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Soft Launch of the Open Government Partnership Trust Fund

Joe Powell|

For three years, the Open Government Partnership has been discussing the idea of launching a Trust Fund to provide support to government and civil society reformers in participating countries. Today, in collaboration with the World Bank as host and the founding donors, we are proud to announce the soft launch of the OGP Trust Fund and the first call for proposals.

The OGP Trust Fund is designed to provide the type of tailored and timely support that can best achieve greater impact for the partnership. The first design principle is that both governments (who are World Bank client countries) and civil society engaged in OGP at the national or local level should have equal access to the Trust Fund, rooted in OGP’s founding principle that government and civil society should have an equal seat at the table. The second is that the fund should support  OGP’s strategy, and thus should be targeted at OGP’s action plan cycle, and in particular, the co-creation and implementation of transformative open government reforms. Third, the Trust Fund should provide a positive incentive for strong performance in OGP, including meeting OGP’s co-creation standards and having a well-functioning open government forum. Finally, the Trust Fund Council, as the governing body, should also be comprised of government and civil society representatives from the OGP Steering Committee, alongside donors, the World Bank, and OGP, to ensure that the views of the wider partnership are heard.

The different windows of the OGP Trust Fund have been designed with these principles in mind. The Independent Reporting Mechanism has repeatedly highlighted the implementation gap in OGP action plans, and the challenge of co-creating ambitious reform commitments in the first place. Window one also contains support for the co-creation of OGP action plans, which is the call for proposals we are launching today. We are hoping to support six OGP national or local participants with small awards to undertake activities to meet the OGP Participation and Co-Creation standards. This could include engaging with new groups not involved in OGP to date, including women’s organizations, and organizations representing marginalized or vulnerable groups, or working outside of the capital city. This call for proposals will be open until March 20, 2018, and the main applicant should be a civil society organization that who is able to act on behalf of their OGP forum, including the ability to conduct activities in coalition with the government and other civil society members of the forum.

As such, the first window of the Trust Fund will include support – to become available in late 2018 – for implementing commitments in OGP action plans once the bulk of the 76 action plan processes have been concluded. These will be the largest grants the Trust Fund makes, will be limited to four in the first year, and will be specifically targeted at potentially transformative reforms which require technical and/or financial assistance for implementation.

Lastly, window one will be available to non-eligible countries that have expressed interest in joining OGP in the future, and need support to implement the reforms necessary to become eligible. This support will be launched along with the support to implementation of commitments in late 2018.  

Window two of the Trust Fund is for advancing cross-country learning and research, and promoting ambition on OGP’s thematic priorities. The first opportunity to access this window will be in April 2018, when we will seek to make five grants. These would fund peer learning and exchange, development of practical tools to support reforms, and research on the impacts of open government reforms. The first call for proposals will support OGP’s new thematic partnership model, which was launched in late 2017. Later in 2018, we will launch a call for proposals for research that can help fill knowledge gaps for the open government community.

Finally, the Trust Fund will have a third window, available for all OGP participants, to pay their annual contribution if they wish. These annual contributions are an important part of OGP’s long-term financial sustainability, so we hope this window will encourage more government to meet their obligations.

The grand launch of the OGP Trust Fund will take place at the fifth Global OGP Summit in July in Tbilisi, Georgia, by which point we hope to have the first set of donors confirmed and more detail for the community on the size of the grants available for later in 2018. We are grateful to the first founding donor, the Agence Française de Développement, for enabling us to launch the first call for proposals early enough in the year to provide support in time to influence the 2018 OGP action planning cycle.

The next steps will be for OGP, the World Bank and the donors to raise awareness of the Participation and Co-Creation call for proposals, and provide all support necessary to interested potential civil society organizations to submit strong proposals by the deadline of March 20, 2018. We will host webinars on March 1st and 2nd for different regions, and all the materials are available on the OGP website. You can also contact the OGP Support Unit or World Bank team with any questions you may have.

The soft launch of the OGP Trust Fund is an exciting moment for the open government community. It will not solve all of OGP’s challenges, and we expect demand to be very high for a limited supply of grants, but we do hope this important step in OGP’s evolution is able to provide helpful, timely support to the reformers in our countries who are battling incredible odds to open up their governments to citizens.

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