Open Data in Government: how to bring about change

imagesBy Open Data Institute 255887396-Open-data-in-government-how-to-bring-about-change

Governments around the world are increasingly looking for ways to harness the potential of open data for improved policy-making, and social, economic and environmental benefit. A lot of work has been done to familiarise governments with open data and help them to publish open data. There has been less focus on the longer-term process of embedding open data as standard practice and how that might happen. Ensuring your open data initiative is sustainable is essential to realising the impact of open data. The Open Data Institute (ODI) is exploring how organisational change within government happens to support and sustain open data in the long-term. Through extensive interviews and examination of the literature surrounding organisational change management, the ODI has developed guidance for policy-makers who have been tasked with implementing their own open data initiatives. Thinking about the process of change management from the beginning of your initiative will be essential to realising the social, environmental and economic benefits of open data.

The result: 12 recommendations to help governments sustain open data change and realise its impact

1. Articulate your vision, with clear examples of benefits open data will bring. Start with a vision of the problem open data can help you solve, or the benefits you want to produce: think beyond simply releasing open data. Being able to connect your release of open data to a tangible benefit you would like to achieve can help people connect to the initiative and understand its value.

2. Secure support for your open data initiative from both senior/political leadership and government officials within departments before launch. Build in mechanisms to educate government officials about open data, and explain its benefits, from the very beginning of your open data initiative. Fostering support for the change before launching an initiative will help encourage early uptake.

3. Combine top-down leadership for your open data initiative with support for individual or frontline champions in government. While senior buy-in is important to maintain open data as a priority, frontline champions are important to growing the initiative from the bottom up, and driving implementation of your open data vision.

4. Build open communication and mechanisms for feedback into your open data initiative from the outset, both inside and outside government. These could be formal mechanisms, like advisory groups, online feedback forms and regular meetings, and informal mechanisms, like social media outreach. Invite feedback and be open with your department(s) about the transition to using and producing open data, and how their work could be affected. This will ensure employees are more engaged and satisfied with the change.

5. Set out some quick wins for your open data initiative – like releasing a certain number of datasets as open data, or supporting a pilot use-case – but make sure these are part of a long-term goal for open data, which each department can align progress with. Linking quick wins to long-term goals can help maintain momentum for change.

6. Be flexible and responsive to the strengths and needs of different departments and teams. Be clear on your long-term vision for open data, but be careful not to get locked into one transition plan for open data from the beginning. Look for examples of best practice in managing the transition to using and producing open data, and use these to help other departments. Being agile and responsive helps ensure the transition continues to align with any public sector reform and changing technologies.

7. Consolidate your change management efforts: use your emergent leaders as peer educators and innovators. Keep building on your incremental quick wins as part of your long-term open data strategy. Consolidating efforts helps to make each element of change management more effective, and helps identify gaps in strategy.

8. Ensure there are people with responsibility for change management – supporting departments and coordinating feedback – as part of your open data team. Quite often, we think of a ‘change team’ as being set up to deliver open data objectives: build a portal, release datasets and stimulate reuse. Change management is an equally important part of the process, and can increase initial buy-in for the initiative, as well as a sense of ownership within departments of their open data efforts.

9. Seek out and foster stories of the impact of open data, to help illustrate its value for government implementers. Adjust your impact narrative or ‘business case’ for different departments, so it makes sense in terms of their overall visions, capacities and existing processes.

10. Foster external support within industry, civil society and academia to drive continued demand for open data. External support can help to maintain political will to support open data, and be a source of ongoing learning and dialogue.

11. Introduce opportunities for civil servants to take part in ongoing learning about open data. This could be through open data training, secondments to ‘best practice’ teams working with open data or regular workshops. It will help you continue to improve and expand the reach of your open data initiative.

12. Build metrics to regularly evaluate your open data activities. This will help you to measure progress, benchmark success and identify areas for improvement.

The guidance is not absolute; some principles will be applied differently in different contexts. However, the principles for managing open data change that are set out in this paper should provide a useful framework or template for long-term thinking. This paper is the starting point for a deeper exploration of how change happens in government to support open data. Over the next 12-18 months, we will look to build on the themes and scope of this paper, through ongoing research and discussion with global leaders.




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