2017 was a challenging year for champions of open governance, including for those of us enduring at close quarters the democratic reversals and increasingly closed governance of a Trump-led US administration. Political transitions and turbulence around the world have posed challenges to the open governance agenda, including in several of the founding members of the Open Government Partnership. There have also been, not unrelatedly, growing questions about whether and how open governance can help to address poverty, inequality and social marginalization, and the day-to-day problems that people face as a result. And, more parochially, the challenge of working out whether and how organizations such as ours – working on global development issues, from a base in the US – can most effectively support progress towards more open governance in far away places, remains.
In 2017, Global Integrity stepped up to meet each of these challenges head on, both through our work in particular countries and through our global advocacy.
We’ve been thrilled to launch “Defending Democracy: Lessons from around the world”, a collaboration with colleagues at the Sunlight Foundation and Transparency International, based out of the Open Gov Hub. This program provides a space for cross-border learning about defending democracy, in order to strengthen and support the efforts of those of us who are resisting the rolling back of democratic norms in the US and beyond.
We’ve challenged and sharpened thinking around the value of open governance, encouraging greater attention to the use of data, addressing issues around power and learning, informing the evolution of approaches to assessing governance and tackling corruption, and – through our engagement with Professor Yuen Yuen Ang and her paradigm-changing analysis of “how China escaped the poverty trap” – encouraging exploration of how learning and adaptation can take place in environments that are not so open.
And, we’ve demonstrated that a small organization, working on global issues, can add value to the work of reformers around the world as they try, learn and adapt their way towards effective solutions to complex and fundamentally political development problems. Our groundbreaking work with Making All Voices Count grantees in Kenya, Tanzania, South Africa, Indonesia and the Philippines is one example of how we’ve demonstrated our value. Our field-leading work on understanding and improving the fiscal data landscape in Mexico is another.
As we get into 2018, challenges remain on all three fronts. But what we’ve learned over the course of 2017, combined with our ever-stronger culture and practice of learning, and the creative collaborations we’re part of – with colleagues at the Open Gov Hub and across the countries where we work – put us in a strong position to support progress towards more open and effective governance here in the US, and around the world. To find out more, please see our Annual Report for 2017: What we did, what difference it made, and what we learned along the way. Comments and questions are hugely welcome!