Global Integrity’s Treasure Hunts methodology is a highly adaptable tool that helps participants from partner organizations to understand and model ways of using fiscal data to figure out how to effectively address local service delivery challenges. Treasure Hunts are designed to help partners find innovative ways of understanding and addressing the problems they face; exploring the connections between data, policy, and collective action in their contexts; developing potential solutions; and communicating their work in ways that engage other relevant stakeholders.
In 2018, we led Treasure Hunts with a variety of partners, including city governments, the Open Contracting Partnership (OCP), and members of the Africa Open Contracting Working Group (AOCWG), in New York City and Nairobi.
In each of these locations, the Treasure Hunt process began with participants identifying their own problems and concerns. Global Integrity’s support was shaped in turn by what they prioritized. Each specific context – and the user groups within them – presented different possibilities with regard to data availability and use, as well as a myriad of context-related challenges that required specific attention.
In early 2018, OCP was interested in exploring whether and how standardized open data – compliant with the Open Contracting Data Standard – might be of value to minority and women-owned enterprises seeking procurement opportunities in New York City. We worked with OCP, and with partners at Reboot, to organize a Treasure Hunt focused on interrogating just these issues. We brought together a range of stakeholders from across the city, and organized them into teams. Teams competed with each other to see who could make the best use of open data to identify and test minority and women-owned enterprise (M/WBE) procurement opportunities in the city.
Through the Treasure Hunt, participants learned that, despite the determined efforts of the Mayor’s offices of Data Analytics, Contracts and Small Business Services, data scientists, students and activists with various levels of open data expertise still confronted ‘data gaps’ that inhibit data analysis and use. If New Yorkers are to use open data to improve their lives, these gaps must be filled.
Meanwhile, at an Africa Open Contracting Working Group meeting in Nairobi in May 2018, representatives from seven African countries met to think and talk about strategies for promoting open contracting across the continent.
Different representatives were grappling with different problems specific to their contexts, ranging from a lack of technical capacity to effectively use available data, to a ‘culture of opacity’ on the part of some governments with regard to public procurement disclosure. In some cases information on social services like health and education is available while information on mineral, gas and oil deals is not.
Participants cited the need for concrete and appropriate examples of open contracting systems that they could learn from, as well as help in generating suitable monitoring systems to measure results. With support from Global Integrity, they leveraged a light touch Treasure Hunt method to develop strategies for addressing problems they had identified. They are currently in the process of putting those strategies into action.
The Treasure Hunts we conducted in New York and Nairobi were successful. In New York, we helped entrepreneurs learn how to use city procurement data more effectively, and city officials learn how to address data gaps, so that open data is both more useable and more useful. In Nairobi, use of the Treasure Hunt method helped open contracting advocates to better understand the unique challenges they face in their countries, and provided a platform for developing evidence-informed strategies for addressing those challenges.
Use of this engaging, innovative method is driving learning and action, to strengthen the effectiveness of our partners across the world.