March ICYMI: OpenGov under Trump, Transnational Crime, and Digital Security

With 40 organizations collaboratively hosting events, OpenGov Hub is always a hive of activity. In this month's ICYMI post, we'll be sharing some of the key takeaways from all of the March events. Don't want to miss out on one of our next events? Be sure to check out our events calendar or sign up for our newsletter.


Mapping Worlds: Dynamic Data Visualizations

Desmond Spruijt of Mapping Worlds (based in Amsterdam that has created portals for the World Bank, IMF, UNESCO, among others) shared demos of some of their work creating data visualizations based on geographic relationships and discussed the elements of effective data visualizations in this Brownbag Lecture.

Read more about this lecture and data visualization with Desmond, as well as Ricky de Marchi Trevisan of Esri, in our latest installment of our Guest Voices series.

Thinking Beyond Borders Discussion

Hub Members' International Development Exchange recently hosted a panel discussion with a group of gap year students who took part in Thinking Beyond Borders, the leader in gap year programs. Hubbers Stephen McGrath (ISPU), Stacy Whittle (Free Range), and Nada Zohdy (OpenGov Hub) all spoke on the panel. IDEX's Angela Ng shared these takeaways from the event focusing what characters and qualities are needed to thrive in the international development space. Read the full post here.

  1. Remember why you do the work that you do. Acknowledge that we come to this work because we care. “Our souls are in this.” Everyone has a “fuel for their fire” - their personal connection to the work; why they do what you do; their past, what has moved them; their “mosaic of stories”. When you know what it is, claim it, embrace it, own it, because that is your truth - or one of your truths.
  2. Be open to learning from everyone. Don't sell yourself short by assuming you can only learn from a few people. Humility will find you if you let it. Ever since Trump’s election, we have learned to “shut our mouths” and not tell people in other countries what democracy is supposed to look like. There is so much wisdom that people in other countries carry about dealing with closed governments or oppressive environments. We in the U.S. can learn from their movements.
  3. You may never be able to fully convey to others what you've gone through, what you’ve learned, and how you’ve grown, and that's okay. (This was in response to a question that a Thinking Beyond Borders facilitator posed to the panelists, asking for advice about how the students could communicate their gap year experience to their families, whom they have not seen for a year.) Don’t feel like you have to “convince” people about your experience. It’s difficult to do, and it often has more to do with the narratives that they know and carry than it has to do with the power or truth of your story. Consider learning about the narratives that they’ve been given; ask them “Why do you think that?” Practice humility. Highlight the similarities across the communities you have been in to combat their emphasis on difference.

The Global Partnership for Sustainable Development Data: A Conversation with Claire Melamed

Hub Members Open Data Watch hosted a chat with the Global Partnership for Sustainable Development Data to learn more about how they operate and what the role of data is in sustainable development. 

Open Data Watch's Tawheeda Wahabzada shared these three takeaways from the event:

  1. What are the values of the Global Partnership for Sustainable Development Data (GPSDD)? The GPSDD convenes, by building a house and opening the door to host different stakeholders in the data revolution who typically have limited interactions; connects, by bringing organizations together to strengthen national data ecosystems, setting objectives through the work the Partnership is doing in eight countries (Colombia, Ghana, Kenya, Philippines, Senegal, Sierra Leone, Tanzania, USA); and catalyzes by increasing political support for data.
  2. How does the GPSDD operate, and what are the expectations of the GPSDD? The GPSDD is a multi-stakeholder network of 200 data champions, which includes governments, companies, civil society organizations, international organizations, academic institutions, official statistics, and charities. GPSDD places focus on two data categories: environmental data, and the leave no one behind agenda. As a large multi-stakeholder network, the expectations of the GPSDD vary from one organization to another. These various expectations of the GPSDD can pose challenges in moving forward in a cohesive direction. These challenges also present excellent opportunities for partner organizations to connect and to collaborate, especially as the GPSDD underwent organizational changes from having open-ended working groups, to having a stronger focus on smaller task teams.
  3. General discussion on the role/value of data for sustainable development: If data plays a vital role in the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), will we make the repeat the mistakes from the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). For the MDGs, data was used to monitor indicators, and it was sector/donor driven. How do we change donors approaches away from their own data demands, to focusing on demands at the country level? Such demands include greater capacity to collect, produce, disseminate, and use data.

Preserving OpenGov Under the New Administration

As part of Sunshine Week, we hosted a panel that included Nathaniel Heller of Results for Development and Sean Moulton of the Project on Government Oversight to talk about opengov under the new administration. Under the previous administration the US helped lead the global opengov movement through initiatives like co-founding the OpenGov partnership. Now given alarming early warning signs from the Trump administration, how can opengov advocates preserve and promote new reforms in this new era? 

The Three Takeaways:

  1. (Sean) There are 3 aspects to promoting opengov work: policies and projects (like the Open Government Partnership itself); resources and technology (actual investments in this work, which was very low even under Obama administration, by and large "opengov has been an unfunded mandate"); and shifting government culture (considering incentives and risk aversion to innovation and openness). And when it comes to engaging specifically with the OGP, there are a few things to keep in mind: 1) the US civil society isn't the first community to deal with political leadership that is averse to openness, so there is great opportunity to learn from the global OGP civil society community and share tips and tactics; 2) there is opportunity to broaden OGP's engagement with subnational governments formally and informally; and 3) it could be interesting to get the US congress involved in the global work around Open Parliaments.
  2. While there is a fundamental misalignment of opengov values with the new administration, there are also some opportunities to pivot opengov work: toward more subnational focus, shifting tactics to focus more on Congress, and even some potential to tap into a real popular frustration with corruption and demands to "drain the swamp." Its important to recognize that the opengov movement has always had elements of bipartisan support, especially around making government work better and a focus on government spending/fiscal transparency is a strong bipartisan common ground.
  3. Some of the many serious opengov threats/challenges now include: enormous conflicts of interest; limits to access to info and FOIA changes (ex: extractives disclosure); attacks on the press; an 'alternative facts' reality; and closed procurement processes. One perspective on how to prioritize what to focus on in the midst of all this is the major conflicts of interest and rollbacks that are already happening around diminishing anticorruption measures (like the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act), and one response tactic that is already being used is through the courts. Another perspective (Sean) is that the most worrying issue is serious lack of government capacity to work on these issues, and not having any government counterparts to engage on transparency and accountability issues (its a resource battle and this work may be starved even more than it has been in the past).

State-Society Relations: Taking Stock of the Evidence

The role of the state, the effectiveness of its institutions and its legitimacy in the eyes of its citizens are central in determining a country’s prospects for stability and development. States with more effective political institutions have been shown to be more successful in achieving sustained economic growth and human development.

3ie evaluation specialist Daniel Phillips and research associateChris Coffey took us through the interactive map (link below) showing the existing evidence base of impact evaluations and systematic reviews. 

Three Takeaways:

  1. 3ie partnered with USAID to create an evidence gap map on state-society relations, around two key domains: inclusive political processes & responsive and accountable institutions
  2. There has been a tremendous uptick in evaluation work in this field – in the 385 studies completed during the last sixteen years (2000-2016) covered in the map, no evaluations were actually completed (systematic reviews, experimental studies, or quasi-experimental studies) in the year 2000, but over 50 were completed in 2016. And over half were completed in eight countries. Why this is the case is a question for debate: are they donor/researcher darlings? Is this a reflection of local capacity? Does this represent a gap in the funding of interventions, or a gap in the funding of evaluations?
  3. Making evidence like this accessible and visualized is a great step in making development data more accessible. How can we think about the user of evidence maps (donors, practitioners, and other researchers) to enable them to have even more impact? For example, finding ways to connect these maps to an explanation of the “why” behind them, and how the evidence can influence policy and programming, could be useful.

Open Data Beyond Transparency

Valuable data is often siloed or only used for one purpose, so 3ie (which promotes high-quality open research and impact evaluations) convened this discussion around taking advantage of open data as a public good and maximizing re-use and impact of open data efforts.

Presenters: Amparo Ballivian, Lead Economist - World Bank
Mark Caldwell, Senior Advisor - The Global Development Lab, USAID
Jack Molyneaux, Director, Policy and Evaluation - Millennium Challenge Corporation (MCC)
Mario Picon, Senior Evaluation Specialist - International Initiative for Impact Evaluation (3ie)

Three Takeaways:

  1. One tangible benefit for data producers of opening up their data and making it public is that outside feedback can often increase the quality of the data itself (outsiders can help clean up/improve data sets), in addition to helping identify new applications for using the data to solve different problems (beyond the original intent of the research that generated the data).
  2. The ability of open data to actually accelerate economic growth and developing is a compelling argument to convince developing country governments to open up their information. Also making data open that is generated from government-funded impact evaluations help stretch the dollar value of funding those evaluations to expand the positive social benefit from them (ex: SINGERIA World Bank-funded project in Colombia with the Colombia National Planning Ministry).
  3. Open data is like electricity - it is an increasingly ubiquitious resource that can be used to solve so many different problems. But in order to ensure that open data efforts are successful, they must start with the problem itself, rather than starting with open data as a supposd solution without having a clearly-defined problem.

Transnational Crime and the Developing World

Global Financial Integrity launched a new report highlighting and elucidating the massive $2 trillion industry of and business and financial nature of 11 major forms of transnational crime.

Three Takeaways:

  1. 7% of recent conflicts that UN peacekeepers have intervened in - all recent conflicts that the US has engaged in (ex: Iraq, Afghanistan) - have been derailed by criminalized power structures that redirect massive funds to illicit activities. Because of this, it is critical to develop a basic standard methodology to assess "spoiler threats" in any conversations about conflict mitigation or intervention.
  2. It is helpful to think about transnational criminal organizations as businesses in order to better understand and combat them, because they are fundamentally driven by the same (financial and other) incentives as businesses, and they often have sophisticated 'supply chains' and networks of resources and support.
  3. US should be a leader in combating transnational crime (including helping develop a methodology to assess spoiler threats, tracking networks and economic impact, establishing cross-border cooperation to combat this, etc.) because cutting off illicit operations from the US financial system is a powerful way to limit or shut down their operations.

It's Like Flossing for Your Computer: Digital Security for the Individual Workshop

Digital security can often be an overwhelming topic, but we've seen a real demand for it, especially in light of the recent ruling about internet browsing privacy. So we recently hosted a workshop for our Hub members to break it down into easy, step-by-step guides. Kristi Arbogast of OpenGov Hub and Teddy Woodhouse of Hub Members' the World Wide Web Foundation taught Hubbers how to safely browse, how to send secure emails, and how to encrypt devices.

We hope to host a public digital security workshop in the near future, so keep an eye out on our events calendar