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Ready to Act: Open Gov, Service Delivery & COVID-19

Listos para actuar: Gobierno abierto, provisión de servicios y COVID-19

Photo by the World Bank Photo Collection

COVID-19 shocked our lives. More than 7 million people worldwide have tested positive for the virus, with frontline workers, health systems, and vulnerable populations suffering the most. COVID is disrupting our working routines and changing our plans and strategic priorities. We are talking about health systems in our daily online calls, as we try to stretch their capacities to flatten the curve. Health is everyone’s business so much that an explosion of community-led efforts is helping people around the world secure protective equipment, relearn how to cough and wash our hands, and provide safety nets for those who need it most. Much like the Ebola crisis, and despite social distancing norms, trusted community leaders are playing key roles to help us voluntarily comply with new norms and address disinformation. Their efforts complement those of governments where the public sector is active and fill gaps where governments are not stepping up to the plate.

 As we respond to the pandemic, it is important to reflect upon how we can find solutions through open government principles, in addition to thinking how and if open government principles are still in place despite the crisis. The answer seems clear: Put participatory principles into practice. Now is the time to take in what is happening in our daily lives and think how we can put the Open Government Partnership to work for service delivery, hand in hand, with efforts to strengthen health systems. In acting for delivery, the open government movement has a unique opportunity to become stronger, too.

Ready to bring service delivery into OGP

We are researchers and consultants in the open government space. We work and learn with many organizations around the world – governments, civil society organizations, universities, development partners, among others. 

For over a year we have been convening conversations about why and how to rethink service delivery to obtain open government wins. We connected the dots across a number of forums and networks. We realized that many colleagues agree: there are windows of opportunity to advance open government and social accountability by building on the work of colleagues who were already implementing open government approaches with and for sectors, including health. This realization was fresh in our minds, when OGP’s Open Response + Open Recovery campaign increased the urgency to bridge works on service delivery and open government.   

All of these insights and relationships came together in the “Open Service Delivery in Health – Communities and Governments Working Together” webinar convened by the Government of Argentina, OGP co-chair with the support of Aidan Eyakuze, from the Civil Society Steering Committee. If you were not able to join us, we invite you to watch the thoughtful and diverse range of experiences and exchanges of those that are showing us the pathway towards delivering (essential) healthcare together- from the Philippines and Elgeyo-Marakwet, Kenya to Ghana and Buenos Aires, Argentina and much more.

There are a number of practical experiences and ideas to use the OGP global platform and action plan cycles to build more resilient health systems and strengthen trust and bonds in communities, as the rapid response turns into medium-term reconstruction. For example, colleagues suggested that more action plans should incorporate commitments focused on service delivery systems, including health, water and sanitation, and social protection. Commitments in Mongolia, Indonesia, and Paraguay action plans provide useful clues. They were informed by local social accountability processes but also implemented through the collaboration of national and local governments, social accountability practitioners and communities.

 In the webinar, it was also apparent that expanding the conversation to colleagues whose work is focused in sectors, whether in government or civil society, could enrich, revitalize and strengthen the open government global conversations. These colleagues – like many community leaders and groups – are already using open government approaches to ensure delivery of public services during the pandemic. Now it’s our turn to take our efforts to the next level.

Imagining the next milestones

The Open Response + Open Recovery campaign along with OGP’s three year implementation plan (2020-2022), which includes citizens shaping public services as one of the priority themes, and the new implementation strategy of the OGP local program suggest time is ripe for the OGP platform to push forward on service delivery.

We have taken some concrete, forward-looking steps to set the next milestones of this journey:

  • In collaboration with a few colleagues, we started a series of blog posts to reflect on what it means to surface collaborative governance practices, including for service delivery. Check this post on conquering our blind spots and this one on how to sustain incremental change while nurturing relationships.
  • We are consolidating #ACT4Delivery – a network of practitioners who are already seeing the impact of open government and social accountability approaches in their communities as they work with sectors. This network helps us identify concrete ways in which OGP can piggyback to multiply locally-led, sectorally relevant efforts.
  • We continue to curate compelling service delivery stories, including OGP commitments, to identify frequent wins and lessons for change. We highlighted some of these stories in recent events, such as the Western Balkans Peer Exchange Meeting on Open Government and then in the RESPA – OGP Peer Exchange Meeting in Buenos Aires this year.

More than ever, service delivery is a critical frontier for open government strategies amidst the pandemic. The OGP community often says that good ideas can come from anywhere. That is true now more than ever. As OGP CEO Sanjay Pradhan put it: we need to broaden the open government movement’s base to ministries dealing with health and safety nets. We also need to engage civil society groups who have been engaging people for service delivery in communities around the world for decades. The challenge is to nurture relationships and trust so good ideas can become collective action. We look forward to opening this discussion with the broader open government community and we invite you to be part of this journey!

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