By: Blair Glencorse, Executive Director of the Accountability Lab
Last month, I was privileged to be considered as a candidate for the Civil Society Steering Committee of the Open Government Partnership (OGP)- the international governance body for the initiative. Civil society members on the Steering Committee play a number of roles- chiefly setting the direction of the OGP, representing broader civil society within the Steering Committee itself and facilitating and articulating the work of the OGP globally. The field of candidates was impressive and deep- and while I was not selected (congratulations to the new members!), the process as a whole was hugely positive. Here’s how the OGP is bringing in the right people in to the open governance movement in the right ways.
First, in keeping with the values of the OGP, the selection process was transparent and open throughout. Clear criteria and expectations were set from the beginning; preliminary scores for all candidates were published on the website; and after a panel interview, we all had the opportunity to pitch ideas and take questions during a number of public webinars. This allowed us to get to know and understand each other, and created a collective conversation rather than disparate competition. In its work, the OGP as a whole demonstrates that process is as important as outcomes- and if the Steering Committee members can maintain this shared energy throughout their terms, the progress will be exciting.
Second, the process was inclusive. The OGP is making sure that the Steering Committee is as diverse as the countries and communities it represents. Candidates were considered on a regional basis and the final selections certainly bring a global perspective to the work, which is all for the good. The next step for the Steering Committee now is to continue translating this into practice on the ground by working to ensure inclusivity in terms of civil society groups involved with the OGP at the country level- from the media to academia to business associations and religious groups.
Third, the process prioritized practical ideas. The candidates were grilled on how they would build upon success to date (including the significant increase in membership, growth in commitments and progress on national action plans) and how they would address existing challenges to open government (moving from “consultation” to “co-creation” for example, or better linking up research and practice and connecting the OGP to other multilateral targets such as the SDGs). Some of the best thoughts I heard included the idea of creating catalytic OGP funds at the country level to rapidly support reforms; and a focus on better communicating OGP efforts through more concrete media partnerships and storytelling initiatives.
Finally, the Civil Society Steering Committee selection process was well-timed, coming a month or so before of the critical Africa regional summit in Cape Town, where some clear progress was made on the openness agenda on the continent; as the excellent Sanjay Pradhan comes into the OGP with huge amounts of energy and experience as the new CEO; and ahead of the Anti-Corruption summit in the UK where substantive commitments will be made around corporate transparency and openness. One issue we at the Accountability Lab have been working on is creative ways to engage the private sector in the OGP and now is the perfect time for progress to be made in this regard.
The OGP is now at the point at which progress in terms of plans for open government need to be consolidated on the ground. This means making promises real for citizens and showing how openness improves their lives. The new Civil Society Steering Committee Members bring a huge amount of expertise which will be valuable in this regard; and the process for selecting them indicates too that the OGP itself walks the talk when it comes to its own commitment to transparency, inclusivity and effectiveness.