Citizens should be able to monitor the administrative management of public officials elected by popular vote, but this is not the case, in practice. Accordingly, BuroTIC has worked to answer the following questions from a citizen’s perspective: Is it possible to understand and track public investment decisions in Bogotá, from planning to appropriation to execution? Is relevant information open and available for popular consumption?
From 2016, BuroTIC undertook the arduous task of monitoring the administrative management of Bogotá, taking into account the development plans set forth by two mayors. This required requesting the missing information through access-to-information requests, often having to rely on partnerships with members of the city council to overcome barriers, and to organize and systematize data from several sources that are not in open formats.
BuroTIC faced significant challenges in making data easily accessible to civil society activists interested in understanding the effectiveness of public spending and using this information to demand improvements in how the government addresses pressing issues in their localities. Overcoming these challenges required a great deal of analytical effort and ambition on the part of the project, as well as a careful strategy for engaging local users and potential partners and for using the feedback provided to deliver the information in clear, actionable formats.
The collaboration between Global Integrity and BuroTIC aimed to strengthen Burotic’s capacity to:
- engage key stakeholders;
- develop narratives that would facilitate user engagement with the information; and
- help position BuroTIC in the local context.
Our work began with a review of their strategy, processes for obtaining and presenting information, and practices for monitoring project implementation and engaging key stakeholders.
In response to the needs identified, Global Integrity and BuroTIC developed an analysis of the published information, focusing on strengthening the methodologies used to obtain the information and identifying indicators that would allow the information to be communicated in a clearer and more engaging way. This work led to making adjustments to validate—and make explicit—the sources of the information, implement changes in the way data was presented in their platform, and develop messages and stories that can help users make sense of the data and the value added by BuroTIC’s work.
In addition, a roadmap was outlined to identify stakeholders and carry out meetings that would allow BuroTIC to strengthen its network of contacts and interact better with other organizations and public officials in charge of compiling and generating reports on public financial management. These meetings provided invaluable inputs for understanding the government’s take on the model proposed by the platform and the value that potential partners saw in it.
BuroTIC used feedback from key stakeholders to implement significant changes in the way data is validated and presented on the platform, develop short stories with the potential to inspire citizen use and understanding of the data, and strengthen their relationship with Bogotá Como Vamos—a local civil society organization with more than 20 years of experience gathering data on citizens’ perceptions about development in the city and following-up on municipal planning and results. BuroTIC and Bogotá Como Vamosare are now partnering to launch the digital platform “Lente Ciudadano” (Citizen Lens), which will facilitate the analysis of data about the use of public resources and present citizens’ perceptions on the effects of these investment in their day-to-day lives.
BuroTIC’s ambitious “Lente Ciudadano” initiative is creating a more citizen-friendly language for speaking about public finances in Bogotá. They have made particular strides with regard to their ability to tell stories about how to generate a change in citizens’ relationship with, and perception of, the local government. The key was to include financial analysis, develop clearer visual pieces, and add small stories describing the challenges and opportunities for improvement related to data black holes and the use of public resources in Bogotá. All this required preparing the launch of the platform, keeping a laser focus on maintaining technical rigor and a user-friendly perspective while also proposing a model to organize and present data that can be replicated in collaboration other government agencies.
According to BuroTIC Director Camila Ciurlo, “Global Integrity’s intervention has been fundamental in improving the strategic positioning of our platform, obtaining and using feedback from key partners to improve our services, and also establishing a monitoring framework to follow up on the main activities and milestones to be taken into account once the platform is launched in mid-November.”
Burotic now has improved the way in which they communicate their message and offer their services and products. It is now working to implement an action plan for engaging the newly elected administration to present the platform and raise recommendations for improving the channels of citizen use of public information and participation in local decisionmaking. With their partners, they aim to bring fiscal transparency and social accountability as key issues in the agenda of the new Mayor and advocate for the inclusion of these issues in the city’s development plan that will be developed early next year.