3 October 2011

Owning Transparency

Filed under News, Project Updates |

I’m excited to announce the Open Forum Foundation’s very first official publication:

A Guide to Owning Transparency

How Federal Agencies can Implement and Benefit from Transparency

[Get it here]

This work is based on the in-person discussions hosted during the Focus Forum Owning Transparency: People, Processes, and Technology at the Office of Personnel Management (OPM) on February 18th, 2011 and contains some remarkable contributions by a host of academic authors that have been involved in OPM’s Open Government implementation since the beginning.

In addition, the fabulous Maxine Teller helped edit the document!

Here’s the Executive Summary – check it out.

Executive Summary

An open, transparent and participatory government is a government of the people, for the people, and by the people. These are the democratic principles upon which our country is built. Internet-based tools and technologies have made it easier to realize these values. Officially recognized by President Obama’s January 21, 2009 Memorandum on Transparency and Open Government, two-way, interactive web 2.0 tools and technologies make information sharing, citizen participation, and public and private sector collaboration easier than ever before.

Transparency of government practices and information, both within government agencies and between the government and its stakeholders, is the heart of open government. Transparency is as much about open-mindedness and information sharing, as it is about increased communication and information access. Citizen engagement, public-private sector partnerships, and inter-agency initiatives are all predicated upon transparency.

Transparency fosters the engagement of government employees and citizens alike, so they feel a part of the conversation, process, and decisions; and, thereby, a part of their government. This heightened sense of ownership, accountability, and trust makes government more responsive and enables agencies to more efficiently and effectively accomplish their missions: from government operations to government products.

Despite the efforts by government and private organizations to increase government transparency over the past few years, the results of transparency efforts have been met with mixed reviews. Critics argue that the focus on transparency as the end-state is the error: transparency is an operating state; it is not a goal, in and of itself. Proponents point out that the public value of transparency of information/data is an increased trust in the responsiveness of government.

Although we talk of open government as a panacea, full government transparency is not only not possible; it’s not necessarily the ideal. The digital environment not only makes transparency easier, but also amplifies the volume of data making it difficult to locate and retrieve data, increases the speed of both technical innovation and obsolescence, enhances expectations for customized access to data and information, and heightens cybersecurity risks. Transparency must be counterbalanced with maintaining citizens’ privacy, protecting national security, and the costs associated with the technical capacity of government to make information available and accessible.

To harness the benefits of transparency while simultaneously mitigating the risks, agencies must align their organizational strategies, systems, values, and culture with open government principles. Transparency must become a part of the organization’s ecosystem.

Culture change doesn’t “just happen.” Creating transparency in a government agency requires a directed, proactive effort that

  • is driven by its leadership’s vision and supported at all levels by a strategic plan;
  • implements support mechanisms to transform the agency;
  • and actively builds understanding, engagement, and support from employees and external stakeholders alike.

The Office of Personnel Management’s (OPM’s)) Core and Component Team governance structure, Action Learning approach, IdeaFactory employee idea-sourcing platform, Results-Oriented Work Environment pilot, and the focus forum Owning Transparency are all examples of how OPM is using transparent processes to transform itself into an open agency.

Get It

We’re making it easy to consume this information in whatever way is most convenient for you:

  • Read or print it as a PDF.
  • Download it to your favorite mobile device as a MOBI (including Kindle*) or EPUB (for iPhone, iPod Touch, or iPad; Nook; Sony Reader; FBReader, Aldiko and WordPlayer on Android; or Freda on Windows Mobile and Windows Phone 7).
  • Get a hardcopy from from lulu.com ($9.95 – just enough to cover costs).

*If you’re downloading to a Kindle app (eg on Android), you will most likely have to save the file in the Kindle folder on your device, and then open the Kindle app to read it. This is not nearly as easy as it should be…

You’ll love it.

4 Replies to Owning Transparency

  1. Of course I love it. ;) Thank you for including me in pulling this document together. It was an honor to be a part of the process. It is my hope that other agencies really do use and build on this guide as they strive to own their own transparency.

    Posted by Maxine Teller on 3 October 2011 at 6:10pm

  2. As OPM’s Records Officer, I loved this work. The life cycle management is an area that is a challenge for most RO. I enjoyed the full read and will read it again! Bravo

    Posted by Patricia Capers on 4 October 2011 at 9:10am

  3. Pingback: NCDD Resource Center » A Guide to Owning Transparency

  4. Pingback: Could your government be more efficient and drive economic development? | 25 Basics of Open Government

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