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Creating OGP’s Future Together: Shape the Partnership’s New Strategy

Creando el futuro de OGP, juntas y juntos: Construyendo la nueva estrategia de la Alianza

Créer l’avenir du PGO ensemble : façonner la nouvelle stratégie du partenariat

Shreya BasuandPaul Maassen|

When the Open Government Partnership was founded in 2011, many of those involved said there was magic in the air. OGP created a pathway forward that built on the optimism many felt about the future, with advances on transparency and public participation in policy-making and the promise of new technologies. OGP was a new platform, with an innovative approach that fit the moment.

Today, we face a new moment. As OGP enters its second decade, it has grown in many ways that exceeded our founders’ expectations. But as our movement has grown and shown pockets of results that the OGP community can be proud of, so too have authoritarian and other forces pulling in the direction of closed governments. The successes are not yet adding up in changing the culture of governments.

There is a need and an opportunity for us to meet this moment, applying lessons learned in our first decade.  To ensure that the Partnership is fit for purpose for now and for the future.  Meeting this challenge will take a reinvigorated OGP. As when OGP was founded, what that looks like, must include a dialogue where all ideas are on the table, where good ideas can come from anyone and everywhere.

That is why OGP is calling on its community of reformers to step up and actively participate in developing a new strategy of OGP for 2023 -2028.  A new strategy that invests our energy, experience and talents into the places that matter the most, and into the areas that provide the most support for all those bravely pursuing work in pursuit of OGP’s mission to promote transparent, participatory, inclusive and accountable governance. This is your invitation to join us. 

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There is a need and an opportunity for us to meet this moment, applying lessons learned in our first decade.  To ensure that the Partnership is fit for purpose for now and for the future. 

As we look to the future, it is important to remind ourselves of our origins and founding principles behind OGP. 

When eight governments and nine civil society leaders launched OGP in 2011, no one expected it to reach its current size and scope.  As many founders of OGP describe it, the idea of truly opening up government, changing its culture, with the ultimate goal of improving the quality of public policies and services, felt like the right idea for the moment. 

To give that ambition momentum, they shaped a partnership that would respond to global and country-level trends at the time. This included: 

  • Disillusionment with traditional multilateralism that was often slow and lacked in action to match the rhetoric
  • Growing recognition that no country or region had a monopoly on good ideas;
  • Growing demands of citizens for better governments that were more connected to their lives and expectations, and; 
  • The need to shift traditional paradigms of development towards greater country ownership and domestic accountability.

There was magic in the room when the contours of what we now know as OGP slowly became visible. A truly new partnership, breaking barriers between those inside and outside government, and between the “developed” and “developing” world. A global partnership anchored in domestic action that recognized that countries could have different starting points but could all commit to delivering ambitious reforms in their context, and accelerating reforms by empowering and inspiring reformers, 

In the contest between open and closed governments, OGP was designed to tip the scale in the favor of open, seizing the rapid advances in the information and technology being made at the time.

OGP’s Original Design and Its Core Elements 

Action-Oriented: OGP encourages its members to implement meaningful reforms by developing and implementing national action plans

Flexible, but Ambitious: Countries have different starting points, but all commit to stretching beyond current practice and striving for continuous improvement.

Genuine Partnership: OGP is a shared and co-led endeavor of government and civil society working in partnership. OGP will only work if citizens demand ambitious reforms and hold their governments accountable for real progress.

Country Ownership: As a global initiative, OGP aims to strengthen, not distort, the accountability of governments to their own citizens.

Innovation and Exchange: No country or region has a monopoly on best practices in open government; we all have something to share and something to learn.

The OGP model of catalyzing and sustaining progress on open government reforms by building high-level political commitment, empowering government reformers, and supporting effective engagement by civil society organizations has remained constant – even through OGP’s 2016 Strategic Refresh and the Three-Year Plan developed in 2020.

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In the contest between open and closed governments, OGP was designed to tip the scale in the favor of open, seizing the rapid advances in the information and technology being made at the time.

 

While many of the founding ideas and design principles may resonate just as much today as they did back in 2011, as the Partnership enters its second decade, we need to ensure it is fit for purpose and responds to the changed global context we find ourselves in. We have the opportunity to learn from our first ten years but also reimagine our future in a way that brings back that feeling of possibility and being on to something special that our founders shared. A partnership that shows a hopeful way forward for those fighting for the values of open government. 

As the OGP at Ten report highlights, today we are faced with a paradox. 

On the one hand, OGP has grown in ways that exceeded expectations in its first decade. We know from ten years of data and evidence that: 

  • The OGP community has grown rapidly. Governments and thousands of civil society members have, together, co-created more than 4,500 commitments across 300 action plans in 77 countries, and the 76 and growing OGP Local members. 
  • OGP processes and commitments have increasingly included different branches and levels of government, action plans are becoming more diverse in the policy issues they tackle, and participation in the OGP process is becoming more inclusive and equitable. 
  • We have seen hundreds of meaningful reforms that make government more open, more participatory, and more accountable, driven by the people that worked with others to make them happen.
  • We now know that our design principle of inclusion pays off. When civil society is more involved in designing and implementing the action plan, commitments are more ambitious, better implemented, and produce more changes in government practices. Civil society’s own perception of involvement in OGP processes continues to grow, with more than half of those surveyed reporting that the government did involve civil society in action plan co-creation.

On the other hand, the picture of individual members we know looks very different – for many, far less positive. More importantly, the successes of OGP don’t seem to be adding up. The whole is not greater than the sum of its parts. Scaling ambition and implementation and achieving impact at scale have proven elusive. The desire to see a shift in changing the culture of government to becoming more open, still remains in its infancy. Even as we have seen some compelling results, there has been a steady decline in civic and democratic liberties, and growing trends of populism and polarization. Challenges that are further exacerbated by the economic and public health crises brought about by the pandemic, and the troubling shifts in the global security situation.

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Even as we have seen some compelling results, there has been a steady decline in civic and democratic liberties, and growing trends of populism and polarization.

The scales have certainly not yet tipped in favor of openness.

It is with this backdrop, that OGP is launching the process to develop its new strategy for 2023-2028.  As with all things OGP, this will be a strategy for both the full Partnership and the institution (the Steering Committee and the Support Unit). Living up to our own standards and principles means the strategy has to be co-created with the OGP community and other interested stakeholders. 

There are a number of BIG questions and issues we need to grapple with as we think about the next five years for open government and OGP:

  • What are the big challenges and opportunities we face today, and the most important contributions open government and OGP can make to positively influence the future?
  • How do we balance where OGP should focus its energies more going forward? Should we focus on a broad set of issues or policy areas, or a narrower focus on a few issues? Invest in supporting and building coalitions of reformers or shaping and supporting the implementation of reforms? Invest more in sharing knowledge, inspiration, and stories or invest in improving the action plan process? Expand the community and membership or strengthen what we have?
  • What are the most effective approaches for OGP to engage in windows of political opportunity or in periods of backsliding in members? How can OGP leverage other global fora and processes to help reformers and advocates drive local progress? How can OGP work most effectively with other global initiatives based on its comparative strengths?
  • Is the model and mechanism of OGP still fit for purpose? Are the current tools enough? What should stay the same? What about OGP needs to change?

Inevitably there will be tradeoffs and choices involved in trying to answer these questions, and this will require an iterative approach to consultation, deliberation, and decision-making.  The process to develop the new strategy will run throughout 2022 and into 2023 and involve multiple points of community input and engagement. It will entail the following stages:

We invite all of you to participate in the process in the following ways:

  • Run your own self-guided conversations within your country or local OGP Multi-Stakeholder Forum, coalition or organization as part of your Open Gov Week activities, and beyond. See here for guidance on running these conversations and how you can share your contributions with us.
  • Join one of three informational sessions on May 19th during Open Gov Week to learn more about OGP’s new strategy development process, and how to get involved throughout the next year.
  • Participate in community conversations on May 24 – 26 to share your input on the main challenges & opportunities of open government, and how OGP could help.
  • Participate in the OGP Stakeholder Survey (now featuring questions on shaping the strategy)
  • Tell us your stories about how OGP is enabling change in your context.

A decade ago, a handful of people came together to make OGP the right idea for the moment. Today, we count on the minds and muscles of the vibrant community that the Partnership represents and many others outside to make OGP meet the current moment and take us into the future.

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