July 31, 2018
Michael Moses, Director of Learning and Programs
At this month’s OGP Summit in Tbilisi, impact took center stage (so did a robot! Wild times in Georgia). Throughout the Summit, many attendees raised questions about: whether and how OGP commitments contribute to transformative change; how commitments might more effectively address problems that matter in local contexts; and how the OGP community can leverage the Partnership to prevent backsliding on open government.
At Global Integrity, along with Open North and the Open Data Charter, we’ve been pondering these questions for quite some time. We’re especially interested in understanding and addressing implementation and impact gaps (this is also a key focus for Canada, OGP’s incoming co-chair). At the Summit, we hosted a session on this topic, to discuss the causes of implementation and impact gaps, and to explore how they might be closed.
We had a lively session underneath a ferris wheel, with participants from Estonia, the Ukraine, Georgia, Nigeria, Kenya, Chile, Guyana, the United States, and elsewhere contributing to a robust discussion of gaps, their causes, and how to better deliver ambitious and impactful OGP commitments.
Our colleagues in the session highlighted a variety of factors that hinder the implementation and impact of OGP commitments, including:
- A lack of ambition, and the absence of a problem-focus, in many commitments, which limits their potential impact;
- Too much emphasis on technical initiatives that rarely address the underlying causes of deep governance challenges;
- Too little ownership of commitments among members of multi-stakeholder fora (commitments are often driven by government priorities, rather than co-created with civil society and citizens), which affects legitimacy and reduces the scope for successful implementation and impact;
- Complexity and political dynamics which often make it hard to coordinate and mobilize effective coalitions around design and implementation;
- Difficulties with tracking the progress of implementation, identifying emerging challenges, and making course corrections as needed.
Our discussion indicated that gaps are fundamentally about political dynamics and incentives. Participants agreed that commitment design and implementation processes need to account for this if they’re going to support the emergence of effective coalitions that can respond to and shape relevant incentives, and deliver on ambitious reforms that solve real problems.
So what can we do differently? Over the past several months, Global Integrity, Open North, and the Open Data Charter have been working on an idea, centered on using data to drive dialogue, learning, and adaptation in OGP multistakeholder fora. We described and discussed this idea in the session. See a short summary here.
Despite generally being supportive of the approach we sketched out, session participants highlighted some key concerns:
- What do we mean by data? Data about what?
- Who would use that data? How, specifically, is it intended to help, especially with regard to understanding and shaping political dynamics?
- How does, or how should, this kind of approach overlap with and/or complement the work of the Independent Reporting Mechanism?
- Are OGP NAPs long enough to realistically talk about impact? And relatedly, can cycles of data-driven learning even take place within the confines of a two year NAP process?
These are important questions, and serve as helpful nudges for us to clarify our proposed approach, especially in collaboration with potentially interested parties at country level. But for now, we can offer some brief clarifications:
First, re: data: to us, “Data” isn’t simply a bunch of technocratic, quantitative indicators developed without users in mind. Rather, when we talk about data, we mean information that members of multistakeholder fora can use to drive dialogue, learning and action, including around relevant political dynamics and incentives, throughout the design and implementation of OGP commitments. We suspect that information about problems, politics, and progress towards outcomes can be especially useful in this regard.
Second, re: the IRM and potential overlaps: absolutely, this is something we need to explore further, including with potential partners, and we’ll be doing that over the coming weeks.
Third, questions about what’s feasible within two years are definitely crucial, and something we’ll want to unpack with potential partners moving forward, as we figure out whether and how to flesh out this idea and put it into practice.
It was a great session, hopefully as useful and invigorating for participants as it was for us.
To continue making progress on this idea, though, we’re asking for your input. We want to ensure that our thinking builds on, and responds to, the challenges that multistakeholder fora encounter when attempting to design and implement ambitious OGP commitments.
We’re going to be following up with various interested parties from the Summit, but if our session was of interest, or you have feedback, or you simply want to discuss further, please send us an email (firstname.lastname@example.org), or contact us on twitter (@GlobalIntegrity)! We’re looking forward to working with you, and exploring how to improve the real world impact of OGP commitments.