Blog

A new strategy and a bold new look. How we plan to power up public contracting everywhere

30 May 2019

Por Gavin Hayman

Open contracting is a collective with thousands of amazing reformers working to open up public contracts and improve public services around the world. Our new strategy belongs as much to our global community as it does to the OCP: our ambitious new plan to change the world is a product of all the great feedback we’ve had over the last few years and ideas on how we can get to even more impact, more consistently.

You pushed us to focus more on politics, to build deeper connections across government, business and civil society and a stronger ecosystems of users, to bring in new allies such as journalists and academics, to focus (even) more on the use and quality of the data, and to make sure user feedback and collaboration is baked into all stages of the contracting process. These issues are now central to our new strategy.

In my previous life, as a corruption hunter with the awesome organization Global Witness, it was inevitable that my work would take me into the murky, closed world of government contracting. It’s government’s number one corruption risk, where the money, power and discretion is concentrated.

The core of our first strategy, then, was to open up the black box of government contracting, to digitize and standardize the contracting process and publish it as open data so government, business, and citizens could use the information to better analyze and monitor public procurement.

Transparency is a great place to start but it’s the wrong place to stop. Prying open that box should definitely help stop public money being looted in the many scams and dodges connected to contracting. But we also do it to make the money go further. Opening up contracting should help to save a fortune in public funds, bust cartels, increase competition and improve trust with citizens. It should help to make our communities more liveable and our lives better. It should help us set and deliver social objectives, include women- and minority-owned businesses. It should help us respond better to citizens‘ needs and to procure innovative solutions to public challenges.

In countries like Ukraine, Colombia and Paraguay, many of these things are beginning to happen. Early adopters have made the most remarkable difference when the data, culture and politics align to create systemic change.

From transparency to transformation

So our new strategy is framed around a shift from transparency to transformation. Bringing those favorable elements together more consistently and seizing on opportunities where reforms can jump scale and get to systemic impact. Right now, public contracting is where great ideas are sent to die. It’s time for that to change.

We are shifting our focus from opening data to making the whole ecosystem of engagement, policy, data, and practices ‘open-by-design’.

Public contracts must go beyond compliance and trying to load risk onto companies to become goal-oriented and user-centered, integrating feedback and engagement throughout the process from start to finish.

That means focusing less on shallow commitments to publish a bit more information and more on motivating governments to go further and connecting policy to power. And focusing more on the things that we are trying to fix, the services that we are trying to deliver, and working back on what we need to fix about contracting to get there. So we need to work more with the frontline agencies and problem holders in government.

This kind of transformational change is hard. So we plan to offer more tailored support for more diverse practitioners as needed to match political will and opportunity for impact. And to that end, we are planning to launch a bold new program Open Contracting Lift to provide more systemic support, beyond the technical to politics, power and coalition building, to help our partners accelerate change. And we are planning to do a better job of celebrating progress and lessons on the way to the systemic change that we are seeking.

Bold targets (and a bold new look too)

We’ve set ourselves some challenging targets too: working with and through our awesome community, we want to reach a tipping point of evidence and impacts by the end of the next 5 years where we can point to 10 countries with systemic impact like Colombia, Paraguay, and Ukraine, and another 30 places where we are seeing promising progress.

To get there, we know we will have to make tough choices and to focus where we can really shift the system whilst leaving some room for surprises.

We’re also taking on a bold new look. Our work is less about the box now and more about closing the loop, the target, and the circle, with people and our community at its center. Put that all together and here’s what you get:

 

 

The “O” at the core of the logo, a continuous loop, is intended to remind us of our vision of public contracting that is goal-driven, responsive, iterative and inclusive.

So a bold new look, a bold new strategy and stretching new targets. We also have new leadership in our Advisory Board to help us make the jump. We have the fabulous Sally Hughes and Mukelani Dimba as our new chair and vice chair. Sally as CEO of the International Association for Contract and Commercial Management with 57,000 members around the world across business and government has been crucial in helping us envisage our role in smarter, more responsive contracting, how we can simplify, clarify and add value to the whole process of contract planning, awarding and implementation. Mukelani, as a passionate Freedom of Information super-star, has been central in keeping us real and focusing on politics and power. We’d also like to pay tribute and give massive thanks to the wonderful Stephen Peel, our outgoing chair who was an awesome mentor and leader as we jumped to a global scale in our work.

It’s been a great first four years for the Open Contracting Partnership. We’ve been blown away by the energy of all our global partners. We hope you are as stoked about our new strategy as we are. We can’t wait to get to work and deliver the global change you all deserve; to transform the world’s largest marketplace so it delivers on its promise to provide for everyone fairly and effectively.

#TheFutureIsOpen.  

Download our new strategy here.