Regional Open Government Labs (DE0016)
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
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
“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.”
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.
A deeper integration of open government in Germany requires a further cultural change inside the public administrative and political system.  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.  This is also the case at regional and local levels.  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. 
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%.  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.  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,  although not explicitly recognized in the commitment, could enhance their impact if mainstreamed into the programming.  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.  Furthermore, if successfully carried out, the regOGLs could be expanded to other local administrations in the country.
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