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Enabling Co-Creation through Transparency and the Proactive Release of Data

Mélanie Robert|

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These are exciting times for open government in Canada. We are preparing to take on a more prominent role in the international community as a newly-elected member of the Open Government Partnership (OGP) Steering Committee. Domestically, our team is hard at work ramping up our efforts, seizing and creating opportunities to mainstream open government throughout the civil service and working towards being a government that is ‘open by default’.

Providing the building blocks

The OGP Global Summit in Paris last December really drove home for us the value that there is in sharing our experiences and learning from other OGP members as we work to advance the principles of openness and transparency through concrete actions. Public engagement and collaboration must be at the heart of our efforts – they will help us to identify the challenges and opportunities of open government, and to find and implement the best solutions.

One of the ways Canada is working to foster greater public engagement and collaboration is through the release of datasets that contain the many comments and ideas received during our national action plan consultation cycle. By doing this, we are able to provide the building blocks that led to the creation of the commitments made in the plan. This keeps us accountable and transparent. It makes it easier for consultation participants to see how their ideas and suggestions fed into the final national action plan, and provides context for the decisions that happen throughout the process.

We are also taking a similar approach with the release of the Open Data Inventory, which allows Canadians to see what federal data is collected, and have the opportunity to indicate what data is of greatest interest to them. This ensures Canadians can have a say on what data should be made available first, which in turn will help departments to prioritize data releases based on both external demand and internal capacity.

Grants and Contributions

A recent example of co-creation suggests that the Canadian commitment to open information is maturing and providing real value to society. As part of our most recent National Action Plan, Canada committed to increase the transparency of its Grants and Contributions funding. These are funds the Government of Canada disburses to a variety of recipients to further broad policy objectives and priorities and enable a wide diversity of skills and resources outside the federal government.

Previously, departments reported on this spending in a variety of formats, and many departments published their reports according to a rigid schedule, and published on their own internal website.

Currently, Treasury Board of Canada Secretariat is working with other government departments and civil society in order to standardize and expand the data that is presented and released for Grants and Contributions. The hope of this exercise is that it will provide enhanced transparency and accountability, and allow departments to publish more, meaningful data, more frequently.

In early discussions, many departments and key stakeholders are pleased with this initiative, and while we recognize that there is much work to still be done to be fully transparent, this initiative has sparked quite a bit of interest and encouraged many ideas – and, as an added bonus, it is ahead of schedule.

Keeping the conversation – and collaboration – moving forward

We’re pleased to say that we will be keeping this collaboration going, with the first-ever publicly-available Canada School of Public Service Armchair discussion happening next week, on April 12. The discussion will focus on the many opportunities we have to help make open government a mainstream initiative across Canada. Participants will learn from different experts how best to facilitate this shift within their own organization.

The event was developed in collaboration with our colleagues at GovLab, the MacArthur Research Network on Opening Governance, the Province of British Columbia, Open North, and our School of Public Service. If you don’t live in Ottawa, never fear: this event is available via webcast in both English and French.

If you want to keep up-to-date on all things Open Government in Canada, be sure to follow our community Open Government Twitter Account, and check regularly for new data and information releases, as well as opportunities to collaborate and co-create.

Speaking of which, it’s not too long until we start working on our next National Action Plan… looking forward to reading the many suggestions that will come!

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