To develop programs that seek to prevent, expose or correct whitewashing, think through five phases of action: engage, evaluate, reward, sanction, and feedback.
Engage both intentionally and creatively.
- Pick your battles.
- If implementing the full agenda is too ambitious, review the open government agenda with fresh eyes to identify what is feasible given existing political constraints.
- Identify support, including the civil servants and political leaders that are better positioned to, or have more interest in promoting the open government agenda.
- Start by promoting the less political agenda items - those that might be easier to implement or less controversial. Then, pursue a more ambitious agenda. Using these kinds of “trojan horses” is one way to be strategic and effective.
- Create allies and build influence.
- Identify individuals who have influence on the influencers. Go beyond assessment of who holds the power, to identify who affects those people.
- Work with interest groups to discuss specific commitments that relate directly to their goals.
- Think through unlikely or hidden negotiators. Work with negotiators to make commitments sustainable - tie commitments to, for example, robust legislation, partnerships or movements.
- Strategically introduce open government through elections.
- Choose a trending topic of discussion in campaigns and find ways to relate it to open government. Approach candidates about putting open government priorities on their agendas.
- Find and work with allies in parliamentary committees or issue groups who are capable of creating pressure to push for open government legislation.
- Take stock of excuses and call them out.
- Acknowledge doubts about achieving open government change, and the resulting pushback to take them forward, with sincerity, but also assist in reducing concerns in the same manner.
- Use evidence from other countries and first-hand accounts to discredit the excuses (of which there are many) made for why open government is not feasible. For example, if the excuse is that there is no money for an open data portal, offer adaptable free and open source portals as a solution.
- Make international pressure work for you.
- EU accession and other regional and international frameworks can be used to look good. Work to align their advantages with your needs. One mechanism used in the EU that exemplifies this process is the Open Method of Coordination, which creates a shared understanding of problems and solutions.
- Use the successes of neighboring countries to create friendly competition and peer pressure.
Evaluate to assess actual impact.
- Collect constructive and diverse feedback.
- Gather critiques that are tailored to their heterogeneous target audience. They should be actionable.
- Create shadow reports - alternative reports produced by non-government actors - to equip champions with tips to push forward outstanding action items.
- Seek comparative examples to set benchmarks or norms.
Reward progress and good work.
- Reward good performance and celebrate success.
- Performance rewards can motivate governments to commit to open government with sincerity. Experiment with different types of rewards. Some examples are: study trips to countries that are making progress in an area of shared interest, mentioning by name or department the centers of excellence within the government, and writing to a person's superior as a citizen or organisation to convey a good experience or exceptional work.
- Name and celebrate success publicly. Increasingly, administrations are online and on social media, so mention of progress can widely seen and shared.
- Rating systems can help civil society and government recognize good practice while also making note of areas that could be improved.
Discourage insincere actions carefully and strategically.
- Experiment with different mechanisms at different times to discourage insincere behavior.
- Measures that disincentivise certain behaviors are important to execute carefully, because they can send a strong message and cause difficult-to-manage reactions. Review successful uses of disincentives in your context, and think through how those applications could be adapted to your issue.
- Some examples of disincentive mechanisms are: evaluating and presenting low ratings, submitting formal complaints, and pursuing investigations to expose insincerities.
- Focus on disincentives during moments of heightened scrutiny. EU accession is one example of this kind of moment, and shadow reports are one type of approach that can be taken very seriously these times
In Serbia, discussions are ongoing around poor or faulty commitments. For example, the Istinomer website
enables praise or shame of politicians based on their statements and promises.
- Build strong feedback processes.
- Ensure evaluations are completed regularly (monthly or quarterly intervals) and incorporate feedback from earlier evaluations. Strong feedback loops can drive continuous improvement.
- Ensure that any information arising from feedback is made accessible to the all stakeholders.
- Continue to examine your feedback process to make sure it works for target audiences.