Open Government is about changing government to serve as a platform – a platform for solutions, a platform for people to help themselves, help each other and to build community.
We have been building the foundations of this platform for many years – changing the way we do business as a local government in incremental ways. However, incremental change is not going to get us where we need to go. The Open Government Action Plan is about making wholesale transformational change.
Here are some examples under each of the four pillars of Open Government:
Participation – Open Engagement
We have a history of engaging people in local decision-making on policies and programs. We know that engaging many stakeholders leads to better solutions. We also know that the solutions for most persistent and complex issues are beyond the singular control or means of a municipal government and require the collaboration of multiple sectors. The Community Engagement Framework approved by Council this year lifts us from best practice to next practice. As Bill Eggers, author of the Solution Revolution, noted at a recent event – technology has enhanced our ability to solve problems, but it isn’t necessarily the solution to all of our problems and government’s opportunity right now is to serve as a platform to support the generation of ideas and to incent problem solving to contribute to the development of a “solution economy”.
Innovation – Open Data
We are in the formative stages of this pillar and leading the development of a community of practice, partnering on a conference with the City of Toronto and Government of Ontario that is being hosted by the MaRS Discovery District in Toronto, to bring together change makers that are leading transformation within their own organizations. I recently met with a local network – Lean Coffee which is comprised of information and communication technology entrepreneurs – to understand what success would look like under this pillar for their business sector.
Transparency – Access to Information
Proactive disclosure – like our regular Litigation Report which summarizes all current litigation that the city has initiated or is defending against – won’t eliminate freedom of information requests, nor the important role of legislation that protects the privacy of individuals, but it will make many requests simply unnecessary. This is more than making information visible or available. It is about making it actionable – for solutions, accountability, and business development.
Accountability – Open Governance
Our continued focus on performance measurement – strategic, financial, operational and community satisfaction – is helping to build this pillar. We continue to bring in stronger tools to ensure accountability and transparency to our residents and businesses – like the introduction of an Internal Auditor. We have seen the strength of this role in responding to a regulatory compliance concern last year regarding our commercial vehicle operator’s registration. An audit of our purchasing practices showed oversight and control functions are rock solid and ensure we are aligned with the code of ethics of the Ontario Public Buyers’ Association. Some audits will confirm our practice, like this one, others will shake the foundation of how we are doing business and demand a system-wide transformational change.
These are exciting times for local government and I am proud Guelph is pioneering this transformation.