Points of View 7th November 2023

Reflections and looking ahead – Lucy McTernan

by Admin

As I hand over the chair of the Scottish Open Government Network (to the estimable Juliet Swann – read more from her here), it is a good moment to pause for reflection on what is now a journey of nearly a decade.

The Open Government Partnership was founded in 2011 (now famously as one of the first acts of new President Barack Obama). The UK Govt of the time was on board from the get-go but it took until 2016 when OGP opened to applications from sub-national level or ‘local’ initiatives as they became known, for Scotland to get formally involved. Of course, we in Scottish civil society had been talking to champions within Scottish Government for some time before that (notably, my friend, Doreen Grove).

One of 15 “pioneer” local members, Scotland has helped pave the way for many more to follow; local members now number 104 and another 50 or so are expected to join in the new year. They range from provinces like Ontario, to mega cities like Buenos Aires, to small counties in Tanzania, to whole networks of local authority areas in Mexico and Nigeria. Our own Glasgow City joined (in addition to Scotland and at the same time as Northern Ireland) in 2020 and CoSLA as the umbrella for local authorities is a long-standing member of our Scottish steering group.

What they all have in common of course is that each member is an equal partnership of government and civil society/voluntary sector counterparts. That is the DNA of OGP.

What was still a bit abstract and theoretical when Scotland first joined, has become a thriving global community of reformers – who may be employed inside government, maybe workers or volunteers in a civil society organisation – and increasingly often – people with experience in both as political transitions take place.

Our first in-person global summit meeting of this community post-pandemic took place recently in Tallinn, Estonia. What struck me most about the whole event was the strong sense of solidarity – regardless of day job or national circumstances – that binds this community. Everyone joined in a common endeavour to promote democracy and the rights of citizens.

So, as I hand over the chair of Scotland’s civil society Open Government Network, I do so in the full knowledge I remain part of something much, much bigger, and hugely inspiring. I invite other colleagues past and present in Scotland to join.