Parting Reflections from Linda Frey
Dear friends and colleagues:
In just a few days I will be stepping down from my role as the Executive Director of the OGP Support Unit. I want to take this opportunity to thank you all for your support and encouragement over the past several years – but moreover, for your willingness to consistently challenge and stretch OGP as a tool for political reform.
The last three years have been incredibly demanding, but I’m so proud of what we together have achieved. Looking back to when I joined, it’s hard to believe that in early 2013 there were just three full-time staff (including me!) on the OGP payroll and less than $100,000 in the bank. I spent my first year in a perpetual state of panic, trying to figure out how to build a team and strategy to support 60+ participating countries, an 18-member global Steering Committee, and a hugely ambitious set of expectations that far exceeded the Support Unit’s capacity to deliver.
Knowing this, you may wonder why I took on this challenge in the first place. There are three basic reasons. First, I am convinced that governments work better when they are open, accountable and responsive to the people they serve, and I wanted to help advance this goal. Second, I found OGP’s early track record in securing high-level political support extremely compelling, since changing the culture of government clearly requires a mandate from the very top. Finally, I was attracted to OGP because it is an action-oriented partnership of ‘doers,’ NOT a top-down development initiative or diplomatic talk shop. Every country that joins – regardless of its size or stature – plays by the same rules and is subject to the same independent reporting. This is how it should be, since every country has something to share and something to learn.
Three years later, I remain fully convinced that these were excellent reasons to invest a lot of sweat and tears in this initiative. I am extremely proud that my team has succeeded in not just sustaining, but strengthening the core founding principles of OGP. I have also learned that we should never take these principles for granted, as they are more revolutionary than at first they might appear. What do I mean by this?
Well, if you’ve read this far, you likely agree that open governments serve people better. However, we still need a much larger body of evidence to convince the remaining skeptics. We must relentlessly build the case for open government until it becomes conventional wisdom – much in the same way environmental advocates did with climate change. [OGP’s catchy 2014 video is a start – please share it widely!] At the same time, OGP commitments should increasingly tackle the most practical and urgent problems that average people care about. This is the only way for this movement to achieve critical mass.
Second, OGP must continue to demonstrate its relevance and value-added to senior government officials; strengthening their resolve is absolutely critical to catalyzing meaningful reforms. 46 world leaders attended OGP’s original launch in 2011, ten heads of state spoke at our 3-year anniversary event last year at the United Nations, and – as was the case with the London Summit – we expect ministers from at least 35 countries to participate in OGP’s upcoming Global Summit in Mexico. This is an impressive track record, but we must not let up; these public accountability moments help keep the pressure on at the highest level.
Finally, it is critical for this initiative to remain a club of ‘doers’ – domestic champions of reform who exchange practical ideas and innovations based on their OGP national action plans. While OGP can and should engage in global policy debates, the most important debates to promote are those happening within countries between governments and their own citizens. The more people and groups in OGP countries who get involved, the more powerful OGP will be.
These are big asks of a young initiative. But with strong Steering Committee leadership, a talented Secretariat team (up to 22 people!), and a truly committed group of global partners and funders, I am quite optimistic about the future. It’s incredibly gratifying to see how far we have come, and I will always be honored to have been a part of it.
I am likewise confident that all of you friends of OGP will continue to push at every level to make your OGP more inclusive, more ambitious and more impactful. Wherever I land next, please know that I’ll be cheering you on!
Yours in solidarity,