About this guide

What is open government?

At the heart of open government are the ideas of transparency, participation and accountability. This this is the working definition we have used in developing the site:

  • Transparency means the public understands the workings of their government
  • Participation means public can influence the workings of government by engaging with public policy processes and public service providers
  • Accountability means the public can hold the government to account for its policy and service delivery performance

Accountability enables societies to function. It can be:

  • Across government – such as through parliament, audits, commissions, ombuds, legal mechanisms which provide checks and balances within the state.
  • Between citizens and state – such as through elections, media, associations, campaigns, lobbying, consultations, participatory budgets, social audits which enable citizens to get involved and hold their governments to account.
  • Between citizens, states and private sector – such as through the mechanisms of regulation, corporate responsibility and transparency requirements, consumer protection that are used to hold institutions beyond the public sector accountable

The Open Government Partnership

The Open Government Partnership (OGP) was established in 2011 as an international voluntary effort to foster more transparent, effective and accountable governments. Member governments embrace a high-level declaration of principles on transparency, participation, accountability, and innovation and develop their own individualised action plan, focused on local priorities for open government, developed through a local consultative process. Action plans should outline specific, measurable, actionable, relevant and time-bound (‘SMART’) commitments for advancing transparency, accountability and participation.

The Open Government Guide

The guide highlights practical, measurable, specific and actionable steps that governments can, and are taking across a range of cross-cutting and focused areas. The topics currently covered are listed below, and more will be added in future:

Cross cutting topics Focused topics

Who is this site for?

The site is to support governments and civil society organisations to advance transparency, accountability and participation particularly as part of the Open Government Partnership.The site is mainly aimed at people who are directly involved in developing and implementing open government action plans. For example:

  • Civil servants tasked with coordinating open government efforts
  • Officials from line ministries and government agencies developing and implementing open government actions in their particular areas
  • Elected officials in central
  • Civil society activists and experts engaging with government on open government action plans at a national level
  • Civil society activists and experts working on open government issue areas at the international level.

Although it is mainly written from the perspective of national government implementation, many of the actions described also apply to local government.

What will I find in it?

Each Topic has been developed by an expert organization and offers a flexible menu of  ‘illustrative commitments’.

  • Initial steps – steps that a country can take starting from a relatively low baseline.
  • Intermediate steps – actions that countries can take once they have already made moderate progress
  • Advanced steps – established best practice demonstrated by the most advance performers
  • Innovative steps – new approaches which countries are trying out

For each step the Guide lists relevant standards and guidance, and examples in practice.

  • Recommendations – detailed guidance from expert networks
  • Standards and guidance – key principles, guidance, reports, rankings and tools
  • Country examples – examples in practice from around the world.

There are many linkages and overlaps between the different topics and commitments, these are indicated throughout the Guide.

The framework of levels of ambition do not imply that countries must work through the steps  one by one, or that the country examples given in relation to a particular action implies an overall rating of national progress. Rather, it seeks to offer a flexible framework for thinking about reforms, advocacy and public-private partnerships in support of progress towards greater openness.

How should I use the guide?

The Guide has been developed to support government and civil society organisations in their ongoing dialogues to develop, update and implement Open Government Action Plans. It can  be used in a number of different ways:

  • As an overview of what open government means across a broad range of topics (and which topics might be currently overlooked). Look at the overview page to see all the illustrative commitments across all the topics, or look at the summary pdf for a quick introduction.
  • As a deep dive into a particular topic. Go to an individual topic pages to find an introduction to the topic, and more detailed recommendations, including case examples and standards and guidance.
  • As an initial assessment of actions already taken, and a way to frame the conversation about potential next steps. Use the framework of illustrative commitments in each topic
  • As a hub to share resources. Is there a resource or a case study missing, or an idea for an ‘innovative step’ that hasn’t been captured. Let us know!

You can navigate the site by exploring the links or use the report builder, to create your own custom report as a pdf. You can also download an index of all the topics and headline commitments as a spreadsheet.

Is the guide available in other languages?

The core content of the guide is available in Spanish, on this website (and to download). A summary of The Guide is also available in French, produced by the organisation Republique Citoyenne.  If there are other languages that you would like to see the guide translated into, and where you could help, let us know.

Who has the Guide been developed by?

The Guide was first published as a report by the Transparency and Accountability Initiative  (T/AI)  in 2011 and has been updated as an online resource in 2013.  T/A I is a donor collaborative that aims to seize momentum and expand the impact breadth and coordination of funding and activity in the transparency and accountability filed as well as to explore applications of this work in new areas. The collaborative includes the Ford Foundation, Hivos, the International Budget Partnership, the Omidyar Network, the Open Society Foundations (OSF),  the Revenue Watech Institute, the UK Department for International Development and the William and Flora Hewett Foundation.

It has been developed in support of the Open Government Partnership, and in collaboration with the civil society coordinator for the partnership.

T/AI I grateful to all the authors who generously contributed their time and expertise to the project, and to those who have provided comments, case studies and resources. Lead authors on the topics include Access InfoCenter for Global Development Centre for Law and DemocracyChr. Michelsen Institute (CMI)Construction Sector Transparency Initiative (CoST)Global IntegrityGlobal WitnessInternational Budget PartnershipInternational Records Management TrustInvolve,National Democratic InstituteOpen Contracting PartnershipOpen Knowledge Foundation,Open Society FoundationPublish What You FundRevenue Watch InstituteSunlight Foundation The Access InitiativeTwaweza and Whistleblowing International Network. However each topic was also developed through a broader process of input and review, and those who have contributed are noted in each section, with apologies to anyone inadvertently missed out.

An advisory group provided high level comments  to the development of the guide.  Thank-you to Linda Frey and Paul Maassen from the Open Government Partnership, Martin Tisne from Omidyar Network, Julie McCarthy from the Open Society Foundations, Katarina Ott from the Institute for Public Finance in Croatia and Joel Salas.

The project was managed and edited by Maya Forstater with support from Linnea Mills, and led by Vanessa Herringshaw. Design of the website and graphics was by The Idea Bureau.

The contents of The Guide are attributable to the contributors for each Topic. The Transparency and Accountability Initiative members do not necessarily endorse the recommendations mentioned in the publication and website.

How can I contribute?

Opengovguide.com  is not just a static website. We hope that it will continue to grow with new resources and ideas. You can contribute by

  • Nominating a new case example or resource – tell us about an experience in practice where there are lessons and models to share (this could be a case study that is already written up, or a video, interview or blog post hosted elsewhere, or it could be a new blog post hosted here).
  • Commenting on an existing topic or illustrative commitment.
  • Contributing to new topics in development – the next ones will be privacy, security sector, consumers, climate finance, forestry, electricity and lobbying
  • Translating the site into another language
  • Giving general feedback on the site link.

Get in touch by email info@opengovguide.com

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Unported License.
Suggested wording for attribution: ‘Topic’ by [lead author] in Open Government Guide, published by the Transparency and Accountability Initiative www.opengovguide.com