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Launching an Evaluation of OGP

Lanzamiento de una Evaluación de OGP

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Munyema Hasan |

The Department for International Development (DFID), Open Society Foundation and the Hewlett Foundation are jointly supporting an independent, multi-country, multi-policy evaluation of OGP. The evaluation is set to kick off in Colombia, Nigeria, Ukraine, the Philippines, South Cotabato, Kenya and Elgeyo-Marakwet County. The initial policy areas being studied in these countries are beneficial ownership, open contracting, and citizen engagement. The country and policy level focus is intentional as the evaluation seeks to understand complex change processes and prioritize depth over breadth. While the  in-depth investigations will generate insights and reveal patterns which are more broadly relevant – the evaluation is not looking to reach judgements on the effectiveness and relevance of OGP as a whole.

Through a competitive bidding process, Oxford Policy Management (OPM) has been selected to conduct the evaluation. It will address core questions around the relevance, effectiveness, efficiency and impact of the OGP platform and strategies on reform processes in different contexts, including an analysis of the factors that drive, distort or block reforms. Where possible, the evaluation will consider the higher-level outcomes of specific policy reforms, such as change in government responsiveness or accountability relationships. 

This evaluation is coming at a time in OGP when our staff and long time supporters of OGP are taking stock of eight years of experience supporting open government reformers and asking where and how our support helped move the needle towards reform in those countries. For example, at a recent intensive peer exchange workshop between six OGP countries currently co-creating action plans, we were pleasantly surprised to see the level of engagement of one particular country team. This country is new to OGP with a recent history of political and security challenges. Yet the government Points of Contact (PoCs) and civil society actors not only contributed unique insights on opening government, but worked together with great camaraderie as if they had been a part of OGP for years.

My teammate in charge of supporting that country however was quick to point out that the situation looked very different until recently. It took almost a year of regularly convening these reformers, using delicate negotiation and mediation to address crippling issues of trust and help both sides see that they were working towards a shared goal. 

OGP staff, its partners, and Steering Committee frequently engage behind the scenes in helping to build critical relationships and alliances that support difficult open government reforms at the country level. But it is challenging to capture that contribution and to narrate in tactile ways the difference being made by the OGP platform. This challenge isn’t unfamiliar to actors working to advance the governance space. We are all aware that progress is unpredictable and nonlinear, and yet it is crucial to understand how our contributions to incremental gains (or lack thereof) add up to something larger – whether its building a global norm on open government or opening the space for more participatory governance at the country level. Actors working in the governance space are getting better at storytelling and increasingly have sophisticated tools to do so. But for those of us who want to validate our contributions with evidence, the challenge is different, daunting, time consuming and often resource-intensive.

The multi-donor funded evaluation is an attempt to address this challenge. It is different from previous studies (see for example here, here and here) of OGP which have focused on OGP’s theory of change and rules of the game at a macro-level. This evaluation takes a slightly longer term lens and dives deep into country level dynamics to understand how the OGP platform is being leveraged. The mix of countries and policy areas balances thematic priorities of OGP, variation in the intensity of support provided by OGP staff and its partners, the maturity of the commitment area, and regional diversity. 

At the outset, this evaluation is not intended to be a traditional evaluation which delivers point in time assessments and focuses primarily on accountability of the one being evaluated. OGP staff, its partners and most importantly OGP reformers are the primary audience of the findings of the evaluation. OPM will be applying a developmental evaluation approach to the assessment and this differs from traditional evaluations in that it will generate ongoing and participatory learning for OGP to understand the extent to which our theory of change is playing out as expected. The focus is on supporting reflection, dialogue, learning and decision-making during the two-year lifetime of the evaluation, rather than just delivering a point-in-time judgement with recommendations. 

The learning focus and flexibility of the evaluation approach is in letter and in spirit. The budget has a built in flexible pool of funding that will enable the evaluation to respond to emerging opportunities and changes, explore new lines of enquiry, and manage unforeseen events. As the evaluation kicks off, we’d like to see open government reformers in the selected countries actively engage in the process and inform these decisions to ensure that its useful for everyone. Ultimately we hope that it will help OGP staff, its leadership and partners, and country level reformers to deliver sharper strategies for raising the ambition and strengthening the implementation of policy commitments, as well as ensuring more inclusive civil society and citizen engagement in the process.

For those of you interested in learning more about the evaluation design and methods, click here. We are excited to start the evaluation and engage with country level reformers in a journey of reflection and learning over the course of the next two years.

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