It’s been 1 year since Canada launched the Multi-stakeholder Forum on Open Government. As part of this group since its inception, I have been both participant and observer to the fascinating new terrain that we are exploring. Our formal mandate is to “provide input and advice on the Government of Canada’s commitments on open government, identify new areas of focus, and build the open government community across Canada.” What this description doesn’t convey is the complexity of working together. It doesn’t say anything about the fact that there is no map or any directions on how we get to where we all want to go. It doesn’t identify the end destination either.
There are 12 members of the Multi-Stakeholder Forum. Each of us has different areas of expertise, networks and other assets, such as skills and knowledge. As a signatory to the Open Government Partnership, there are international commitments and processes, as well as the cycles and procedures of due diligence that come with being part of the federal government. As we bring our understanding of how things work from all the places we have been, we have discovered that we also have different ideas about ways of working together. We have different norms, different language, and different expectations. Herein lies the potential for miscommunication and culture clashes.
Of course, we all have day jobs too. Just to add to the complexity, some of us hold multiple roles, in relation to the topic and to each other. At times we are collaborators, and at other times, adversaries. We sit across the table from one another wearing one hat today, knowing that tomorrow we may be sitting at the same table, wearing a different hat. Despite these differences, we share a passion for opening up government. We all want to see Canada lead the way forward.
The question I find myself asking is, how can we bring this complexity and diversity to bear on the topic, so that it increases our creativity and capacity in order to achieve more together than any of us could on our own? I don’t really know the answer to that question, which is one I hear others asking as well. This story is still being written. I hope to share more of it as the answers appear.