Our first 100 days – what we’ve achieved and what’s next

Our first 100 days – what we’ve achieved and what’s next

By Ania Calderon  

UPDATE: The Open Up Guide: Using Open Data to Combat Corruption is now live. 

One hundred days into our life as the Open Data Charter team, and we’ve a new strategy to test, funding secured and a permanent organisational home. We also welcomed several new governments into our network, including Australia, the province of Ontario, and the cities of Edmonton, Gijón, Salamanca and Lviv. It has been a busy three months! This is an opportunity to share what we’ve got planned and to invite feedback.

For us, the goal of the Charter is to embed the culture and practice of openness in governments in ways that are resilient to political change and driven by user demand. This is particularly important in the current political circumstances, as Robert Palmer outlined in a blog back in March. We need to raise the bar for openness to translate into stronger institutions that deliver for everyone.

The team – myself, Liz and Robert – spent much of the last few months trying to build an understanding of the unique value add of the Charter. As part of this we’ve spoken to dozens of people to get their thoughts, including many of our Stewards – the network of governments and organisations who govern the Charter.  

They told us that the value of the Charter was its ability to:

(1) Advocate for open data at a high political level,

(2) Learn the lessons from those who are implementing open data projects and connect them with each other,

(3) Work with different sectors to turn high level open data principles into practical action, and

(4) Maintain momentum for the open data movement through supporting governments to commit publicly to the Charter principles.

These insights were the starting point for understanding what the Charter’s contribution could be. As a team of three carrying this work forward, we know that partnering with our network is key. We also know that we will likely refine our plans further as we learn from each other.

In the spirit of experimentation and “fail fast”, we want to test our ideas in the real world.  We will do this through four projects over the coming 6 months. All four could lead to longer terms pieces of work. However, if we find that they are not working, or can be led by a member of the network, we will step back, and concentrate our efforts elsewhere.    

The projects developed out of the four areas where the Charter adds value. They are:

  • Advocate to get high level political support for open data. International support for the Charter gives political cover for officials implementing programmes, encourages consistency within and across countries and allows citizens to hold governments to account.
  • Understand the techniques officials are using to embed open data programmes. There is a real risk that the gains made to date are under threat from changing political conditions. We’ll speak to leading open data officials in countries facing transitions, to understand how they’ve dealt with this challenge and share their insights for others to use.
  • Road-test the Charter’s approach to how open data can help particular sectors, with a focus on combating corruption. The Charter has worked to translate the high-level principles into practical guides for specific sectors. The Charter team is collaborating with the government of Mexico, and other national stakeholders, to roadtest the Anti-corruption Open Up Guide, which is due for publication soon.  We’ll be applying our learning from this project to all of the Charter’s sector work.
  • Work with cities to adopt and implement the Charter. Over the next six months, the team will be working with the NGO Open North as they support cities in Canada to implement the Charter. We hope to gain insights into how local governments use the Charter principles to improve service delivery in cities. The Charter network is also developing a series of tools to help governments use the Charter, including an implementation roadmap and an annotated version of the principles.

These four projects build on the success to date of our six principles, which were developed by a global community and provide a common framework for those working on open data. The projects continue the same collaborative spirit, mobilising the network of organisations already working in the field with the aim of generating insights and momentum at a global level to support those working on the ground.

To help realise this work we’re really excited to announce that the Hewlett Foundation will provide some of the resources we need and we are in late stage discussions with other funders as well. We are also delighted to have found a permanent legal host as a programme of the Fund for the City of New York. We’re grateful for the support of our current host, i-SEEED, as we transition to this new arrangement, as well as OD4D for catalysing the Charter’s work from the beginning.

This blog is part of an ongoing conversation between the Charter team and our broader network. What we’re doing wouldn’t be possible without the governments, NGOs, funders and experts who make up this coalition.

Please get in touch if you have thoughts on our approach or want to get involved. We’ll be holding an open conference call with the Charter Stewards in June to get feedback. If you are on the side of openness and leveraging data because it leads to better results, please feel free to join! You can get in touch with us on info@opendatacharter.net.