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The Review – Ressler on OpenGov Plans

So Sunday I did some epic reading (or say skimming) of the nearly 30 OpenGov Plans from the various agencies.
Here are my initial thoughts and descriptions
Size – Ranged in size from 20 pages to 80 pages. While I usually lean towards shorter is better, often the shorter plans felt like they lacked substance
New Ideas? – It’s tempting when creating a new plan to basically regurgitate what you are already doing and package it in a cooler way. I’d say about 50% of the plans fall in that camp – the other 50% are actually pretty interesting and have lots of new ideas
Team – A number of agencies talked about staffing OpenGov either the continuation of the OpenGov working groups they have created. All the way to creating new innovation teams. I think staffing OpenGov is key and about 60% of agencies had something here.
Budget – Only one agency mentioned the need for funding and budget for OpenGov. I think this is a big issue. No $, no power in government.
Outreach/Participation – It seemed like a lot of the items counted as outreach/participation were pretty basic groups that already existed. Everything from Federal Advisory Councils to community groups. Yes, these are good to have. But I was hoping for more on the next steps and less on what is going on now.
Training – I think training is so key with OpenGov and Gov 2.0/Social Media. HHS mentioned 2X/year training on OpenGov. I think that’s great.
Flagship Programs – When you dive in deep, there are some pretty cool Flagship programs including
-OSTP – Vivo – Facebook for Scientists
-VA – Creating an Innovation Toolkit
-HUD – Business practice exchange
Generally, I’d say the plans once again show the diversity of the federal government. Lots of different agencies and some are much further along the others. Some have missions that inherently work better with OpenGov. Same with culture.
But I really think this stuff takes time. And the plans are a first step.
The next steps to me are proving out the use cases. And making sure the resources are there – staffing and budget.

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Profile Photo Noel Dickover

Hi Steve, I think that’s a great overview. There were definitely a number of “Plans to make plans”, which probably was not the anticipation that many had here. I will say that especially for the larger agencies, unless they started well before December, the chances of actually getting policy, legal, technical and programmatic staff to coordinate this plan in any meaningful way (not to mention the pulsing of citizen groups and employess) within a 120 days is simply not executable. So I think a lot of what we see is either a high level group of people at the head of the Agency doing their best case attempt (which is problematic since the real data citizens will care about is usually embedded deep within the sub-agencies), or more realistically, we see agencies coming to grips with the reality that it will take them longer than the time frame allotted to do a good plan.

The real question is what happens now? Will these plans lead to actual transformation of Agency behavior, or will this just be another “check the box” drill?

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Profile Photo Steve Ressler

Exactly. And I think a key is departmental plans are great but most of work actually happens at agency level. So how do we get down there. Get components to buy in and move ball forward.

I think Noel gets it right – what happens now? How do we continue to build the momentum?

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Profile Photo Darron Passlow

Steve
I cannot see the OpenGov Doc. I get to the web site OK with the OpenDoc heading but no documents listed. Do I need special permission to see them?
Darron Passlow (a GovLooper from Australia)

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Profile Photo Stephen Buckley

Steve:

In your last paragraph, you say: “The next steps to me are proving out the use cases.”

Are you saying that we to “see what works”?

If so, then I don’t see how we can do that because the Open Government Directive (i.e., the White House/OMB) says little to nothing about how to measure for success, i.e., higher levels of Transparency, Participation, and Collaboration.

What the OGD did was shift that problem to the federal agencies by directing them to develop those measures and put them in their OpenGov Plans (which, by the way, relatively few did).

But, then, that would mean that agency will come up with its own idea of what “TP&C” are, and how to measure them. We can’t share “best practices” if everyone is using the same OpenGov jargon but with different meanings, and measuring OpenGov performance with different yardsticks.

Steve, I hope you will raise this concern when you speak at the Performance Summit next month. With the beginning of OpenGov implementation, we can no longer ignore that the fact that we haven’t figured out how to measure our results.

P.S. I talked with ForeSeeResults about this on OpenGovRadio back in February. See link (#2) to their white-paper. http://bit.ly/9JKbQn

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Profile Photo Sterling Whitehead

Note for agencies: The overall creativity and execution of your Open Gov plans may be a deciding factor for recruiting good talent. Gov Open is likely a reflection of an agency’s culture.

If I left my current position, I’d use an agency’s Open Gov plans as a deciding factor.

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