"Understanding Governance" is Chapter 2 in the State of the World 2014: Governing for Sustainability by The Worldwatch Institute. This chapter provides an introduction to the existing research around the concept of governance. It reviews the way that governance systems vary in terms of institutional structure, jurisdiction, and sources of legitimacy. It also reviews existing definitions of good governance, looking at how researchers have historically defined good governance, and at what existing research suggests predicts these different forms of good governance.
Based on a review of the concept of governance, this chapter concludes that despite the variability of governance systems, there are recurring elements that appear repeatedly in different definitions of good governance. Regardless of whether “good” governance is defined with reference to moral terms or purely in terms of performance, governance systems seen as good appear to consistently feature elements of inclusive and participatory decision-making, procedural justice, and legitimate dispute resolution and sanctioning mechanisms.