On The Open Government Movement and Silos

A lot of talk here at Personal Democracy Forum Poland about whether there either:

(1) already is a vibrant, coherent, global open government movement and how best to strengthen it,or

(2) that there is a great potential for but not yet a truly ‘global’ open government movement – rather somewhat silo-ed “open government” communities working on budgets, extractives, data, FOI etc.that don’t quite share the same language to describe their (very similar) work. Some refer to their work as being part of the “open data movement”, the “open government movement”, the “anti-corruption movement”, the “transparency   movement” etc. The question being how to best bring them together more strategically and how to share the same discourse/words/language.

On my side, I feel that (2) is correct – silos are still a problem albeit much less than they were. One example – 5 years ago budget and FOI groups in Latin America were not working together (which I always thought was v odd) and now they are – much more so. There are dozens of such examples, and the Open Gvt Partnership has helped provide a platform for these groups to work together. In the UK, every Thursday civil society groups of all background (e.g. poverty campaigners, aid transparency advocates, construction sector transparency experts etc) get together at the Open Data Institute with the Cabinet Office OGP team to discuss how best to move the needle further via OGP. This is great – and very new. Prior to March 2012, these groups hadn’t all met (in the UK), and didn’t benefit from the OGP platform to this degree.

Ultimately, the two views mentioned above are two sides of the same coin, we are both working towards the same aim: that in our lifetimes, open government/transparency/accountability (whatever we will end up calling it) should be as recognised a discourse and movement as human rights, the environmental movement, the gender movement. That our families and friends should ‘obviously’ know and understand what open government is. That mainstream media should cover and ‘get’ open government. And that advocates strategically understand where and when best to work together and when where best to work separately to best drive effective social change and open governments.

And however this plays out, we should come up with a consensus definition of ‘open government’ (if that is the term that best unites our work) that goes beyond transparency, and includes public engagement and accountability. See http://www.globalintegrity.org/blog/working-definition-opengov and http://www.opengovstandards.org/



4 thoughts on “On The Open Government Movement and Silos

  1. Definitely agree that we’re at option 2 at the moment. At ONE, we’re trying to break down some of those silos, using a narrative that’s about linking resources to results, and pushing for openness at various stages of that process – from resources (aid and extractives transparency, corporate transparency too), to choices (open budgets), to results (transparency about what’s actually achieved). All of this supported by Open Data Standards and capacity development so that organisations can make use of the data that comes available. We’re hopeful that the G8 this year might help to deliver this sort of integrated approach.

    But beyond that, and as I’ve heard you mention on other occasions Martin, a particularly important bridge to build/common space to explore is that between openness advocates in the environmental sphere and openness advocates in the developmental sphere. This is hugely important, including, right now, for the process of designing the post-2015 sustainable development framework.

    • Completely agree – I think the challenge is how we get to (1) the community coming together strategically as a group when it makes most sense (e.g. getting open gvt in the post-2015 development agenda is a good example, we need a narrative…), and (2) working strategically within the silos when it makes sense (but drawing on to the skills of other communities if/as needed – as with the example of the budget groups which have been working more and more with global FOI groups). I will write another post on the topic!

  2. Pingback: From e-government to we-government: Can we do it in Eastern Europe and Central Asia? | Voices from Eurasia - We help build better lives.

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