Peer governance is a concept that arises from the principles of decentralization and self-organization. Instead of relying on external authorities or hierarchical structures, peer governance involves individuals within a group taking responsibility for maintaining order and enforcing rules and norms. This can involve creating community standards, developing methods for conflict resolution, and enforcing consequences for violations of those standards. In peer-governed systems, power is distributed among members, and decisions are made through consensus-based processes. This type of governance is often found in open-source software communities, where contributors work collaboratively to develop and maintain code.
In online communities, peer governance is essential for creating a safe and productive environment. Members must be willing to hold themselves and each other accountable for following community standards and resolving conflicts in a respectful manner. For example, in a forum for discussing mental health, peer governance might involve setting guidelines for respectful language and tone, creating a process for reporting abusive behavior, and establishing consequences for violating those guidelines. By relying on peer governance, online communities can create a sense of ownership and investment among members, leading to greater engagement and collaboration.