Stories of Collaboration at Open Gov Hub

By Sarah Crump, Open Gov Hub Community Catalyst

Sometimes the very thing you need is right under your nose, or so the saying goes. And in a coworking community like the Open Gov Hub, there have been numerous cases where Hub organizations have achieved objectives or resolved long-standing problems through cross-collaboration with members from other teams. The shared values that bring members to the Hub have become a critical part of organizations’ progress and productivity, facilitating the transmission of valuable skills and knowledge.

For Hub organization the Center for Open Data Enterprise the benefits of being part of this thematic co-working community and meeting place have been realized through joining forces with professionals from other member organizations. The Center, which works with federal agencies to improve the application of open data through hosting interactive roundtables and conducting research on data strategies and providing trainings, was able to acquire both a research fellow and accountant from within the Hub community.

Hub Members Understand the Sector

Oftentimes, complex projects and programs require a group of independent, skilled professionals who can work toward a common goal. However, although the Center had been working with an external accounting firm to assist with managing its funding, they quickly found that a lack of understanding of the nonprofit and open government space hindered their ability to achieve their financial objectives.

“We weren’t happy with the firm we had at the time, and that largely stemmed from a lack of understanding of our needs,” said Program Director Katarina Rebello. “It’s hard to find people who understand how small nonprofits operate.”

Nonetheless, the Center was recently able to find the accounting support they needed right down the hall, through Abdoulaye Diatta, director of finance at Development Gateway. With over 10 years of experience in accounting and with federal government contracts, Diatta’s skills and expertise have been a great fit for the Center.

“He was already working with other organizations in this field,” said Center President Joel Gurin. “He had the unique skillset that we had a hard time finding. It was a solution that only could have come through the Hub.”

Transferable Skills Found at the Hub

Additionally, in search of a new Research Fellow, the Center submitted a listing to the weekly Open Gov Hub newsletter. Rebello said that Hub communications, whether it be through Slack, email or the newsletter have been strong resources for information and have also served as successful hiring mechanisms.

The Center found a Fellow in Jacob Lewis, who began working at the Hub in 2016 with Global Integrity to help manage the Africa Integrity Indicators data project.

Rebello and Gurin said that although Lewis had not been previous working on exactly the same issues, he had skills and knowledge in the areas of open data and transparency that transferred easily into the work the Center does.

“You’re finding people here [at the Hub] who are familiar with the topics you’re focused on and who have transferrable skills,” Rebello said. “They’re not going to require an extensive orientation and will be able to jump right in and understand the work you’re doing.”

With a supportive, collaborative culture that supports and values regularly knowledge-sharing between organizations, the Open Gov Hub has been able to facilitate cross-team staffing collaborations. This, in turn, has driven outcomes that benefit member organizations and the critical causes they support.