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Germany

Regional Open Government Labs (DE0016)

Overview

At-a-Glance

Action Plan: Germany Action Plan 2019-2021

Action Plan Cycle: 2019

Status: Active

Institutions

Lead Institution: Federal Ministry of the Interior, Building and Community (BMI)

Support Institution(s): NA

Policy Areas

Local Commitments, Public Participation

IRM Review

IRM Report: Germany Design Report 2019-2021

Starred: Pending IRM Review

Early Results: No IRM Data

Design i

Verifiable: Yes

Relevant to OGP Values: Civic Participation

Potential Impact:

Implementation i

Completion:

Description

What is the public problem that the commitment will address?
Local administrations are faced with a broad range of challenges arising from structural
change, demographic change, the digital transformation, climate change, migration,
conflicting regional interests (e.g. regarding construction and infrastructure projects),
anti-democratic trends, and other issues. Civil society demands transparency, codetermination and active participation. Sometimes there are also conflicting interests
between authorities and civil society, between civil society and business, and within civil
society.

What is the commitment?
The BMI will support up to 16 Regional Open Government Labs (regOGL) throughout Germany.
Regional Open Government Labs will provide a framework for cooperation between local
administrations, local politics and civil society, with the participation of academia and local
businesses where appropriate. The initiative for the regOGLs is to arise from the regions
where they are to be located.

How will the commitment contribute to solving the public problem?
Regional lab work will be carried out with a thematic objective and milestone planning
determined by the labs themselves. The sponsors of the Open Government Labs will ensure
systematic reflection on their experiences and findings, which will be discussed within the
network of Open Government Labs and generalised for broader application.

Why is this commitment relevant to OGP values?
In the regOGLs, the transparency and accountability of government will be actively
implemented. Civil society will be directly involved in the regOGLs. The main purposes of
the lab’s work are the systematic inclusion of civil society in the decision-making processes
of local government and the harnessing of the region’s societal innovative potential for the
sake of regional development. This will include a variety of participatory elements. Accompanying this, the commitment aims to foster public relations work that is commensurate with
the challenge of open administrative action. The regOGLs are tied directly to the findings of
the project “Modellkommune Open Government” (Open Government Pilot Community) and
are a way of applying these findings more widely.

IRM Midterm Status Summary

1. Regional Open Government Labs

Main Objective

“The BMI will support up to 16 Regional Open Government Labs (regOGL) throughout Germany. Regional Open Government Labs will provide a framework for cooperation between local administrations, local politics and civil society, with the participation of academia and local businesses where appropriate. The initiative for the regOGLs is to arise from the regions where they are to be located.”

Milestones

1.1. Application phase and selection of up to 16 regOGLs

1.2. Assignment of the following tasks to a research capacity: Ensuring exchange among the regOGLs; generalizing the findings; managing public relations work

1.3. Developing and establishing the labs’ work

1.4. Preparing interim conclusions for second NAP OGP and regional conference

1.5. Preparing outcome documents and presenting at final conference

Editorial Note: For the complete text of this commitment, please see Germany’s action plan at: https://www.opengovpartnership.org/wp-content/uploads/2019/09/Germany_Action-Plan_2019-2021_EN.pdf.

Commitment Analysis

A deeper integration of open government in Germany requires a further cultural change inside the public administrative and political system. [1] Open government is often not recognized as a strategic investment and it can take a backseat to values of efficiency and effectiveness inside the administration. [2] This is also the case at regional and local levels. [3] For example, a survey of 600 local administrations perceive a significant gap between the potential relevance of open government and the actual degree of realizing the concept in practice. [4] 

This commitment seeks to catalyze this cultural change by establishing up to 16 regional open government laboratories (regOGLs). The regOGLs will facilitate practical open government initiatives and co-creation between civil society and local governments.

The process of establishing the regOGLs will be conducted in a participatory manner. Local governments, civil society stakeholders, and the business sector will jointly develop and propose initiatives to be considered for support by the regOGLs. Both government bodies as well as civil society groups can initiate applications and the quality of civil society-government cooperation envisaged for the project was the most important selection criteria with a weight of 20%. [5] The commitment is therefore relevant to the OGP value of civic participation. The concrete work programs and activities for each individual lab will only be determined during commitment implementation.

Existing open government initiatives inside local administrations contain limited mechanisms for co-creation. A prior pilot initiative, on which regOGL directly builds, contained projects that were primarily driven by the local administrations. These projects experienced varying and often gradually decreasing degrees of buy-in and engagement over time by nongovernmental stakeholders.

The extent to which the new regOGLs promote a culture of participation and openness at the local level can only be determined when the specific activities that will receive support have been selected.

The prescribed process for selecting the activities puts a clear focus on co-creation, which could facilitate an important shift in administrative practice and culture. The regOGL initiative currently enjoys a high level of political visibility, as it has been explicitly mentioned in the top-level coalition agreement between the governing parties. [6] At the same time, the regOGLs are a small-scale pilot initiative that will only fund up to 16 projects.

Special regard for including groups in new engagement formats, [7] although not explicitly recognized in the commitment, could enhance their impact if mainstreamed into the programming. [8] Similarly, linking the piloting of the regOGLs to actionable and monitorable targets could help strengthen their results.

Overall, the new regOGLs could lead to minor but positive improvements in cooperation and openness in local administration, especially in changing the culture of the administration for engaging civil society in decision-making and agenda-setting for priority programs. The commitment has the potential to establish good examples and templates for genuine partnerships between local administrations and civil society around open government themes. [9] Furthermore, if successfully carried out, the regOGLs could be expanded to other local administrations in the country.  

[1] Dr. Joachim Beck and Dr. Jürgen Stember, Modellkommune Open Government – Projektbericht [Model commune Open government Project report] (BMI, Aug. 2019), https://www.bmi.bund.de/SharedDocs/downloads/DE/veroeffentlichungen/themen/moderne-verwaltung/projektbericht-modellkommune-open-government.pdf.
[2] Id.
[3] See the survey among federal agencies included in Deutscher Bundestag, Erster Bericht der Bundesregierung über die Fortschritte bei der Bereitstellung von Daten, Drucksache 19/14140 (10 Oct. 2019), http://dip21.bundestag.de/dip21/btd/19/141/1914140.pdf; see also a survey of local officials that included BMI (Beck and Stember, Modellkommune Open Government – Projektbericht).
[4] Id. at 62.
[5] Federal Ministry of the Interior, “Regionale Open Government Labore” [Regional open government laboratories] (accessed Aug. 2020), http://open-government-kommunen.de/?page_id=2389.
[6] CDU, CSU und SPD, Ein neuer Aufbruch für Europa Eine neue Dynamik für Deutschland Ein neuer Zusammenhalt für unser Land [First report by the federal government on the progress made in the provision of data] 19/14140 (accessed Aug. 2020), 45, https://www.cdu.de/system/tdf/media/dokumente/koalitionsvertrag_2018.pdf?file=1.
[7] This includes, for example, co-creation formats or deliberative mechanisms such as citizen juries.
[8] For an analysis of structural challenges for inclusive engagement see for example BMFSFJ, Zweiter Bericht über die Entwicklung des bürgerschaftlichen Engagements in der Bundesrepublik Deutschland, Drucksache [Second report on the development of civic engagement in the Federal Republic of Germany] 18/11800 (2017), https://www.bmfsfj.de/blob/115658/1080633f687d3f9c462a0432401c09d7/zweiter-engagementbericht---bundestagsdrucksache-data.pdf.
[9] As the drafting period of this design report overlaps with the initial stages of the commitment implementation, it can already be noted that thirteen projects have been selected for funding. Judging from a brief project list, at least ten of these projects will directly focus on civic engagement and one will focus on open data. (Representative from relevant government unit (BMI, Unit H II 1), email to IRM researcher, 9 March 2020).

IRM End of Term Status Summary

Commitment 1. Regional Open Government Labs

Substantial:

This commitment aimed to establish regional open government laboratories (regOGLs) to support projects by local governments, civil society, and the business sector. The Federal Ministry of the Interior and Community (BMI) organized a two-staged application for regions who were eligible to apply. [43] BMI selected 13 regions that are currently working as regOGLs on 24 projects, involving more than 100 municipalities, regional associations, non-profit organizations, and CSOs. [44] However, the 13 regOGLs fell short of the expected 16, so the IRM considers the commitment substantially completed.

The regOGLs communicated their activities through a website, [45] and through their own local networks, publications, and connections to the funding program Region gestalten. Among the activities implemented by the regOGLs were the open-source participation platform CONSUL [46] (Bad Belzig), the platform Digitales Gemeindehaus (Digital Community Hall) for local communication [47] (Bad Engbach), the participation app Democy, a citizen panel on urban planning, or a sub-page on North Rhine-Westphalia’s participation portal (Merzenich and Kerpen). [48] Another noteworthy project was the COVID-19 case tracker developed by the OK Lab Fläming. [49]

For Milestone 4, the regOGLs organized a digital conference to review lessons learned. A resulting interim report states that the regOGLs primarily serve as learning spaces for opening government at the municipal level, with lessons and tools for future replication. [50] Logic models for municipal open government were developed to document hypotheses for what kinds of activities can open government. According to the government point of contact, these hypotheses shall be made public so they can be tested by other regions. According to the point of contact at BMI, the regOGLs have reflected on how to sustain and replicate their activities, as well as the required structures to do so. The organizational culture and limited resources were seen by the regOGLs as the most common impediments to implement open government processes. Some examples of sustained work include the “Netzwerk der Verwaltungsrebellen” (Network of Administrative Rebels), which will be managed after the end of the funding period by the regional association Ruhr [51] as well as the regOGL of Bad Belzig. Similar to the Model Communities of Germany’s first action plan, this commitment has created conditions for sustained implementation, such as through organizations or strategies that can help the regOGL continue.

Continuing the existing initiatives could have different effects on participation in local decision-making. These could range from providing information services to soliciting public opinions through discussion fora on municipal topics. The activities of the Network of Administrative Rebels could contribute to changing the organizational culture within municipal administrations by providing networking opportunities and helping to exchange agile and iterative design methods that could shape public services. 

[43] Regions were eligible to apply if they set up collaborative projects dedicated to regional development and if they included multiple stakeholders’ groups (such as municipalities, CSOs, or representatives from research, arts, and business), https://www.bmi.bund.de/SharedDocs/pressemitteilungen/DE/2019/09/open-government-labore.html
[44] These numbers are taken from the partnering organizations listed on the individual project sites, see for example, https://open-government-kommunen.de/ilias.php?ref_id=94&cmd=render&cmdClass=ilrepositorygui&cmdNode=ww&baseClass=ilrepositorygui 
[46] Bad Belzig, Shaping Bad Belzig together, https://beteiligung.bad-belzig.de/
[47] Digital Meetinghouse, https://gemeindehaus.digital
[49] Covid-Quick-Check, https://covid-plz-check.de
[50] See the commitment’s “Interim Report: Municipal Open Government in the Lab”, https://open-government-kommunen.de/ilias.php?baseClass=ilrepositorygui&reloadpublic=1&cmd=frameset&ref_id=1

Commitments

Open Government Partnership