Update on OGP’s New Strategic Thematic Partnerships Model
In the first six years of the Open Government Partnership (OGP), government and civil society reformers have helped advance new open government norms that improve public services, reduce corruption, and make government more efficient. For example, by 2017, 23 countries and four sub-national governments had committed to open up their public contracting processes, 61 had open data reforms, 65 were opening up their budgets, 15 are advancing beneficial ownership transparency, and 61 are improving public services. These are the exciting frontiers of open government. They show the world that transparency, participation, and accountability can both improve the lives of citizens and strengthen our democracies.
The question we have been grappling with at OGP for the past several months is how we can work more effectively with the huge number of committed government, multilateral, and civil society partners around the world who are doing the hard work of advancing these new open government norms. When OGP was founded, we created the OGP Working Groups as the primary vehicle for providing technical support and peer learning in specific open government areas. These included access to information, fiscal openness, natural resources governance, open data, legislative openness, and climate change. The Working Groups provided valuable support in drafting commitments, reviewing action plans, and facilitating learning between government and civil society reformers, and have been driving the advance of some of these emerging open government norms. We hope the partners leading on these topics will continue this work, but while tremendous progress has been made we’re also realistic about their capacity to scale up support to the Partnership in the face of limited resources and an increasingly broad set of issues that OGP member countries are working on.
OGP’s Strategic Refresh outlines where more ambition is needed, and was complemented by the Paris Declaration on Open Government which showcases 20 areas of open government action that government and civil society reformers decided to profile at the last Global Summit in Paris. The refreshed strategy calls for OGP members to tackle everyday challenges faced by citizens, like the lack of quality health and education services or limited channels for citizens to participate in policymaking. This shift requires OGP to strengthen our partnerships for stronger advocacy, deeper peer learning, and enhanced tools to support the co-creation and implementation of ambitious reforms using our National Action Plan process. To make way for a new approach to working with thematic partners, the OGP Steering Committee formally decided to transition away from the Working Groups model at their meeting in September 2017, and introduced a new strategic thematic partnerships model for 2018. This decision was designed to better support government and civil society actors pursuing reforms across a wider range of emerging policy areas than the Working Groups themes cover. They asked for the new model to be focused on igniting stronger political leadership, providing effective technical assistance, and deepening peer learning across more countries and more topics. The Steering Committee also stressed the need to be flexible to respond to changing country needs and evolving OGP thematic priorities, and to tap into new sources of donor funding.
In response to this challenge, OGP will launch a new framework of strategic thematic partnerships in 2018. These partnerships will build on the communities that the Working Groups and other thematic partners have mobilized. Through the new framework, we aim to leverage partners who have the capacity, expertise, and drive to support to countries in a focused set of shared thematic priorities. The model is based on the following principles:
Thematic priorities will be identified based on Paris Declaration issue areas and the OGP Support Unit’s analysis of needs, gaps, emerging trends, and areas of strength across the partnership.
The OGP Support Unit will explore formal partnership agreements with select networks and consortia based on defined selection criteria. We want to work with expert organizations that have a track record of delivering results and with an established partner network in multiple OGP countries. The agreements will contain specific strategic activities and deliverables aimed at the global and country levels.
To encourage the development of coalitions of reformers, preference will be given to consortia of organizations working on similar issues with complementary capacities and organizations across government, civil society, multilaterals, and the private sector.
The OGP Support Unit will support the delivery of strategic partner activities and deliverables through country-level coordination, information sharing, brokering connections, and help in accessing funding through OGP’s networks.
Rather than being tied to automatic funding like the Working Groups were, the process of forming strategic partnerships and funding are separate under this model. Strategic partnerships will not come with automatic funding. The Support Unit can help support fundraising efforts for jointly identified activities that require funding, including through the new OGP Trust Fund (to be launched in early 2018) and donors.
The OGP Support Unit will serve as the community manager for these strategic thematic partnership agreements and other partner conversations. We will support strategic partner activities through country-level coordination, information sharing, brokering connections, and facilitating funding through OGP’s donor networks. The newly-formed Thematic Leadership Subcommittee of the OGP Steering Committee has the mandate to provide oversight on the formal strategic thematic partnerships, as part of their role to advance core open government topics across OGP.
A draft concept note that explains in more detail how the strategic thematic partnerships will work can be found here. We welcome your feedback in the in next three weeks as we finalize this new approach to begin in 2018.
The potential of OGP to advance more ambitious open government norms globally is tremendous. The combination of domestically-owned National Action Plans, co-created with government and civil society reformers, and strong global partnerships that are able to support local actors, is what makes OGP’s approach so powerful. We believe this is the right time to scale up our partnerships, and to show the world that OGP can be a powerful positive movement for openness and deeper democracy that truly delivers for citizens.