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Refine Your Local Core Values: The Five Principles of Local Government

By Stephen Brandofino

Local governments are guided by a group of foundational principles that help set the groundwork for their actions and decisions. These basic principles should be upheld at all times because they help promote strong leadership which ultimately leads to stronger community involvement. From accountability and transparency to fostering community engagement, local governments should adhere to some key basic principles outlined below, which promote effective governing and address the needs of all constituents.

Local governments should define core values, to ensure the citizens can better understand the community vision, which leads to acceptance and trust from community members to their officials.

Learn everything about why defining values in the government enables more community involvement, civic engagement by the constituents, and helps foster community trust and local government credibility

What are the 5 Principles of Governance?

The five principles of government are guidelines for local values that local governments promise to prioritize and uphold. These principles automatically go hand in hand with local governance. Here are the five main and most consistent principles of governance: 

1. Openness and Transparency 

Openness and transparency being prioritized values of local government will strengthen democracy and promote government effectiveness by allowing everyone working in municipal offices as well as citizens to stay involved in their community through the availability of reliable information. Being open and transparent in regards to informing the public helps to promote accountability of local officials, and provides the public with information about what their government is actually working on. 

Transparency is the willingness to share information with the public without exception. Embracing openness and transparency is not only good for the citizens, it also helps promote trust and clarity within the local government itself. Transparency provides understandable information in the most basic of terms to promote trust between constituents and their community leaders. Citizens want to see that policies are being made fairly and in their best interests and the best way to do this is through being open with constituents about local government projects/spending.

Each department or subhead should be given access to understand what other departments are doing, and how projects may be interconnected. Essentially, when there are no secrets, every interested constituent and government employee has the right to access information such as fiscal budgets, government budgets, etc. Public data documents and all local proceedings should be made accessible to constituents either online through your local government website or through information requests. The local government's dedication to openness shows a clear commitment to accountability and putting constituents' needs first.

GovTip: When citizens are able stay informed of the happenings within the local government and are assured that projects are being accomplished that coincide with their needs they become more likely to re-elect their officials! 

Learn How to Bring Digital Democracy to Government Agencies with our resources!

2. Democratic Accountability

Democratic accountability from government leaders is a central piece of successful governance. It reduces the risk of power abuse and corruptive practices that may sneak into local democracy. It enables the sharing of checks and balances. This practice prevents the concentration of power and holds each department of your local government responsible for their actions and policy making

Accountability describes the relationship between the governing power and the people affected by their decisions. Accountability ensures the state or local government having the responsibility to inform the public and to justify their actions. Public participation in government decision making through voting and sharing opinions is essential to holding leaders accountable. Public hearings and town hall meetings provide opportunities for constituents to express their views and to question leaders assuring them that the governing powers are working in the community’s best interests.

Check out our Freedom of Information / Open Records Software here. 

3. Implementing Public Desired Outcomes

Implementing desired outcomes of the general public effectively involves the following steps. Before implementing changes in the community, it’s important to be clear on what the desired outcome is and how it will affect the community. Objectives regarding government projects should be clear, precise and achievable. The stakeholders of projects and residents of your municipality should be involved from the beginning of the process. Constituents should be actively involved with government outcomes by providing input and feedback to their leadership; this helps them feel as though the end result will be to their benefit and address their needs. 

Governments must allocate funding properly and maintain adequate resources throughout the implementation of all future plans. Effective planning is also key as there should be a clear timeline established to help achieve desired outcomes of government projects. These timelines and schedules should be monitored regularly as updates are provided to the community to keep their interest and investment in projects that are for their benefit.

Consider How to Embrace Citizen Feedback to Improve Government Operations.  

4. Dedication to Responsible Leadership 

Responsible leadership refers to leaders who ethically and morally meet their roles as effective leaders. Responsible leaders take their role seriously and respect all residents of their community. The most successful and well liked public officials are willing to accept responsibility and assume accountability in all decisions and decision making processes. These individuals have the ability to listen and engage effectively with constituents.

Leaders in local government must stay humble, regularly reminding themselves that their job is to serve the public and put citizens' best interests first. A dedication to responsibly leading gives citizens the reassurance that their elected officials are working to improve their lives and well-being. 

Learn about Addressing Challenges Governments Face Moving to an Online Capacity with GovPilot. 

5. Recognizing Diversity

Odds are, your local community is full of citizens from different backgrounds and cultures, meaning diversity is a huge factor in the community demographics. Understanding that different neighborhoods have different needs will ensure the local government leaders take their diverse population into consideration, not just prioritizing the most affluent or vocal community members. 

Diversity is part of what makes your local community unique and amazing. Government leaders must show a dedication to understanding community members from all backgrounds, and how they will be able to offer diverse perspectives that will improve local decision making. 

Consider How To Improve Municipal Services for Underserved Community Members here. 

Define Your Own Additional Government Values 

Not all local government offices serve the same kinds of communities, or operate in one uniform way. Defining your local governments own key principles and values based on your own individual community and mission is vital. Ask the questions below to define what your municipal values and goals are, and then share these with the public and make them known: 

  • What Do The Residents of My City Care About? 

Local governments need to consider what their local community members value. Do the constituents value responsible spending, charity projects, infrastructure development, community cohesion, etc.? Dedicating time to understanding what the specific community members in your locality place value in will guide your government towards creating community principles that represent that. 

  • What Traits Do Our Local Leaders Hope To Embody?

Local government leaders are always different in many ways than their predecessors, however this means government officials should ponder what traits they think are positive and beneficial to provide to the community. Local leaders should hope to be fair, open, honest, kind, generous, forward thinking, and more; define the traits you hope to embody. 

  • Where Does Our Local Government Need Improvement? 

Pondering where the local government may be lacking is vital in defining improved principles to address these shortcomings. What areas of governance do you excel at compared to areas of government that have been neglected in the past? Answering these questions will serve as a guide for your locality when defining the core values of your community’s future. 

The Benefits of Clear and Defined Government Principles

Read on to learn about the various ways your community will benefit from local government officials defining core values and principles of local governance. 

  • Displaying Consistency

Consistency is an essential characteristic of ethics. Consistency builds momentum and helps governments achieve milestones and community improvements on a regular basis. Inconsistency builds resistance among local constituents and fosters a lack of trust and respect for their government leaders. Showing community members that your local government can stay consistent in their words and actions provides a predictable environment where constituents will feel safe to provide feedback and get involved in their local democracy. 

  • A Culture of Fairness and Equity

Fairness and equity incorporates the treatment of all the members of your community. It is essential for governments to establish a framework of principles based on justice, equality and lack of discrimination. It’s important for governments to show communities that their policies and decisions will benefit everyone, regardless of age, race, social or economic status. 

Public policies are judged on the basis of whether their intended outcomes are fair and achievable. Equity is defined as the consistent and systematic treatment of all individuals in a fair, just and impartial manner.

Learn everything about Promoting Equity in Local Government here.

  • Rule of Law 

Rule of law is crucial in any community that aims to be safe and just as it reinforces the idea that all individuals, including government officials are subject to the law. It is a political idea that all citizens are accountable under the same laws and will be held accountable.

Read on about Local Governments Community Safety Strategy here.

  • Public Confidence

Public confidence is essential in the functioning of an effective governance. Public confidence indicates that constituents trust the government to act in their best interest. When citizens have confidence in the government they are more likely to follow the rules and regulations, engage with the community, and have a higher constituent morale. This leads to smooth governance whereas the lack of confidence fosters unrest and defiance. 

Consider GovPilot’s Code Enforcement Software

  • Long Term Planning

Long term planning is a critical principle in government for many reasons. Long term planning allows the government to address challenges that will arise in the future, not just quell concerns for the present moment. It helps to set goals and allocate proper resources to achieve them. Long term planning also leads to risk management and enables the government to develop policies that promote social welfare. 

  • Social Cohesion 

Social cohesion plays an integral role in fostering inclusive communities and promotes cooperation, trust and solidarity within the locality. Social cohesion refers to unity, harmony and solidarity in society and is built on trust. It enables citizens to rely on each other and their local officials. Inclusivity and diversity are prioritized in a cohesive society where contributions are made to society by individuals from different backgrounds (whether it be sex, race, religion etc.).

Social cohesion is reinforced by shared values, norms and beliefs between individuals who live in your community. Social cohesion helps foster active civic participation when individuals come together to help contribute in the enforcement of government values and principles.

Refine Your Local Government Principles 

When core values are clearly stated, it ensures that they are established and maintained even with changing administrations. Another important piece of defining core government values, the more citizens have trust in the government, the more they are willing to actively participate in community affairs.

It is pertinent for all local governments to clearly outline their basic principles to all employees and community members. The clear outlining of the government values, as well as a code of conduct will help foster community trust and local government credibility. Governing entities need to clearly outline new core values within their local governments which will help in their leadership and creating a successful community.  For guidance and support in streamlining government operations, book a consultation with GovPilot.

Core Local Government Values FAQs

What are some examples of government core principles?

Core government principles can be any value that the local government prioritizes and pushes for community members to embrace as well. For example, it is common that local government core principles consist of honesty, integrity, openness, and dedication to serving the community.

How can you share government core principles with citizens? 

Share the government core principles with constituents to make sure they stay on the same page as officials through social media, your local government website and even hosting local government meetings for constituents to attend. 

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Tags: Constituent Engagement, Government Efficiency, Civic Engagement