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Monday, April 29, 2013

Transparency silos not unique to Australian CSOs

Australia isn't the only place faced with the situation that groups and activists beaver away in civil society silos, separately seeking to advance various transparency and accountability issues without much in the way of dialogue or joint effort on common high order goals.

Martin Tisne at Open Up had also written about this in February after attending a meeting in Poland and again in April, offering these reasons why working together had proved difficult for CSOs in the UK:
(1) Each community of practice (whether budget groups, freedom of information, open data groups, extractives’ groups) has its own language, discourse, way of working, basic reason for why they are doing this in the first place (e.g. whether to deepen democracy or decrease poverty) which can be a big barrier to doing business together.
(2) NGOs are in competition for limited resources: why should civil society groups make an effort to coordinate when they will ultimately be competing against each other for a limited pot of funding?
(3) Coordination, partnership is hard work! Why do it unless there is a clear pay-off at the end? With limited resources to start with, why should CSOs work and partner together, when they could forge ahead with their own agenda (perhaps faster)?
I think it's a version of (3) here, more than anything else - limited resources, organisations stretched and forced to make hard choices about the use of time leaving little for the big picture, and pre-occupied with individual agendas. And of course for anyone who puts a hand up, that coalition formation and development is hard work.

Tisne says that in the UK the "OGP is playing a huge role in bringing together a broad group of civil society groups working on opengov that had previously never met nor worked on a common platform."

Hopefully that could be the way things go here - in the lead up, or when we get to "yes" on the OGP.

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