[open-development] Future of OKF Open Development Group

Johns, Sarah Sarah.Johns at plan-international.org
Mon Sep 2 11:54:29 UTC 2013

Hi Claudia, thank you for kicking off this discussion, it’s a really important one for this group. Here’s 5 thoughts and 4 suggestions:

1.     As we’ve all found out, defining the term ‘open development’ is twice as complex as defining ‘development’ - it has additional nuances depending on who is defining the ‘open’. As an example – World Bank http://www.worldbank.org/open/, Institute of Development Studies: http://www.ids.ac.uk/knowledge-services/open-development-and-innovation and Open for Change: http://openforchange.info/content/about-open-change offer different visions of what constitutes openness in development practice.

2.     I think one of the strengths of the Open Development Working Group has been to attract members from different disciplines (and all over the world, including the Global South) who may not ordinarily collaborate. I’ve made contacts (and friends) through the group which have been invaluable to the work that I do. And judging by the speakers at this year’s Open Knowledge Conference, this continues to be the case.

3.       I think that this group has an important role in ensuring that development expertise, particularly from professionals from the South is available to the other working groups within the OKFN roster, and that discussions about open practice are brought into our own work. In particular, some of the visions of openness have very clear precursors in participatory development approaches, and we have important learning to share.

4.       I think one of the challenges of the group is that it doesn’t have a clear identity. For example, is it a community of practice? Is it an e-list of sharing information and events? Is it a good excuse for a get together and a beer? How much time do members have to give the group a bit of care and attention and achieve the desired identity?

5.       I’d add one additional question to Claudia’s list – is this group happy to remain under the governance of the Open Knowledge Foundation?

So in answer to Claudia’s questions, my thoughts:

1.       I think that the focus of the group should remain fairly open: in my world, this means exploring openness practice, principles and practices within development practice.

2.       I’d encourage the creation of a ‘where do we go next’ collective of people to coordinate the group on behalf of the members (rather than ownership by specific organisations). The collective will need a mix of skills, and will be tasked with engaging the members with some key issues, such as encouraging the group to be more cohesive, responsive and outward facing.

3.       If the group decides to stay within the Open Knowledge Foundation, I’d encourage more active commitment to OKFN itself. My guess is that we’re fairly invisible to OKFN, but that many members will have memberships of other Working Groups  – for example I’m a member of both OKFN OpenDev and OpenEconomics, as well as non-OKFN KM4Dev and C4D communities. We can and should leverage these opportunities to benefit OKFN.

4.       Smaller groups working on a particular focus area (aid cooperation, Global South governance, development effectiveness etc) already get together informally through the OpenDev group, and this needs to be communicated more widely to encourage involvement and have regular updates back to the group. And it would be amazing to have a well-funded annual get-together (both virtual and physical) where we share learning and discuss issues – in practice this is spread out over several events and is pretty exclusive, to be honest, for those who can’t afford it.

Hope this adds to your thoughts, and interested to hear what everyone else says!


From: open-development-bounces at lists.okfn.org [mailto:open-development-bounces at lists.okfn.org] On Behalf Of Claudia Schwegmann
Sent: 30 August 2013 14:00
To: OKF Development List
Subject: [open-development] Future of OKF Open Development Group

Dear Colleagues

In the last few weeks there have been some discussions on this email list and among individual members of the open development list about the future of this group. There are several issues related to this email list that should be discussed among the list members. This email is supposed to initiate this discussion - hoping that many of us will be able to meet face to face at the OKCON in Geneva in September.

Who is behind this email: Tim Davies has been the group moderator for the last few years and has been active to organise the OKfest in  Helsinki and to initiate talks with IDRC about a possible fellowship programme for the open development “community”. Claudia Schwegmann from OKF Germany has also has been actively involved to prepare the open development stream at the OKfest and talks with IDRC. Simon Parrish from Development Initiative who has sponsored Tim (and prior to Tim Tariq Khokhar) to coordinate the working group. We do not have a mandate to talk for the group, but we feel there are certain issues that need to be addressed and that should be done in an open and transparent way.

Group coordinator: Tim has coordinated the list in the past years but is no longer able to do that. So we need a new coordinator and we need an acceptable process of identifying this coordinator.

Coordinator role: The minimum role for the coordinator would be to just moderate the email list. A more ambitious role would be to coordinate joint activities of group members, link our group to other OKF activities, promote networking among group members etc. What do people think about that? [sp: Depending on the role of the coordinator, this could be in the form of small coordination group. A number of organisations have expressed interest in being involved in such a group]

Group focus: Some of us are working on “open development cooperation”. Others are working on local or national open initiatives in different sectors in the so called “Global South”. Does this mix make sense? Does this wide scope enrich or hinder the discussion? Would it be more appropriate e.g. for an activist on open budgets in an African country to be in the Open Budgets group of OKFN? What do people think about that?

Other issues: Are there other issues related to the “group management” that need to be addressed?

Process: How can we have a fruitful discussion on these issues? Who is interested to join in and shape the future of the “community”? Can/ should we have an online process? Can we organise a Meet-up in Geneva?

We are proposing that there is a meeting in Geneva at OkCon to discuss these issues, and hope that those of you that can’t make it can contribute through the group via email. Depending on how the discussion in Geneva goes and on interest by people not able to be in Geneva, we could do an online meeting towards the end of September.

Please let us all know what you think.

·         What do you think the focus of the group should be? Open development in the broadest sense, or narrower to development cooperation?

·         Should the group aim to be more active?

·         Do you think a small coordination group is a good idea? do you want to be involved?

Thanks a lot for taking the time to respond!
Best wishes
Claudia, Tim and Simon

Claudia Schwegmann
Open Knowledge Foundation Germany<http://okfn.de>

Tel/Fax +49 (0) 5130 609691
Mobil +49 (0)177 3160 380 NEW

Twitter @OpenAidGermany
Skype Claudia.Schwegmann

Die Open Knowledge Foundation setzt sich für offenes Wissen ein! Sie auch? <http://okfn.de/organisation/spenden/>


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