Collaborative Open Government Problem-Solving: Introducing

Nonso Jideofor

In much of the work we do with partners, collaboration is critical. Regardless of what we call it – co-creation, co-design, collaboration – the goal is shared: working and building together with diverse groups, intentionally. When it comes to open governance, this means that creating transparent, accountable, and participatory governance systems requires dialogue between government, civil society, citizens, and more.

Application of collaborative methods can be difficult for a number of reasons. At times, it is unclear what goals should be prioritised, and what good results look like. It is also difficult to convene diverse stakeholders and motivate them to sincerely listen to each other. Most difficult, perhaps, is encouraging agreement on shared priorities that can be feasibly acted on.

Together with open government peers – not technocrats or technologists removed from the context of open government initiatives – we developed This is a resource that not only allows you to see results from co-design processes, but it also offers a guide for facilitating a multistakeholder conversation. And the idea is to have you – our readers, partners and collaborators working in open governance – shape it even further. Here’s where we started, and what lies ahead.

The origins

Last year, 11 open government influencers from Eastern Europe and Central Asia gathered in Belgrade, Serbia. With support from the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), we worked with this committed group of public servants, civil society members, and consultants to better understand the challenges shared across the region, how they had worked to address them in the past, and how best to tackle them as a team in the future.

The group identified and defined three top challenges (that also resonate with issues that we have observed in other regions) to open governance:

  • Whitewashing: Agreements that bring about little to no change either because they lack the political will needed to deliver them or the analyses required for effective implementation, monitoring, and evaluation.
  • Lack of civic duty: Citizens either do not feel responsible for social progress, and/or they do not know how to engage to create change. This is especially common in young democracies and transitional societies.
  • Product development without use: Open government products – resources, often technology driven, aimed at driving changes in governance processes – are created but not used. This is often a result of empty promises or poor design.

Users, Use, and Next Steps introduces co-design as an approach to bring together many stakeholders to create something. In this case, it starts by identifying and prioritising common challenges, and it concludes in the creation of a designed processes.

This resource is particularly useful for those who:

  • Are advocating for open government principles
  • Are designing or implementing an open government project or policy
  • Are facilitating or coordinating open government processes, or developing partnerships
  • Are not new to public sector or social change work, but are relatively new to working on open government
  • Work in a specific region and understand the historical, political and technical nuances of the environment

At the broadest level, this resource suggests that the journey of an open government influencer follows three steps:

  1. Reflecting on constraints and building related core competencies
  2. Identifying and prioritising shared challenges
  3. Developing processes for creating programs and policies

Steps are then organized into two components: a facilitator guide and a library.

The facilitator guide offers a blueprint for managing a multi-stakeholder conversation. Taking a cue from the success of our technology selection resource, Alidade (and thank you to all who have given us great feedback!), we identified an opportunity to not simply provide a list of tips and tricks, but to structure an engagement process. It is important to note that the guide is not a universal template, and should be adapted to your objectives, context, and stakeholders. We encourage you to schedule a call with us to discuss your potential use case.

The library offers examples of co-designed processes. As an open government influencer, we encourage you to consult the library to gain from the experience of others. You could find inspiration for creating and refining your own processes.The greatest value will come from using the library in groups. For example, if you know a civil society or government partner who has an upcoming meeting or event, going through the library can be a good place to start.

We look forward to partners around the world using the guide, expanding the library, and providing feedback on experiences. We invite you to join us!


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