Skip to content

The Shared Power Principle

Think what could happen if governments shared power to create positive outcomes for people?

The twin challenges facing government

Governments have always faced two serious challenges: bringing about the results people expect while remaining trusted and relevant. Both challenges are equally important and hard to get right – addressing them well requires a new kind of government that values the role everyone can play, working with people from all backgrounds and ideologies to build the future of government together.

To help shape our thinking we’ve been:

icon: three people

The Shared Power Principle

Understanding how the Shared Power Principle can address the twin challenges of effectiveness and legitimacy


Listening to communities to help governments strengthen legitimacy

Making it happen

Learning from those who are making it happen

The Shared Power Principle

Through many conversations with practitioners, scholars and experts, we’ve begun to observe a shift towards a different model of government. It's all about how power is shared.

We have unearthed four patterns – subsidiarity, relationships, accountability and learning – that governments around the world are using to better tackle the effectiveness and legitimacy challenges they face. What underlies these patterns is what we are calling 'The Shared Power Principle' that we believe government needs to embrace to really make a difference to people everywhere.

Download discussion paper


A new policy or programme would not be enough. It needed a radical rethink about how we could put people and connections at the heart of public services.

Donna Hall, New Local Government Network Read more

Young people hear a lot of politicians talking and talking but then nothing ever seems to happen... they just need to start being honest – if something can’t happen then sit down with them and explain why that is the case.

Ira Campbell, Managing Director, Marcus Lipton Community Centre

If we can’t trust the data in the system, then the system itself becomes a lie — and until we change this, it will always be difficult to create positive outcomes or even to speak openly about what we can achieve.

Toby Lowe, Visiting Professor at Centre for Public Impact

It’s about encouraging and enabling residents to be involved in and start activities with their neighbours that matter to them.

Simon, Community builder in Gloucester Read more

Listening to communities

Though many conversations and effort centred around a more efficient government, not enough attention goes into strengthening the relationships people have with their communities and governments. These fragile relationships make governing even harder. We are on a journey to better understand what people need from their governments, how to help people feel more connected to decision-making and what governments can do to bring both communities and public servants together to solve the biggest challenges of our time.  

So far, this journey has focused on how government can be more human, a key aspect of legitimacy. So far, this research has uncovered five key ‘behaviours’ that can help strengthen those all-important relationships.

The five key behaviours

1. Working together with people towards a shared vision

Do people feel that they have a stake in a government? Do they feel any sense of common purpose?

“There’s currently no notion of where to go.” - Participant at the community conversation in Mexico

Find out more about what we heard in Mexico:

Making Mexico's government more legitimate

2. Bringing empathy into government

What dominates public services and processes: departmental structures or people’s needs?

"Government feels uncomfortable hearing how indigenous people were hurt" - Participant at the First Nations conversation in Canada

Read more about our conversation in Canada:

Finding reconciliation and legitimacy in Canada

3. Bringing an authentic connection

How are individual government representatives and institutions perceived by communities? Do they speak the same language and can they connect with people emotionally?

Listen to what we heard from young people in Brixton.

Giving voice to Brixton’s youth

4. Enabling the public to scrutinize government

What mechanisms exist to allow the public to understand easily what government is doing, why, and who makes decisions? Are these processes as inclusive and accessible as they could be?

“Legitimacy is strong when there is transparency about what processes the government uses to reach its decisions.” - Participant at the community conversation in India

Find out more:

On course for #FindingLegitimacy in India

5. Valuing communities voices and responding to them

Is consultation just a box-ticking exercise, or is there a general willingness to listen to people’s voices and turn them into action?

"Voters want governments to show they care about them and have listened to their voice" - Ben Page Chief executive of Ipsos MORI.

Hear more from Ben Page:

CPI in conversation with Ben Page

Related research

Download Human Government report


Download Tackling Challenges Together report


Explore how we’re Finding Legitimacy

Learn more

Making it happen. Shared power in action

Inspired by the empowerment of Dutch nurses demonstrated by Buurtzorg, we teamed up with Frontline and Buurtzorg Britain & Ireland to create a blueprint for children’s social care that prioritises relationships between social workers and children and families.

Learn more about the blueprint

Join the conversation

Have a public impact story to share? Get in touch to let us know. We’re looking forward to hearing from you.

Get in touch