Skip Navigation

Co-Creating During the Pandemic: Lessons from Liberia

Cocreación durante la pandemia: Lecciones desde Liberia

Sanjeeta PantandNyema J. Richards|

Since signing up to OGP in 2011, Liberia has reiterated its commitments to transparency and accountability on issues ranging from beneficial ownership to budget transparency to openness in healthcare delivery. But driving this agenda forward has not been easy. While some of the challenges will continue to pose risks, our recent co-creation process gave us some important lessons on ways to keep stakeholders engaged during and after the pandemic.

The two most prominent challenges we faced during the process include:

  1. Institutional and systemic constraints. Often, it is the lack of political will to fight corruption that prevents open government initiatives in Liberia from becoming a reality. But even when the government shows commitment to address certain issues, such as sexual and gender-based violence (an OGP commitment), the lack of human and financial resources hinders our progress. Our local OGP Secretariat, responsible for coordinating efforts among different ministries and government agencies implementing Liberia’s action plan, is understaffed and underfunded, and the ongoing economic crisis is likely to limit the government further. To fill some of these institutional gaps, Accountability Lab Liberia (ALL), with funding from the World Bank, has been supporting the OGP forum throughout the co-creation process.
  2. Shift in government priorities. The focus of the government changed swiftly- and rightly so- to control the spread of the virus. The pandemic limited the ways in which civil society organizations (CSOs) could participate in the co-creation process and directly engage and continue to put pressure on the government. However, CSOs continued to put pressure on the government to enhance open government efforts on healthcare and publicly questioned the government about its handling of resources allocated for pandemic response and relief efforts.

PHOTO: Credit: Accountability Lab Liberia

Co-creation and consensus building. In the absence of face-to-face meetings, it was difficult to gauge key stakeholders’ interest and motivation; identify common goals; build trust and openness through dialogue and deliberation; and create a shared commitment to consensus building. To continue consultations and collect feedback on the draft action plan, Accountability Lab and the local OGP multi-stakeholder forum jointly decided on a course of action using digital tools and social media, which provided an alternative space to encourage stakeholders to interact.

  • First, there was a need for a common digital space to collect comments and feedback. This was created through separate Google documents for each of the 11 commitments. The government Points of Contact (PoC)s and stakeholders working on a particular commitment were linked to the respective document where they could collaboratively draft the commitments.
  • Second, the group needed a more interactive virtual space. For this, individual WhatsApp groups were created for those working on each of the commitments. Each group included the OGP Secretariat PoC, OGP Steering Committee members, the OGP PoC as well as the Minister or Director from the respective ministry or agency, and CSO representatives working on a particular theme.

While the Google document acted as a repository for all of the inputs, the WhatsApp group was a more dynamic medium to connect all the stakeholders in one place. All group members were then asked to validate and approve the changes on the Google document. Separately, the team also reached out proactively via Facebook messages to send quick reminders to group members and synthesized or responded to comments that needed specific attention. Using digital tools and social media, however, came with its own sets of challenges.

  • Although digital tools seem readily available, they are not always accessible due to infrastructure constraints. Regular power outages and weak internet connectivity across Liberia makes online collaboration difficult. The cost of accessing the internet is also high, which limits participation. Nonetheless, it was useful to keep the members of the groups informed- even when they could not respond quickly- to maintain and build on existing relations. We also noted it is important to set aside funds to cover data costs when planning to engage using digital and social media tools.
  • Some interactions need to take place in-person to build trust and generate political buy-in. This is especially important when engaging at high levels of government. The Lab managed to conduct one-on-one meetings maintaining social distancing protocols with some ministry officials to maintain relationships and ensure ownership at the highest levels of government. Even during a pandemic, key stakeholders require individual, in-person engagement to generate the buy-in needed for success.

PHOTO: Credit: Accountability Lab Liberia

Despite the challenges with any co-creation process – from insufficient resources to varying levels of technology – we need to recognize the opportunities an open and inclusive consultative approach to governance can yield. One of the key learnings for us is that while working virtually is challenging, there is still room to ensure the government is open and transparent. The challenge now as we move past the co-creation phase- and hopefully past COVID-19- is to ensure that implementation is as inclusive as possible.

No comments yet

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Related Content

Thumbnail for Domestic Resource Mobilization and Economic Recovery in Africa

Domestic Resource Mobilization and Economic Recovery in Africa

Explore eight ways open government reform can help African countries recover from the immediate crisis and restore their progress towards achieving the Sustainable Development Goals.

Photo by

Taking the OGP Co-Creation Process Online – Further Guidance

Some partners and resources for further support and information.

A young man wearing a Puerto Rico t-shirt is outside posing by a tree and holding his cell phone in the air as if to take a selfie. Challenges and Solutions

Online or Offline, Citizen Engagement Needs to Be Underpinned by Core Open Government Principles

Twaweza shares their unique approach for including citizens in the decisions that impact their lives and offers insights on what they've learned along the way.

Open Government Partnership