2017 saw our Open Gov Hub community grow, explore, learn, and create together like never before. We want to share a few impact stories, strategies, and learnings over the past year with you - and a peek into what’s to come in 2018 - to help further catalyze our collective social impact and the global opengov movement.
2017 was the first year we implemented our strategy, to maximize our ability to support our community of organizations to have greater shared impact. In doing so, we organized 152 activities and events throughout 2017 - double the previous year.
How did we operationalize our strategic vision? Through our “2017 Collaboration Toolkit” - a menu of 25 different high-value activities, collaboratively developed and led by a dozen of our individual leaders from our community (to practice what we preach!). These range from social activities like Language Lunches and Happy Hours, to Skillshare groups on topics like Communications, and Working Groups exploring topics like closing civic space, open government at the local level and open data.
More than anything, our 2017 was defined by a drastic culture shift in our community - from one where many people didn’t have a great sense of who other community members were or the work they did at the start of the year, to a dramatically far more open, connected, and organically collaborative one by year end. We saw new connections being made between organizations almost daily, often facilitated by the Hub’s frequent, varied, informal and formal collaboration spaces and activities. These increased interactions led to a large jump in our quarterly member survey results, showing members increasingly seeing themselves as part of a broader, supportive community and not just their organizations. As individuals and organizations, our members are thriving off this environment.
There has also been a significant increase in the frequency and reported outcomes of collaborations between member organizations. Just a few examples of what has come from the collaborative environment we work to facilitate include:
one organization giving media training for another, helping that group successfully launch their flagship report and secure media coverage for it in the Washington Post, NPR and other outlets;
an informal study group for an online Acumen course helping an organization develop its own systems thinking training curriculum
one organization saving significant time and money by temporarily “borrowing” a staff member from another organization to help them with a major transition: successfully spinning off from their fiscal sponsor and become an independently operating entity
In addition to many community building and collaboration activities just for members, a few highlights of our unique public events included our Fake News Innovation Sprint and our first quarterly Ignite Night in April, our Annual Open House, and How China Escape the Poverty Trap Book Launch in September, and our Costing Open Government and AIDs Mapathon toward the end of the year.
We also collected and shared 3 key takeaways from all our major events throughout the year, to share learnings with a broader audience, through our monthly In Case You Missed It (ICYMI) roundups.
In 2017 we also launched two new programs:
The first is our Defending Democracy: Lessons from Around the World collaboration, to support those concerned about the state of American democracy by facilitating exposure to similar experiences from abroad. The Hub is partnering with Global Integrity, the Sunlight Foundation, and Transparency International in this year-long program.
Second, our Community Catalyst Work-Trade Program was launched at the end of 2017 to increase our Hub team’s capacity to continue to deliver world-class operations and programs for a growing member community, and to support growth in the breadth and depth of our programming.
We feel that all this programmatic growth helped facilitate the real culture shift we witnessed, and we are excited to continue on this trajectory of growth and deepening community and collaborative connections.
By the Numbers
6 Things We Learned in 2017
In all our experimental efforts around creating an environment most conducive to collaboration, we learned a few key lessons.
The necessity of informal, casual spaces for organizations and individuals to get to know and trust one another - even more so than formal spaces for working together (it is important not to over-structure collaborative efforts).
How powerful a decentralized leadership model can be - when many individuals step up in small ways to support others, the whole community benefits significantly. This is how we were able to double our activity.
The need to adapt and update our collaborative programs over time - in response to the natural ebb and flow of our community and its evolving capacities and priorities over time.
The importance of establishing clear, predictable rhythms of activity (ex: email digests and whiteboard prompts every Monday, etc.) - these make it easier for various individuals to plug in to shared efforts designed to make the whole larger than the sum of their parts.
Internally, we also learned how valuable it is to push pause on a regular basis and reflect on what we’re doing and learning - we are proud to have embedded a real culture of learning and reflection to improve our impact (through quarterly learning sessions) in 2017.
Finally, we also realized that people are ultimately every organization’s top asset - so a key way we as the Open Gov Hub can continue to transformatively support our members is by increasing our ability to offer shared staffing support, vetted candidates and referrals, and more.
(For more insights about what we learned especially about community building in 2017, check out this talk from the Hub Director here, starting at 1:42).
6 Things to Look Forward to 2018
In 2018 we’ll continue to offer robust programs for our members and the broader community, and we’ll continue experimenting and learning about how to foster resource sharing and collaborations to enable all our increased collective impact.
Here are 6 new things you can look forward to seeing from us this year:
Refined Programming (for Members and Our Broader Network): We’ll building on our first year’s experience implementing our Strategy and Collaboration Toolkit, and continue to refine the mix of regular, robust, and relevant activities that we offer internally (for members) and externally (for our partners, broader community, and the public).
Develop our Hub’s Innovative Process: We are developing a process for how the Open Gov Hub innovates and adapts its programs in response to the changing needs of our community and political conditions we all face. By formalizing a new Open Gov Hub innovation process of testing, piloting, and then launching or archiving and sunsetting collaboration initiatives in a rapid, time-bound way, we hope to catalyze even more sparks of ideas into meaningful collaborations with impact.
Improving how we collect, analyze, and share stories of impact. We know that community building is both a science and an art. We are excited with how much we’ve learned and grown as a connected community in 2017. In 2018 we’ll make a concerted effort to better collect, analyze, and share stories of collaborations and their impacts - both ones that we help facilitate, and those that arise organically in our environment.
Introducing more shared resources and shared services for members - this includes shared databases of resources (like funding opportunities, expertise and data sources) access to shared temporary staffing support.
Year-long Defending Democracy programming - Throughout 2018, we will offer monthly Democracy Dialogues and case studies reflecting on international experiences that can inform and strengthen the efforts of US-focused democracy advocates facing new challenges to American democracy.
Leveraging our bird's-eye perspective and position to directly engage more with government officials. We plan to embrace our role in providing some thought leadership by formalizing the survey to the open government field that we often share with visiting delegations. We will pilot then refine a new signature Introduction to Open Government Training ("OpenGov 101" Training) designed specifically for government delegations from around the world, which will summarize, codify and showcase the successes, challenges, and lessons learned about advancing open governance reforms from our diverse global member network.
Please don’t hesitate to contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org if you’d like to learn more or get involved in any of these activities or have any feedback for us.
Onwards and upwards!