(This is a cross-post from our blog at the Collaboration Project)
IBM’s Center for the Business of Government recently released a report entitled “An Open Government Implementation Model: Moving to Increased Public Engagement.” The report presents the results of a review of several open government initiatives at the federal level and puts forward a four-stage model for guiding agencies toward open government, describing the focuses, deliverables, benefits, challenges, and best practices at each stage of implementation. The model is as follows (and somewhat resembles the three-prong structure of the Open Government Directive):
- Increasing data transparency: publishing relevant, high-value data for public use
- Improving open participation: soliciting and using input from stakeholders to inform government decisions
- Enhancing open collaboration: public engagement in producing outputs and co-creating value
- Realizing ubiquitous engagement: the “next level” of seamless integration of public engagement into how government does its work
The report observes–and is right about this–that the value and benefits of engagement increase as you progress through these stages. But so does the complexity of work and the challenges and risks inherent in greater engagement.
Overall, this is a welcome model for expanding engagement in government. Stage 4’s “realizing ubiquitous engagement” is an enlightening description of what the ultimate outcome of open government is: that stakeholder input is baked into how government does its work, both online and offline. This is essentially about creating a self-perpetuating cycle in which engagement doesn’t happen in “events” or “projects,” but is simply how decisions are informed and value delivered on a routine basis. In addition, the report provides a well thought-out categorization of the different challenges confronting openness at each of these stages.
However, this model essentially argues that these stages are sequential, with the next building off the last. In practice this might not necessarily be true. For example, many agencies are currently publishing new data sets, offering opportunities for public input, and launching collaborative initiatives–all at the same time. Improving open participation doesn’t necessarily rely on the publishing of high-value data. Take the multitude of strategic planning processes that agencies are soliciting public input for (e.g., the National Dialogue on the QHSR): these initiatives are distinct efforts from data transparency, and with completely different internal players, though they are connected in their common goal.
The reason the sequence (or lack thereof) of implementing open government matters is because there are plenty of opportunities at any given time for government to publish new data, solicit input, and build collaborative relationships. The need to tackle these stages sequentially shouldn’t be a barrier to engagement. Further, these stages or groupings might not be all equal for all agencies. An intelligence agency might need to focus on internal and cross-governmental collaboration as opposed to data transparency, while a bureau focused on community service may need to devote resources to building opportunities for participation. When resources are scarce (and they are!), agencies should focus on the engagement opportunities that will deliver the most value for achieving their mission.
What are your thoughts on this approach? Should open government be implemented in these stages? Or is there another set of implementation stages that should be considered in the dialogue?