Posted by: kbater | March 8, 2011

Generative – Bringing something new into existence – Governance?

A generative approach - exploring together

 The buzz in the school board world these days (besides very challenging budgets) is the idea of Generative Governance.  At an Alberta School Boards Association (ASBA) and College of Alberta School Superintendents (CASS) meeting on Friday March 4th 125 Board chairs and Superintendents met to examine this idea. 

CRPS Superintendent Brian Callaghan and I had the pleasure of presenting our work to the group and here is link to our ASBA – CASS powerpoint.

Minister Hancock spoke about governance and the need for change:

  • We need to stop solving for and start working with
  • The education system has to be adaptive and responsive to local needs
  • We need to help people see education as a fundamental value of society
  • If local boards are important then local voices of students, teachers, parents, and community have to be important also
  • Governors need to get the best info from a variety of voices – bus drivers, admin ass’t, educational assistants, library staff etc.
  • We often stop ourselves and blame the rules even when there is lots of room to work within existing rules
  • High school flexibility study showed many of the changes could have already happened with current rules
  • He offered to still listen to any changes that are necessary – he invited people to keep talking to him – tell him what to change
  • School boards are elected to look at the future but then spend time looking at potholes and solving problems
  • Engagement with our communities is the key to collaboration which in turn is the key to transformational change
  • He urged boards to create a new community governance model – a new way – a generative approach

Dr. Keith Seel from Mt. Royal University says:

  • The word generative means to bring something new into existence
  • Generative discussions are happening but usually before or after meetings – we need to bring them into our regular processes or change the way we have board meetings
  • Generative Governance is about steering and navigating
  • He used the example of parenting – we bring our child (something new) into the world
  • There is no manual
  • Experts can help but they can’t tell you exactly what to do or how to do it – you have to personalize (localize) their ideas
  • You get better at it with time and practice

Jim Gibbons of the Alberta School Boards Association says:

  • Most breakthroughs begin with a “Break-With”
  • We need to break with our old ways that aren’t working
  • There is no model but there are approaches and practices that can guide generative governance work

Our journey at Canadian Rockies Public Schools (CRPS) has been through our Inspiring Hearts and Minds process and our new venture into a Community Education Network.  We are working at bringing something new into existence – a community approach to education that focuses on developing the whole child. 



  1. Thanks for sharing, Kim. Our board is looking forward to working with Dr. Seel at our retreat the end of this month.

  2. […] criteria, generating options and making a final decision where another step in the CRPS process of gerenative governance.  We took a formal step towards generative governance in January of 2011 with the formation of the […]

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