At the local level, the development of practices of transparency, participation, and accountability can be quite disparate. The lack of coordination between different levels of government and with civil society organizations and the absence of sufficient resources are key challenges for open government reforms.
In response to these needs, the Argentinian government created the Open Government Federal Program: a three-part program consisting of online courses that provide concepts, tools, and methodologies to foster open government. The program also launched a national call for proposals for local governments to implement this approach through different projects in the territory. In line with values of the Open Government Partnership, a distinct feature of this phase is the government’s commitment to enhance citizen participation and accountability in delivering local projects.
Learning from Each Other
The main goal is to promote collaborative learning between the national, provincial, and municipal governments to foster open government policies. Through its inclusive federal focus, it advances engagement of a diversity of stakeholders of different backgrounds, thus expanding the community of reformers.
The participatory and sequential design of the program allowed inputs from one stage to inform the next. This included an initial stakeholder mapping, followed by 21 in-depth interviews with key actors, a workshop with civil society organizations, a survey with more than 500 responses, and 200 contributions in a public consultation.
The program benefits local governments, civil society organizations, and citizens as it spreads the foundations of the open government approach in local administrations, offers concrete tools for delivering reforms, provides national technical assistance in different jurisdictions, and invites stakeholders to join a federal network.
The Key is Capacity-Building
The program has had successful results, with more than 2,900 people from provincial and municipal governments, civil society organizations, citizens and academia having participated in conceptual and methodological courses. After an open call for proposals to streamline open government principles into local governments, 50 projects from 10 provinces and 34 municipalities were selected by a jury. These projects, which address local challenges through open government practices and receive technical assistance and tools to ensure effective project implementation, foster participatory budgeting, digital citizen participation, open data, civic innovation and public monitoring. 11 out of 50 projects which were co-created with non-governmental actors could get into an ‘OGP Local track’ receiving direct support from OGP.
Virtual participatory design created a great learning experience by allowing broader federal engagement, though returning to the territory now becomes essential for implementation.
Cross-level articulation and participation from the onset have been key takeaways so far. The collaborative nature of the program shed a light on the lack of common understanding about the benefits of open government. This issue was addressed by delivering conceptual and methodological trainings, which were not considered during co-creation back in 2019.
Currently, 50 local governments are beginning project implementation. Regular monitoring and documentation of these initiatives will offer inputs for the jury to evaluate and recognize projects with promising results. These will eventually inform future editions and help stakeholders assess their experience in mainstreaming open government principles in public management, a lesson that may influence their strategies in other public policy domains.