What We Do

Established in 2005, our mission is to support progress toward open, accountable and effective governance in countries and communities around the world. We believe that societies, rich and poor, address challenges such as poor service delivery, inequality, poverty and corruption more effectively, when citizens are able to exercise their rights to shape the rules that govern their lives.

Governance reform is inherently political and complex. There are few, if any, cookie cutter solutions to governance-related challenges that will work across diverse contexts. As such, efforts to drive progress toward more open, accountable and effective governance must be led by local stakeholders, as they navigate and shape the political dynamics in the particular contexts in which they are working.

We support these processes by helping government and civil society partners to put adaptive learning — a structured, data-driven, problem-focused and iterative approach to learning by doing, which engages with local political realities while drawing on experiences from elsewhere — at the heart of their efforts to design and implement effective governance reforms. In so doing, we help reformers close the gaps between policy commitments and implementation and contribute to better governance and development outcomes. (See our strategy and learning plan for further details).

We use the insights generated from our innovative and exploratory work with local partners to engage with multilateral and bilateral development agencies, and other external actors; encouraging them to operate in ways that support the country-level learning that is key to designing and implementing effective governance reforms. We put this multi-level approach into practice, in different ways, across our work on governance, data and citizen engagement, and through our more specific work on multi-stakeholder governance initiatives, open fiscal governance, and money in politics.

We focus on four thematic areas which are central to the open governance agenda:

  • Our work on Multi-Stakeholder Governance Initiatives aims to sharpen the impact and effectiveness of these initiatives, primarily by supporting their efforts to put learning center-stage. This includes our five-country assessment of how the Open Government Partnership (OGP) is playing out in practice, discussions with OGP about supporting open government reformers’ efforts to close implementation gaps, and the provision of real-time learning support to a number of African and Asian civil society organizations through our Learning to Make All Voices Count project. It also includes work that we have done with the Global Initiative on Fiscal Transparency on public participation in budget processes.
  • Our work on Money in Politics aims to inform efforts to improve the regulation of campaign finance. Building on our Campaign Finance Indicators project with the Sunlight Foundation and the Electoral Integrity Project, and our work on political finance at state level in the US with the Center for Public Integrity, this area of work increasingly extends beyond data collection to supporting country-level policy dialogues about campaign finance regulation. Beyond these specific projects, we continue to engage with a variety of actors in the democracy assistance community, and their partners working in countries around the world, as we make the case for tailored approaches to addressing the challenges of money in politics.
  • Our work on Open Fiscal Governance aims to ensure that public resources are used to meet citizens’ needs, by enabling citizens to follow and shape the use of those resources, from revenues, to expenditures to results. We do this by working with local partners, facilitating participatory action research to understand and improve the fiscal governance landscape. In Mexico, working closely with partners from government and civil society, we have piloted our citizen-centric, problem-focused, “treasure hunts” methodology at national and sub-national levels to inform the development and implementation of policy commitments on open fiscal governance. In addition, we continue to play a lead role in the Follow the Money Network, as it builds on the progress that has been made in making data available, to give more attention to the use of data to address specific sectoral challenges in particular places.

Last but not least, we are applying the principles of open governance and adaptive learning and management to our own operations, in order to sharpen our own impact and effectiveness. If you would like more information about the support that we can provide for the design and implementation of governance reforms, or for efforts to improve organizational effectiveness, or you’re just intrigued about what we do, come see us at the OpenGov Hub in Washington DC, or drop us a line. We’d love to hear about the challenges you are facing and to explore whether and how we might be able to help.

Figure 1: What we do and why we do it

Picture Themes version 3

Strategy 2-pager available here.