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Get ideas. Get concrete. Get inspired: Watch the Bright Spots Talks at the OGP Summit!

With 10 days to go until the London Summit, we wanted to share a few reflections on one aspect of this event that the OGP team is quite excited about: the Bright Spots Competition. 

As you may have seen from last week’s press release, we have invited 7 impressive individuals from 7 different countries to share their stories of success in a 7-minute talk on the main stage at the OGP Summit. These 7 finalists are working hard to prepare their remarks; all of them have decided to present their personal stories in English, even though it is not a first language for any of them.

After hearing all 7 of the Bright Spots finalists, the crowd will have a chance to vote on the most inspiring talk (stay tuned for more details on voting). Since we’re asking so many of you to participate as judges, it seems only fair to provide a bit more context on the origins and aims of this competition.

To give credit where credit is due, many of us were introduced to the ‘bright spots’ concept by the NY Times bestseller, Switch: How to Change when Change is Hard. The basic premise is simple: our typical approach to problem-solving is to develop a hypothesis about what might work, introduce some sort of ‘treatment’ or intervention, and then spend months or years trying to figure out whether our intervention is having a positive impact. But an alternative approach is to look around for individual examples of where things are going well, and then lift up the hood to see what seems to be driving that success.

In this spirit, the OGP Bright Spots Competition set out to identify examples of real people finding creative ways to open up government to solve real problems. We wanted to showcase these examples at the Summit to ensure that our conversations in London are grounded (literally) in what’s actually happening in OGP participating countries. What better way to do that than to hear from local reformers on the frontlines of getting things done.

So, who are the bright spots finalists, and how were they chosen? Since we’re all about transparency, let me be quite honest in saying that this was not a formal prize competition with a rigorous application process and high-profile panel of judges. We do intend to go that route in the future, and stay tuned for an exciting announcement at the Summit on our plans for next year. 

But for 2013, with limited time and a limited budget, we developed the Bright Spots Competition as a simple but smart way to identify good, concrete stories to feature at the London Summit. 

In early August we asked the OGP community, including both government and civil society reformers, to send us their ideas. For the most part, these were individual (vs. institutional) submissions: personal stories of reformers who have come up with creative ways to open up government, encourage citizen participation and feedback, and reduce corruption or waste. OGP staff then reviewed these submissions and agreed as a group on the 7 stories that seemed most likely to inspire others.

It’s fair to ask whether these initiatives have assembled evidence of impact. As relatively young initiatives, quite honestly, some have more than others. What’s more important is that these stories demonstrate how reformers are getting traction in solving difficult problems through a combination of innovation, consensus-building, and good old-fashioned elbow grease.

So in voting for your own personal favorite, we hope you will consider which reformer most inspired YOU to try something new in your own country. Which of the bright spots speakers would you most want to take to dinner to find out more? And which one do you think makes the most compelling case that open government is better government?

The 7 Bright Spots finalists will be speaking during 3 different plenary sessions at the upcoming OGP Summit in London: the Opening and Closing Plenaries on 31 October and the Opening Plenary on 1 November. All of the Summit plenaries will be live-streamed to allow for remote viewing. 

Voting for the Bright Spots crowd favorite will take place between approximately 11 am and 2 pm on 1 November, and the winner will be announced at the Closing Plenary of the OGP Summit on 1 November. Details on how to vote will be announced at the Summit. We look forward to your participation!

Photo credit: Duck's landing reflected in foggy waters of Regent's Canal during sunrise (London) by Johanna Loock via Flickr

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