governance.

"A key characteristic of good governance is fairness. The principles that underpin good governance are responsibility, accountability, fairness and transparency. Not one of these will work without all of the others, which makes fairness integral to good governance."

- Professor Judge Mervyn King

Good governance because fairer is better is what our Festival of Governance celebrates this year.

Our work supporting boards across the public, private and third sectors is all rooted in the core idea that it is wiser, simpler, fairer and more practical to base governance on principles rather than rules.

The Commons debate on 21 April 2022 referring the prime minister to the Privileges Committee repeatedly called on the Nolan Principles of honesty, integrity, accountability and leadership. Many speakers highlighted the practicalities of an ethical culture that relies on the honour of people in positions of public leadership.

Fairness relates to all seven of the Nolan Principles but we think it needs to be added as an eighth principle because there are specific considerations that are not explicitly addressed in the current list of seven principles.

The COVID-19 pandemic has shone a harsh light on many social and economic inequities in the UK. Its disproportionate impact on poorer communities and minority ethnic groups raised difficult questions about how we are able to tolerate a system in which such imbalance exists.

Leaders are tasked with a number of social issues related to fairness: the ethnicity paygap, the gender paygap, equality, diversity and including representative voices from people of all walks of life. And there are growing concerns of the fair impacts decisions we take now will have on the environment and future generations.

Fairness as a Nolan Principle

We want holders of public office not to abuse their position of privilege. We want decisions to be made without discrimination and policies to be fairly applied. When people are elected or appointed to a public role, they become accountable to the public as a whole and future generations, not just those who voted for or appointed them. And above all we want a diverse population to be represented at all levels of governance.

Fairness means different things to different people / and to the same people in different contexts. Making things fairer and better is complex – our job is to help organisations navigate that complexity.

For example, is it fair that mental health is still seen differently to physical health? How do we make fairness and inclusiveness systematic? Is it possible to design discrimination out of a complex system? Are perceptions changing about what is fair? Parity of esteem, equality, diversity are just some of the themes we will be exploring during this year’s festival.

These are all questions that must be aired and debated – and our 2022 Festival of Governance will provide a platform for that debate.

In our series of Festival launch videos, we prompt an examination into what the Nolan Principles mean, how they are used and whether fairness should be added to the list.

Join the national debate @GoodGovInst using the hashtags #festofgov #ethicalculture #nolanprinciples and register to be informed of upcoming Festival events as well as our upcoming podcasts on The Public Good.

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Festival review

The Festival Review is the Good Governance Institute’s annual report on the world of good governance. This document pushes our collective creativity to the edge.

​It is a printed document that every year reviews the scope of good governance and its influence on everyday life.

This year’s publication will examine a number of sectors related to NHS and other public or third sector organisations, looking beyond systems at health and wellbeing outcomes in every aspect of a person's existence.

The review is built by writers, artists, photographers, researchers, thought-leaders, designers, experts and editors to make for an impactful statement that can be both shared and treasured for generations to come.

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Thank you for including us in your Festival - we really enjoyed the sessions, especially the Allyship event.

Gary BatesClient Relationship Director, STEPS

Good governance award

Each year the Institute recognises the achievements that one person has made towards advancing good governance through the Good Governance Award.

This year's winner will be announced later in the year.

Previous winners of the award have included Dame Janet Smith, Judge Mervyn King, Sir William Wells, Sir Liam Donaldson, Dame Julie Moore and Dame Fiona Caldicott.

These people have made the world a better and fairer place for everyone.

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Good governance award