Kicking off the Fall Season at OpenGov Hub

While we're sad to soon say farewell to summer, we're excited to be kicking off our fall event season at the OpenGov Hub. Starting already next week, here are a couple of events to get you started. And be sure to stay tuned as we've got much more coming in September.

Government for the People: Combatting Corruption
Wednesday, Sept. 3rd, 10.00-11.15am

What is the cost of corruption on our values, our prosperity, and our security?Corruption tramples the aspirations of citizens, weakens judicial independence and the rights of civil society organizations, and hurts local and international businesses. Join us with the U.S. Department of State for the launch of this "State of Rights" series.



Transparency & accountability advocacy in the Global South
Friday, Sept 19th, 2.00-5.00pm

Strategists from six leading public interest groups in Asia, Latin America and Africa will share their insights into challenges involved in their efforts to promote accountable governance at local, subnational, national and international levels. This event is sponsored by the School of International Service at American University.


Lunchtime sessions coming up on August 21st & 22nd

It's hard to believe that it's already August! As a final few lunchtime events before the fall season opens up in September, we hope that you can join us for two very interesting discussions on technology for democracy, as well as the idea of a international anti-corruption court.

The Modern Requirements of Participatory Democracy
Thursday, August 21st, 12.30-2pm

What is the role that civil society can play in building accountable, legislative branch systems? Is technology leveraging participation to build this new public space? Will open data and civic technology be able to bridge the gap between demands for inclusion and today’s mostly obsolete systems?

An International Anti-Corruption Court?
Friday, August 22nd, 12.30-2pm

You are invited to a lunch session at the OpenGov Hub to learn more about the Case and Coalition for an International Anti-Corruption Court (IACC). This special lunch session will be led by Roey Rosenblith, the Executive Director of Not In My Country, and will speak to the push for this new campaign.

Talking about Women and Civic Participation

Friday, July 25th, 2014

By Monika Shepard & Christina Crawley

Earlier this week, we hosted a conversation at the OpenGov Hub with a panel of experts, leaders and advocates on their respective experiences and work on women and civic participation and how environmental, economic and cultural norms affect the gender balance, both in the United States and abroad.  

The session was introduced and moderated by Nathaniel Heller, Executive Director at Global Integrity, who spoke about the OpenGov Hub’s interest in playing host and being involved in future discussions around the intersection of women, technology, and politics.  The floor was then given to the panel, which contributed very unique perspectives and approaches to the issue of greater gender equality within the civic space for women. The panel included the following speakers:

A key topic raised during the discussion was that the issue should be treated as a gender issue rather than a women’s issue. In order to drive change, we must look at both sides of the coin and include men, as well as members of the LGBT community, in the conversation. If framed as a women’s issue, men may feel excluded and choose not to be present in shaping the solution. That said, in some environments it is also important to have seperate safe spaces for women to share their ideas freely.

Another key theme from the conversation, especially in the case of women in developing countries, was that outsiders should not assume women want help or want to be engaged in the political process nationally or locally. If basic survival needs are not met, in the context of war-torn countries for example, it might be the case that women are focused on ensuring they and their families are first taken care of, and being engaged doesn’t fall high on their list. In some cases, competition between women can be a challenge as well, in that making sure one’s family and personal situation may outway the camaraderie of women who support one another.

Furthermore, we need to build up the confidence of women, starting at an early age, to understand that they can be leaders in civic activities. According to Clare Bresnahan from She Should Run, one in four girls below the age of 18 in the USA don’t believe they have what it takes to be a leader.  If only 25% of girls think they can be leaders, how can the rest of the population help support these girls as they grow up to be women in leadership roles? The pipeline of mentorship and funding also need to be there to assist in creating the women leaders of tomorrow. Currently it takes over $200,000 to run for a local election in the state of Maryland. Not an easy task, especially without the proper training or support to understand how to raise funding from small donors. Politics and "active" civic engagement take time and a lot of money, a gap that continues to grow.

Based on this conversation, we know there is a lot to follow up on. We encourage anyone interested in the topic, and would like to work with use to co-host another discussion, to contact us at info[at] A particular request goes out to journalists who are writing about, describing, and depicting women’s engagement in the US and abroad.

Life After Reports Published in Locked PDFs

By Christina Crawley

Friday, July 25th, 2014

The slowly becoming (in)famous World Bank report that admits that no one actually downloads or reads their PDF reports has been a hot discussion topic over the last month here in Washington, DC, a city full of non-profits, think tanks, foundations and international organizations who spend a lot of time on producing reports - many of them in PDF. 

In the open government space, we are surrounded by OGP action plans where countries include the steps they will take to get rid of PDF documents, and make their information more open and accessible. Because of this, we are used to giving anyone a hard time for continuing to publish in this format, yet the way in which we should publish isn’t always so obvious. Yes, we need to publish digitally in HTML, but how in order to make sure people access and read it?

Last week, we brought together a panel of speakers at the OpenGov Hub to discuss this topic. From publishing larger amounts of historic content with Jocelyn Blakely-Hill from the National Archives, to getting the word out from small news shops with Bill Gray from the Pulitzer prize-winning Center for Public Integrity, and making sure design plays a role with Kurt Voelker from Forum One Communications, it was great to delve further into the issue.

A few interesting observations thrown out during our discussion:

  • PDFs are 300% less usable than HTML
  • Even coders can be lazy and publish content in PDF instead of HTML
  • If you do a one-page impact report for each report you produce, you will lose your mind
  • Even Pulitzer Prize-winning content doesn’t get downloaded if it’s in PDF
  • People have a lower tolerance for sloppy digital printing than print material
  • Search engines love HTML, not words trapped in PDF

And a few helpful tips we all learned:

  • Think digital first and foremost when publishing content
  • If you absolutely must publish in PDF, have an accompanying HTML text
  • More interesting that ‘who’ your audience is, is ‘where’ are they coming from, and how are they getting to your online content
  • Gateway pages need to die. Take your users from the title to what they want to read in HTML
  • Perfectly tweetable takeaways at the beginning and throughout your content go a long way
  • If your report or story is important enough, don’t just make it a blog series: make it its own website

While we looked at a number of good ideas and examples of how to publish large amounts of content in an attractive way, the biggest thing that struck me was that people simply don’t read long content. They never have. It's only thanks to analytics that we now have the proof. Regardless, it does suggest that we really need to reevaluate how we publish content to make it catchier and to the point. And as for our long in-depth pieces of work: we must ensure that people can link to sections within them, and that the sections themselves have some tailored design.

In a world where content is being published and shared every second of the day, getting one's own stuff read will continue to be a challenge. But if we can think digitally for the really important highlights and messages, maybe we can make more sense of it - and make more time for it.

The session focused on publishing large amounts of content, i.e., long reports. Stay tuned for next time when we focus on the best ways to publish large amounts of data points.

Upcoming BBLs: Publishing Content + Women and Civic Participation

We've got two upcoming Brown-Bag Lunch (BBL) sessions that you should definitely join us for. 

  • Wednesday, May 16th, 12.30-2pm: Publishing Content: If not in PDF, then what? It is widely agreed that publishing in PDF is the wrong way way to go; however, the right way is not always as clear. Long HTML pages? Blog series?
  • Wednesday, May 23rd, 12.30-2pm: Women and Civic Participation. What are the existing challenges and opportunities for women to become more participatory in the civic process? How does the legislative process affect women? 

And remember, they are BBLs, so don't forget to bring your lunch.