The open government ideals of transparency, accountability, and civic participation have the greatest potential for palpable impact at the state and municipal level. As these governments serve smaller populations, they have the space for direct citizen participation and engagement, which can inform demand-driven solutions. State and municipal governments also have considerable policy discretion, as well as the potential for greater responsiveness and smaller bureaucracies than national-level governments. These factors make subnational government reform a strategic area for greater impact and innovation for the Open Government Partnership (OGP).
Recognizing the opportunity, OGP in 2016 launched a new Subnational Program to work with government and civil society pioneers to advance open government at the state and municipal level. For each pioneer, the challenge was to work closely with a broad and inclusive set of civil society to surface citizen needs and co-create open government solutions—a steep challenge considering the competing priorities, institutional constraints, and complex engagement necessary. With support from OGP as well as several partner donors, Reboot was asked to provide technical assistance to a full third of the 15 participating governments in overcoming these challenges. We worked closely with the county government of Elgeyo Marakwet in Kenya; the city government of Sekondi-Takoradi in Ghana; the provincial government of Ontario in Canada; the city government of Austin, Texas, in the United States; and the state government of Jalisco in Mexico. Our work in Canada and the United States was funded in each by the respective participating governments. We partnered with the Hewlett Foundation in our work in Kenya and Ghana, and our work in Mexico was supported by a private foundation. Working shoulder-to-shoulder with government and civil society partners in each country, we set out to support the co-creation of Subnational Open Government Action Plans (the first step of OGP partnership) and ensure that the plans were both ambitious (in their potential impact on citizen lives) and feasible (for governments to implement).