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Improving Public Policies

in a Digital World

05/06 DEC. 2016

Université Paris 1 Panthéon Sorbonne


Agenda disponible!


Accountability, Public Management & Open Gov.

Salle / Hall : Bibliothèque Sainte Barbe - Amphithéâtre 
Horaire / Schedule : 9h20 - 10h40

Président de séance : Florent Pralong (Associate Professor - University Paris 1 Panthéon-Sorbonne - France)

Langue / Language : English

Speech 1. Four Ways in Which Social Accountability and Open Government Interventions Bridge the State and Society

Maria Florencia Guerzovich- Professeur, Politisa ESAG, Universidade do Estado de Santa Catarina (Brasil)

What does Social accountability and open government approaches to improve the provision of public goods and services increasingly prioritize collaboration, constructive engagement, and co-production between state and civil society actors. This explosion does not come in a one-size fits all model of collaborative engagement. Yet, we know little about the conditions under which different forms of collaboration evolve and bring about change. This paper seeks to contribute to the literature and practice of collaborative engagement by presenting a typology of state-society bridges through social accountability and open government interventions.

It identifies four types of collaborative engagement - inclusive, targeted, restrictive and detached - as a result of a theoretical-empirical exercise that focuses on the interaction between context, strategy and organization as three interrelated variables that jointly have greater potential to account for results than each one of them separately. To operationalize the variables, the paper identifies four key dimensions in the literatures and practices of social accountability, open governance, and co-production of public services and control. These are: (i) capacities of the partnership; (ii) harness the context; (iii) complexity of strategy; (iv) adaptability for learning The paper then illustrates the types and the potential of this heuristic device for understanding when, how and why different forms of collaboration could shape change on the ground, by looking into a series of local social accountability and open governance interventions in select Brazilian cities. Our initial focus is research conducted in 2015 and 2016 about initiatives across Brazil that bring together citizens and CSOs (including professional and business associations) - use the expertise of local citizens/professionals to help (working with) public agents to reduce corruption and the waste of public resources, the lack of qualification and the discontinuity in public policies, projects and services. We then extend the analysis to other Brazilian interventions, including state-led ones.

The Brazilian experience suggests that, in the implementation of collaborative open government and social accountability strategies, the actions (as opposed to static plans or structures) serve as bridges between components of the state and elements of the societies to which they belong. Different types of bridges can help make inroads in understanding the potential and limits of state-society engagement to tackle public policy and governance problems. It is important to consider that the diverse local political contexts in which action happens shapes and, over time, can be shaped by their organizational structures and strategies that make up different forms of engagement. Yet, progress is neither automatic nor guaranteed, strategies can revert in less promising directions. In fact, state-society collaboration fits with context, strategy and organization and delivers after cycles of experimentation and learning rather than as one-shot instances of engagement.

Speech 2. The Impact of Open Government: Assessing the Evidence

Vanessa Williamson - Fellow, Governance Studies, The Brookings Institution (United States)

This report reviews the empirical literature examining the impact of open government on government efficiency, public accountability, and quality of life, and develops recommendations for policymakers and an agenda for new research. From an analysis of hundreds of reports, articles, and peer-reviewed academic studies, we build a six-point checklist for open government proponents to give their reforms the highest likelihood of success. We conclude that open government works when strong and broad channels of influence give people, and especially poor or otherwise disempowered people, the capacity to respond to the information they receive. We also find that, while policy evaluation has become substantially more sophisticated in recent years, there remain crucial gaps in the body of research as a whole. In particular, there is a vital role for researchers, particularly those who have been effective in rigorously testing transparency measures, to reapply their evaluative skills to identifying the open government initiatives that allow poor and other traditionally disenfranchised groups to overcome the problem of collective action and assert their authority over government.

Speech 3. A legal perspective on the barriers posed by differing data storage standards, and the role of standardisation as a driver for innovation

Carullo Gherardo - Researcher, Universit of Milan (Italia)

The spread of digital tools can not only simplify administrative tasks, thus allowing - among others - greater efficiency, but may also expand the opportunities of participation from interested parties. To achieve this result, however, it is necessary to implement proper communication systems amongst public administrations, which requires that ICT systems deployed by each subject can exchange data with other systems.

The way in which data is digitally stored is often very different though. The aim of the paper is to identify an abstract way to treat the raw data held by public authorities, one that is capable of overcoming any barrier posed by the current fragmentation of the technologies used by administrations to store data. The paper will in particular analyse the management and organizational measures needed to make e-government possible through interoperability and data-exchange.

In this perspective, the paper will also discuss how standardized and interoperable systems for the management of data could respond to the needs and the challenges posed by globalization. In particular, the adoption of digital tools can strengthen the role of the European Union as a cooperative area, and not only competitive, able to participate and contribute to a sustainable development, interacting with the new needs posed by globalization: increased mobility of people, climatic changes, corruption, etc.

If that were the case, citizens, undertakings and other public or private bodies could more easily access the data they need. A more efficient and agile access to public information could bring benefits, therefore, to a multitude of subjects. Consequently, this could not only simplify the administrative action, making it more efficient and economical, but it could also improve the lives of citizens and could, above all, boost economic activity by providing faster access to the tools businesses need.

Speech 4. The accountability of the french public finances’ officers in the Open Government

Maya Bunod - PHD Student, University Paris 1 Panthéon-Sorbonne (France)

One of the main ambition of Open government is to " enhance citizens ' participation in decisions that affect them ". With a broader participation of citizens in the law making process, there is a hope to strengthen Democracy. However, as Irene Bouahadana explains, transparency might not always be the better mean to reach that goal. Giving too much information may be counterproductive, but it can also provide a real power of surveillance to citizens in the public policy making process. The example of the effect of Open Government on public management and accountability regarding the public finances topic shows us an ambiguity that may appear between several aspects of Open Government, more precisely, between transparency,participation and accountability of public actors. The French public administration, which prepares public finances’ law projects, is a hierarchical administration where a decision cannot be made without the validation of the upper hierarchy. However, since 2001, there is a movement of reform that tries to transform the public administration by providing a broader autonomy to public agents. In the public finances area, it implies a important mutation of the expenses and recipes’ chains by slightly reducing the liability of public accountants, a key piece of the public finances execution mechanism. Even though that evolution does not seem to be directly related to Open Government, it is in reality the beginning of another transformation. There is an implementation of a collaborative dynamic between all actors of the execution of public finances.

However, does it mean that we have reached the point of having an efficient openness in the public finance area reinforced by an effective accountability of all actors? That is not certain. In fact, the degree of accountability depends on whether the individual is a part of the administration that prepared the laws voted by the parliament, or direct the execution of public finances laws or execute those laws. In the digital era, citizens have a much better knowledge of public expenses executions because of a law on public budget transparency that is probably instituted to balance the lack of accountability of the political branch of the executive power. Through a collaborative system and because of the installment of New public management criteria, there is also a new balance of accountability between the public finances’ executants that impact the openness of public finances’ information.

Speech 5. Is Feedback Smart?

Megan Campbell - Manager of Research and Learning, Feedback Labs (United States)

The presentation of the 'Is Feedback Smart?' paper examines the evidence for whether the collection, analysis and use of citizen feedback can lead to better governance outcomes. Drawing on literature reviews from across the fields of governance, philanthropy and international development, the paper describes the theoretical underpinnings that suggest citizen feedback can lead to better outcomes, examines the evidence for and against this proposition, and proposes heuristics for the circumstances under which citizen feedback can lead to better results.

Speech 6. Canada’s approach to tracking and results on open government

Mélanie Robert - Executive Director, Information Management and Open Government, Chief Information Officer Branch - Treasury Board of Canada Secretariat / Government of Canada

The Government of Canada is committed to raising the bar on openness and transparency.  One approach that is currently being implemented is to develop a robust performance measurement approach.  Canada is investing in developing clear commitments, defining goals, identifying interim steps towards longer term objectives, and tracking progress towards meaningful outcomes that resonate with citizens.  This session will explore Canada’s experience implementing a results-based approach and collecting concrete evidence on the impact of open government.

Speech 7. Developing a Data Responsibility Approach to Open Gov

Stefaan Verhulst - Chief of Research, The GovLab NYU