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A new era for OGP: Launching an independent entity

Mark Robinson|

When the Open Government Partnership (OGP) was founded in 2011, the OGP Support Unit and Independent Reporting Mechanism had a skeleton staff and a huge mandate. This has now expanded beyond all expectations, with the team playing a vital role in supporting a thriving partnership.

Over the past seven years, OGP has grown rapidly from just eight countries to seventy-five national and twenty local governments, along with thousands of civil society organizations – a testament to the huge opportunity offered by open government to advance human wellbeing. And yet the world has changed since 2011, in more fundamental ways than we could have imagined – including the rise of populist regimes who stand for closed government, and restrictions on civic space – even in some of the world’s leading democracies, limiting the promise and potential of open government.

In addressing these challenges and opportunities, it became clear that OGP’s Support Unit and IRM would need to operate on an independent footing and strengthen its internal governance structures, to support the needs of a growing and more diverse partnership, and saving money in the process.

I am pleased to announce that this critical change will take place on April 1, 2018 when the OGP Support Unit and IRM becomes a new, independent entity OGP (the “OGP Secretariat” for legal purposes), and will no longer operate under the fiscal sponsorship of the Tides Center. This independent OGP has a staff of forty-five working across almost fifteen countries. It will operate under a talented leadership team led by Sanjay Pradhan, who was appointed CEO in May 2016.

To prepare for its new status, OGP hired a core operations team, consisting of a Chief Financial and Operations Officer and a Director of Finance, and drew on financial and legal expertise to support the creation of the new organization. The new entity will operate under the direction of the Board of Directors, which will provide financial and fiduciary oversight. The Board was formed in March 2016 by the OGP Steering Committee in anticipation of the spin-off to an independent entity.

With a long association with OGP stretching back to its inception in 2011, I was delighted to be appointed as the Board of Directors’ first Chair, serving alongside a Treasurer and two at-large members, and our CEO in an ex-officio role. We are very confident that the core team has a put in place a strong organizational foundation for OGP to thrive as an independent entity.

The Board will take responsibility for the legal and financial aspects of management of OGP. This means that the Board ensures compliance with US legal and regulatory requirements for non-profit organizations: human resources, lobbying, fundraising, and whistleblower policies and protections. This fiduciary oversight role of the Board is particularly important for OGP, to ensure that the organization models the highest standards of integrity, transparency, and compliance.

What does this mean for the open government community?

Outwardly, much will remain the same.

The OGP will strengthen its support for country engagement and provide guidance to OGP participants around the world. OGP will continue to mobilize funding from its generous institutional supporters. The Steering Committee will remain in charge of the overall strategic and policy direction for the Partnership. Decisions on matters like the Response Policy, Criteria and Standards, and guiding principles of OGP will continue to be made by the Steering Committee. The two bodies will coordinate closely on the Annual Budget, consideration and approval of OGP’s bylaws, and the management and supervision of OGP’s Chief Executive Officer.

In addition to its formal oversight role, the Board will also provide broader advice and insight as OGP embarks on a bold 2018 strategy and expanding mandate. This year, more than seventy-five countries and local OGP participants will co-create new action plans. OGP is reaching out to the private sector to bring them into the conversation on issues like public service delivery and anti-corruption. Following the success of the OGP Local pilot program, five new participants will be joining the original cohort of fifteen.  

OGP will be using this year to launch several exciting new initiatives. First is the OGP Trust Fund, which allows OGP governments and CSOs to apply for dedicated funding for co-creation and implementation of National Action Plans. I am especially pleased that the OGP has also adopted a Feminist Open Government initiative, prompted by the government Canada as the incoming co-chair. Finally, the Independent Reporting Mechanism will undergo its own refresh.  

We also anticipate several key milestones this year to both celebrate and build on our successes. The first global Open Government Week will take place from May 7-11. Georgia will host the Global Summit from July 17-19, to focus attention on opportunities for improving service delivery and tackling corruption through open government reforms. Finally, South Korea will host the Asia regional meeting towards the end of the year.

While we are excited about OGP’s ongoing work and external mission, we must always strive to remain a healthy organization internally.  An organization like OGP has to lead from the inside out, and as Chair of the Board I am personally committed to championing the implementation of OGP’s mission of transparency and accountability with my fellow board members. No one is above accountability or answering tough questions; the Board, myself included, will ensure that OGP is held to the high standard to which it holds its participants.

This is a big year for OGP, with myriad challenges and an exciting slate of events and opportunities. I speak for the entire board when I say we are honored to serve, ready to support, and enthusiastic about the year ahead.

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