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Bingo Cards for #OGPGeorgia Opening Plenary

Rushing and thus copy/pasting text below from the Paris Summit in 2016...but at least I updated the bingo cards to reflect current jargon. Go!

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Summits are moments for political commitment and create the space to drive ambitious reforms. Their opening plenaries can also be painfully dull, crammed with dry and unambitious speeches. Ennui and hunger set in, interest fades, and momentum can be lost. How best to combat those challenges? Bingo!

How to play

Attached are downloadable bingo cards customized with many of your favorite open government/OGP buzzwords.

- Choose one (and only one!) card to be your own; either print it out or have it available on your laptop during the opening plenary. Did I spend time to fix the print margins? No. So sue me.

- As the opening plenary speeches begin, listen closely to the speeches for the invocation of the buzzwords listed on your card. As you hear a phrase/word that appears on your card, place an “X” in that cell. Everyone gets the “Free” space in the middle. 

- There will be four winners: a) First to get any line (up, down, left, right, diagonally) b) First to get all four corners c) First to get two diagonal lines through the middle (an "X"), and d) First to get a "blackout" (all squares)

- When you have reached any of the above four Bingo goals on your card, use the #OGPGeorgia and #OGPBingo hashtags on Twitter to announce your success, and include a screenshot or photo of your card as proof.

Winners will become OGP civil society co-chairs for 2018-2019 and receive heaps of praise from your peers on social media.

Recommendations for Co-creating a New National Action Plan for Open Government in the US

 Government officials and civil society leaders can get things done together...when organized well.

Government officials and civil society leaders can get things done together...when organized well.

After many months of delays and silence, the Trump administration this week announced plans to bring back a process for developing the country’s fourth Open Government Partnership National Action Plan (NAP). The Partnership is a voluntary “race to the top” club of more than 75 governments and thousands of civil society organizations that work together to develop and implement reforms around government transparency, participation, and accountability through biennial action plans. 

The NAP was due to have been completed last year; after a failed attempt to rush a process through in the fall, the plan was shelved “until early-2018.” It now appears there’s renewed momentum to restart the co-creation process with domestic civil society.

Unless this administration takes more time, engages the public, gets outside of DC, and diversifies participation, however, the process is likely to fall short of both OGP's standards and the pressing needs to address core transparency, accountability and ethics issues in the United States.

I’ve been publicly explicit about my view that there’s little upside in pursuing a NAP under current circumstances here in the US. The Trump administration has been and remains openly hostile to democratic norms that are central to the open government community both in the US and abroad, crossing the Rubicon early and often, and poisoning the well. 

To name just a few of the many violations:

I stand by those views today, and I know most in US civil society feel similarly, given recent reports on open government in the country. 

From an OGP process perspective, however, there’s technically nothing stopping the administration from attempting to restart the NAP process. If it’s going to happen, it’s going to happen. 

Following is my unsolicited advice to those involved in running the process focused on ways to make this a more productive exercise, rather than one that ends in cynicism and disappointment.

I’ll cluster these recommendations into two buckets: the “how” (e.g. how to strengthen the forthcoming co-creation process) and the “what” (which reforms could and should end up being committed to in the forthcoming NAP). 

I should note that these recommendations are my own, speaking individually as a civil society co-chair of OGP. They do not reflect any agreed OGP steering committee or Support Unit position, just to be clear. Feel free to throw shade my way – but not at OGP.

Improving how the co-creation process works 

An uncomfortable truth about the US co-creation process historically is that it was never that great, even during the Obama administration (which was a strong backer of OGP and helped to create the Partnership). 

Previous NAP co-creation processes centered on a few set piece events at the White House, online submissions of ideas from civil society, months would then pass, and the administration would eventually release a plan. This process was farfrom what OGP asks of participation countries. Planners this time around would do well to read (and re-read, and then re-read again!) OGP’s new, robust Participation and Co-Creation Toolkit.

This volume has loads of examples for how to move from simply “consulting” with the public/civil society to truer co-creation. As OGP’s independent audit unit, the Independent Reporting Mechanism, has made clear in reviews of previous US Action Plans, the US has rarely moved beyond “consulting” and lags behind many other countries where more meaningful collaboration and co-creation are the norm. 

We can and need to do better this time around. OGP’s detailed Co-Creation Standards lay out specific steps that governments need to take to ensure that they meet the minimum requirements. Beginning in 2018, meeting those minimum standards (including the creation of a multistakeholder forum, discussed below) is required for governments to remain in good standing with the Partnership. 

What would more meaningful co-creation look like in 2018? Here are some suggestions:

Take the time to get this right. We should be budgeting at least 4-6 months to do this properly. Two 3-hour meetings (in a government office building) and a GitHub repository of suggestions do not add up to co-creation. In line with current OGP guidance to countries, a more ambitious and effective approach would be to establish a permanent multistakeholder forum (MSF) explicitly focused on generating the OGP NAP. The MSF should meet monthly while simultaneously leveraging virtual discussions and debates. This MSF should be separate from the existing US Interagency Open Government Working Group, in my opinion. While that group would naturally provide many members to the MSF, it is too Washington-centric and constrained in its available time. Which leads me to my next suggestion…

Get outside of DC to engage in co-creation. This has been a perennial challenge with US NAP processes to-date; they have been incredibly DC-centric and have failed to reach beyond the Beltway in bringing in diverse opinions and perspectives (a dial-in number is necessary but still insufficient!). Look for inspiration in what the Canadian federal government is currently doing with their NAP co-creation process; this ambitious process has involved dozens of online and offline events designed to solicit public input from across that vast country. It puts anything we’ve ever done here in the US to shame! In short: fewer meetings at federal buildings in Washington and more meetings in libraries and civic centers in places like Detroit, Louisville, Des Moines, and Tulsa, please.

Diversify who participates in these conversations and debates. Historically, on the civil society side of things, US NAP co-creation processes have been dominated by a small handful of DC-based good government and civic tech organizations. I count many of them as wonderful friends and colleagues, but the echo chamber effect is real and dangerous. More marginalized communities in the US – whether communities of color, women’s rights organizations, or rural constituencies – have been essentially shut out of these discussions and debates. That needs to change with this fourth NAP, and it again implies getting out of DC, both literally and figuratively, and meeting different people and communities where they are. We also need more political diversification as part of the NAP co-creation process; DC-based domestic civil society groups usually lean left (sorry, folks, but it’s true). Why don’t we see more experts from the Cato Institute, Heritage Foundation, or R Street Institute attending US NAP development meetings? Finally, OGP is no longer a gender- or inclusion-blind initiative, and our domestic NAP processes need to reflect that. We need leadership from both government and civil society to reflect the full diversity of the United States from a gender, racial, religious, and socio-economic perspective. 

Improving the “What”

It’s important to state a few simple truths about the current climate in the US. US civil society organizations working on transparency, accountability, and participation do not trust this administration – and for good reason given the administration’s hostile posture, rhetoric, and actions since taking office vis a vis core open government values. Is meaningful co-creation even possible in this climate?

I’m not sure it is, but it certainly can’t happen without the administration being prepared to embrace at least someof civil society’s key policy asks within the context of the new NAP. While the administration continues to anchor NAP discussions on e-government and technology themes, civil society is clamoring for commitments around beneficial ownership (to provide greater transparency into who controls shell companies), declassification of government records, improved freedom of information and whistleblower protections, and ethics reform. Basically, the harder stuff. Improving management and modernizing IT services are welcome initiatives but are insufficient for an ambitious open government reform plan.

In every OGP country, the final NAP is almost always a compromise that neither government nor civil society finds 100% satisfying. But NAPs need to reflect at least someof the key equities sought by both sides; otherwise, they run the risk of being perceived as irrelevant before they’re even finalized and published. An eventual fourth US NAP that consists solely of shiny, technology-centric commitments (cough, blockchain) will only further antagonize US civil society and likely lead to a boycott of sorts, where civil society publicly disowns the resultant NAP entirely. This is not a good place for either the administration or civil society to be; in that scenario, no NAP at all is a superior (however dispiriting) option.

What's next

I’ve signed up to participate in the initial June 14thco-creation workshop and am looking forward to it…I think. What I don’t want to happen: government interlocutors briefing non-government counterparts for the majority of the time on potential commitment areas with little to no meaningful space or time for debate and discussion. Let’s instead use the time to jump straight into a wide-ranging discussion with respect to what could potentially make its way into the NAP and not constrain ourselves to preexisting frameworks (e.g. the President’s Management Agenda, while a helpful input, cannot represent the universe of the possible). We should all come with an open mind and maximum flexibility, but we all also need to be mindful of the current strains on government-civil society relations in the US and what that implies for designing and executing a successful co-creation process during the coming several months. Intellectual honesty on both sides is imperative.

As the adage goes, “Only Nixon could go to China.” Perhaps it’s only a Trump administration that can make for a more meaningful NAP co-creation process in the United States. I have my doubts, but I’m willing to park them at the door provided there’s genuine leadership and creativity on the other side of the table. 

I’ll see you in two weeks.

Organizing a cycling day trip on the margins of the OPG summit in Tbilisi

I'm organizing a 100 km road cycling trip in Tbilisi on July 20th, 2018 after the Open Government Partnership global summit wraps up. And I want you to come with me.

Here’s what to expect:

- A 100 kilometer “out and back” ride from Tbilisi to Manglisi (https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Manglisi) and then back to Tbilisi.

- A support van/car + riding guide + water from Geo Riders (https://www.georiders.ge).

- Total elevation gain of around 1,200 meters, or roughly 4,000 feet. I would classify this ride as “some climbing” but nothing crazy or exceptionally difficult, especially with the climbing spread out over 100k. From Geo Riders: “The route is mix going up and going down, left and right, we take 1200 meter altitude up, it's going in amazing nature.”

- A rental road bike (from Geo Riders: “Canyon - Scott - CBT Italia – Giant”).

- We will stop for lunch somewhere during the ride (our guides will sort it out for us). Lunch is included in the cost.

- Exact start/end times are TBD, but assume we’ll leave after breakfast and be back before dinner. And I presume the pick-up/drop-off point will be at one of the main summit hotels; we’ll confirm that closer to the date.

- Cost will be around 100 euros. This includes the rental bike, guide, van support, water, and lunch. 

Who this ride is good for:

- Crazy people like me who ride a road bike regularly/way too much and are comfortable with rides of this length/duration (or more).

- Semi-regular cyclists who’ve gone at least 60-70k before and who want to accomplish something new! If you’ve done 60-70k before and are generally comfortable with a bit of climbing, this is your chance to do something great! If you hit your limit during the ride, you can always hop in the van for the remainder of the journey.

- Riders who ride with “clipless” shoes and pedals. This is not an ideal ride for sneakers + flat pedals.

- Riders who aren’t completely anxious riding on roads (as opposed to dedicated bike paths). Once we leave Tbilisi I imagine the roads will be generally quiet. But if you’ve never ridden on roads with vehicles before, this probably isn’t the first road ride you want to do!

Things I don’t yet know (but will confirm before July):

- Whether you’ll need to bring your own helmet or whether Geo Riders can provide helmets (plan to bring cycling shoes + your pedals regardless).

- Whether you’ll need to bring water bottles or whether Geo Riders can provide bottles.

- Whether we’ll receive .gpx files ahead of time for Garmins and other bike nav devices.

I’m pretty excited that this will be a unique and fun experience; when else are we going to have a chance to ride with support in Georgia?!

Interested and want to join? Please email me to confirm a slot/ask questions: nathaniel@integrilicio.us

The new DC Wawa is a magnet for illegally parked emergency responders

I'm fortunate enough to work right above DC's first Wawa, which opened in December to great fanfare. It has a cult-like following in parts of the mid-Atlantic region and cheap, better-than-your-regular-convenience store food and coffee. Since the Wawa opened, it's been one of my go-to options for an ultra-quick, ultra-cheap lunch, snack, or coffee during the day. And it's open 24/7. What's not to love?

Apparently, I'm not the only one who digs this shiny new calorie and caffeine option. Since it opened, and particularly since New Year's, I've noticed a steady stream of emergency responders - police, uniformed Secret Service (they have an office around the corner), firefighters, and ambulance personnel - gravitating to the Wawa for early-morning breakfast and coffee, particularly before 8:00 am. Which is great, except for the fact that they routinely park their vehicles - patrol cars, ambulances, and even full-sized fire trucks - on 19th street to make their coffee/food runs. Which is less than cool since a) there is no curb parking at any time of the day on three-lane 19th, and b) 19th is already an overly congested and important artery connecting Dupont Circle to downtown Washington. As a cyclist, it's particularly worrying given how many cycling commuters use 19th to get to work in the morning; those parked vehicles create major traffic disruptions and pose a non-trivial safety hazard to drivers and bikers alike.

This is a typical morning at around 7:00 or 7:30 am outside of the Wawa:

 DCPD loves Wawa

DCPD loves Wawa

On this particular morning, these three vehicles remained on the curb for nearly 45 minutes while their drivers/officers had a morning coffee at Wawa's front seating bar:

IMG_5169.jpg

And I've noticed that as more emergency responders begin parking on the curb in the morning, it sends a signal to others that it's ok to do the same. Taxi and Uber drivers, construction workers, and other commuters have gotten the message:

IMG_5194.jpg

This morning, we reached new heights when an ambulance pulled over at the corner of 19th and L (a super busy east-west downtown corridor), turned on his flashing emergency lights, exited the ambulance, and then strolled to Wawa to presumably grab breakfast at around 7:15 am as I was walking into the office:

 Is getting coffee an emergency? I mean sometimes, but...

Is getting coffee an emergency? I mean sometimes, but...

Before anyone accuses me of being mean-spirited, I'm the first to acknowledge and celebrate the sacrifices made by first responders in doing their jobs. They work terrible hours, are generally paid poorly, and have to put up with all sorts of insanity and stress that us office workers never have to face. Tip o' the hat.

But: we're all supposed to play by the same rules, right? And those rules include common sense public safety standards, like not blocking a downtown artery in rush hour because there's cheap coffee inside. I did a cursory search around the DC Code online to try and understand if emergency responders are granted some sort of parking exemption that allows them to park any/everywhere, at least in carrying out official duties. I didn't come across anything. Then again, I'm no expert in DC law and regulation, and if readers know of such an exemption, please shout in the comments below so that I can reel in my frustration. But until then: what the heck, DC emergency responders?!

Opening Reception Remarks at #OGPArgentina, November 20 2017

As delivered in Spanish at the top; English version below.

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Distinguidos invitados, damas y caballeros, amigos y colegas:

Es un honor profundo y un privilegio tener la oportunidad de dirigirme a Uds. al celebrar el inicio de esta semana tan importante aquí en Buenos Aires. Como suele suceder en los eventos de la Alianza para el Gobierno Abierto / Open Government Partnership (OGP), veo tantos amigos en el salón que siempre me siento muy en casa cuando asisto una reunión de la OGP, sin importar en qué ciudad o país estemos.

A diferencia de nuestras reuniones anteriores, sospecho que esta semana nos enfocaremos no solo en soluciones nuevas e innovadoras para promover la transparencia, la rendición de cuentas y la participación en el gobierno, sino también en los desafíos que enfrentaremos colectivamente durante los meses y años venideros.

Señoras y señores: la luna de miel para el gobierno abierto ha terminado. De muchas maneras, esta semana marca el principio del siguiente capítulo dentro del movimiento para el gobierno abierto, en que se pondrán a prueba nuestra resiliencia y nuestros principios como nunca antes.

Las elecciones de 2015 aquí en Argentina nos demostraron la velocidad con que la agenda de gobierno abierto se puede revitalizar con el liderazgo político que abraza los valores medulares de la OGP. El trabajo actual que se está haciendo en Argentina para que se abra el gobierno –en ambos niveles, federal y local– nos inspira a todos. Me emociona tener a tantos amigos de la sociedad civil que están actualmente sirviendo a sus conciudadanos argentinos en su carácter de empleados públicos dedicados. Es un testimonio excepcional de los principios de acción colectiva y co-creación que son fundamentales para la OGP.

Mi propio país, Estados Unidos, ofrece una historia aleccionadora. Justamente nos recuerda lo rápido que los logros alcanzados en muchos países pueden ser minados por los cambios de liderazgo político. Estados Unidos solía poner el ejemplo para todo el mundo en cuanto al gobierno abierto, pero hoy nuestro gobierno federal ha abandonado la agenda de apertura a pocos meses de haberse iniciado un nuevo mandato. Su liderazgo actual desprecia abiertamente los principios consagrados en la Declaración de Gobierno Abierto. El que fue alguna vez ejemplo inspirador para el gobierno abierto se ha convertido en una especie de sombra de sí mismo, que se deteriora rápidamente al ser golpeado por fuerzas políticas de toda índole.

Si los últimos años nos han enseñado algo, es que las cosas no se mantendrán estáticas durante el viaje hacia un gobierno más abierto en ningún país. Con el tiempo, Estados Unidos se restablecerá, y sin duda Argentina enfrentará algunos retrocesos en el futuro. Algunos de los que estamos en esta sala ya no estaremos en las próximas reuniones regionales y cumbres de la OGP. Apenas la semana pasada, recibimos la triste noticia de que Radu Puchiu, secretario de estado en Rumanía, quien participó en el comité directivo de la OGP durante muchos años y aportó un liderazgo increíble, fue despedido sin aviso. Podemos esperar más cambios repentinos como este en años venideros, no menos.

En medio de toda esta fluidez, ¿cómo podemos llevar adelante con éxito los cambios increíblemente complejos y de larga duración que buscamos en nuestros gobiernos y nuestras sociedades?

Mi respuesta es sencilla: la fuerza más grande de la comunidad de gobierno abierto está en sus valores. Estos valores son inmutables y forman los cimientos de nuestra estabilidad. Valoramos la transparencia y la apertura. Valoramos el derecho de todas las comunidades y los ciudadanos a participar en la toma de decisiones que afectan sus vidas. Y comprendemos la importancia de hacer que los que detentan el poder rindan cuentas sobre el cumplimiento de las promesas que han hecho a nuestras comunidades.

Esos valores –consagrados en la Declaración de Gobierno Abierto– sobrevivirán a cualquiera de nuestras administraciones públicas o nuestra temporada en la dirección de las organizaciones de la sociedad civil. Son más fuertes que nuestros adversarios y que aquellos que quisieran cerrar las instituciones de gobierno y regresar a una era de secretismo, abusos del poder e impunidad. Esos valores son poderosos porque son justos y atinados, y hoy más que nunca nuestros conciudadanos esperan que nos atengamos a ellos.

Al iniciar esta semana de aprendizaje e inspiración compartidos, no se olviden de los valores fundamentales de la OGP. Cuando las políticas reformistas hacen que nuestros esfuerzos parezcan imposibles, recuerden la esperanza y la aspiración que nuestros valores nos proporcionan. Cuando nos sintamos solos y aislados en nuestra labor, recuerden esta sala llena de luchadores y agentes de cambio que comparten nuestros valores comunes y están listos para echarnos la mano. Y cuando nuestros adversarios pongan obstáculos en nuestro camino, recuerden: nos temen por la fuerza de nuestros valores. Los valores del gobierno abierto son nuestro escudo, pero también nuestra lanza. Ha llegado el momento de usarlos.

Muchísimas gracias.

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Distinguished guests, ladies and gentlemen, friends and colleagues:

I’m deeply honored and privileged to have the opportunity to address you this evening as we celebrate the beginning of this important week here in Buenos Aires. As with all Open Government Partnership (OGP) events, there are so many friends in the room that I always feel like I’m coming home when I come to an OGP gathering, regardless of the city or the country we’re in.

Unlike previous OGP gatherings, I suspect this week will be one where we focus not only on new and innovative solutions to promoting transparency, accountability, and participation in government, but also on the challenges we collectively face in the months and years to come.

Ladies and gentlemen, the honeymoon period in open government is over. And in many ways, this week marks the beginning of the next chapter in the open government movement, one in which our resilience and our principles will be tested like never before.

Elections in 2015 here in Argentina showed us how quickly the open government agenda could be reinvigorated by renewed political leadership that embraced OGP’s core values. The current work to open up government being pioneered here in Argentina -- at both the federal and local levels -- is inspiring to us all. I’m thrilled to have so many friends from civil society now serving their fellow Argentinians as dedicated public servants. It’s a remarkable testament to the principles of collective action and co-creation that are at the heart of OGP.

My own country, the United States, offers a more cautionary tale. It reminds us of just how fast the gains we have made in many countries can be undermined by those same changes in political leadership. Once an important leader on open government around the world, the United States federal government abandoned the openness agenda just months after its term began. Its leadership openly flouts the principles enshrined in the Open Government Declaration. What was once a beacon of inspiration for open government is now an increasingly disfigured memorial of sorts, rapidly decaying as political elements pound it from all sides.

If the past several years has taught us anything, it is that things will not remain static during the journey towards a more open government in any country. The United States will eventually rebound, and Argentina will undoubtedly face future setbacks. Some of us in this room will not be here at the next OGP regional meetings and summits. Just last week, many of us received the sad news that Radu Puchiu, a state secretary in Romania who served on the OGP steering committee for many years and provided incredible leadership, had been suddenly sacked with no warning. We should expect more of these sudden changes in the years to come, not fewer.

In the midst of all of this fluidity, how can we possibly manage to navigate the incredibly complex and long-term changes we seek in our governments and in our societies?

My answer is a simple one: the open government community’s greatest strength is its values. Those values are immutable and are the bedrock of our stability. We value transparency and openness. We value the right for all communities and citizens to participate in the decision making that affects their lives. And we understand the importance of holding duty bearers to account when they violate their promises to our communities.

Those values – which are enshrined in the Open Government Declaration – will outlive any of our public administrations or our time leading civil society organizations. They are stronger than our opponents and those who would seek to close government off from the public and return to an era of secrecy, abuses of power, and impunity. They are powerful because they are just and they are right, and our fellow citizens have come to expect them of us.

As we begin this week of learning and inspiration from one another, do not forget OGP’s core values. When the politics of reform make our work feel impossible, remember the hope and aspiration our values provide us. When we feel alone and isolated in our work, remember this room full of champions and reformers who share our common values and are ready to lend a helping hand. And when our opponents throw up obstacles in our path, remember: they fear us because of the power of our values. Those open government values are both our shield and our spear. It’s time we used them.

Thank you very much.