Steering Committee Notes: October 17, 2012

Participants: Gary Bass, Bauman Foundation; Tom Blanton, National Security Archive; Lynne Bradley, American Library Association; Danielle Brian, Project On Government Oversight -POGO; Kenneth Bunting, National Freedom of Information Coalition – NFOIC; Kevin Goldberg, American Society of News Editors; Katherine McFate, OMB Watch; Sean Moulton, OMB Watch; Michael Ostrolenk, Liberty Coalition; David Sobel , Electronic Frontier Foundation; Anne Weismann, Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington – CREW; Patrice McDermott , Amy Bennett, and Abby Paulson, staff

 Open Government Partnership Discussion

OTG's previous OGP workwas reviewd, including the development of open government plans, organization of teams, the development of metrics, the interim report, and plan for the final evaluation in January

The Committee discussed various ways to extend engagement  with the Open Government partnership process. One thought was to use the expanded budget to amplify our involvement in the OGP as the US civil society coordinator. This could be done by anticipating the 2nd, 3rd incarnations of National Action Plans and drafting our own proposal—before the next Administration would be creating a version 2 of the US government’s plan, sometime next year.  One option in a proposal would be to emphasize OTG’s relationship with the administration, but it was suggested that its position as a consensus builder and organizer of a diverse community would be a stronger argument with ON.

The Steering Committee considered the suggestion that part of the OTG proposal to ON be to concentrate efforts on specific policy areas.

The Steering Committee determined that a conference call was needed to identify and discuss the strategic policy work areas where action and funding could make a real difference.  For example, promoting action and the development of critical work (e.g., papers and other products) in these areas.

Focus ares for work and or addition research should include: 

·   Proactive dissemination

·   Federal spending transparency; and

·   Declassification

If this approach of emphasizing policy areas is taken, there may be issues with OTG elevating one partner’s issue over the others. The Steering Committee also discussed the idea of pushing for the next US National Action Plan to be focused on making our “Openness Floor” a reality. Several of our other policy priorities, like spending transparency, can be wrapped into the Floor.

The diversity of partners must also be considered—along with OTG’s purpose as coordinator of groups vs. targeted advocate. Funding for the work of other groups under the ON proposal was also an item of discussion. Instead of “re-granting” to other groups, it could be approached more as “commissioning.” Would this only include partners as a value-added to OTG partnership, or also outside groups with which we regularly work but that are not partners?

Role of Steering Committee

Is the role of the steering committee advisory, or to specify what work is to be done?

Trusting the judgment of staff has worked, and steering committee has been consulted when needed. In steering committee discussions, it is helpful to have conclusions summarized by the Chair to keep everyone on the same page. Members should ask for a vote if they are unclear about what has been decided.

Planning for the Next 3 Months

The communications project organized by OMB Watch with NFOIC could be a starting point for developing regional meetings for open government messaging, possible OGP work.

Staff will check back with the communications associate to move forward on this communications strategy.

OTG may get the most benefit by having the op-eds placed with member organizations. We should make it clear that member organizations should not go directly to Denise.

Coalition-Building Project

There has been progress in the outreach to groups to build a transpartisan openness coalition.  Although the contract with OTG is finished, the work will continue.  OTG is working with the Liberty Coalition in developing the Congressional priorities created through the working group to identify basic principles of bills that, while well-intentioned, may have lost some benefit (ex: Read the Bill).  The top policy priorities document, re-shaped as brief white papers, has been shared with the center-right working group.  They were enthusiastic about the items and are adding additional concepts and asks. Given time constraints, these will be drafted as a transition team document, with the option of also drafting a proposed executive order. 

Some potential partners have issues with the phrasing of the mission statement, particularly use of “democracy.” While altering principles for potential members is agreed to be sensitive, it was generally agreed that the mission statement definitely needs a refresher. The mission statement will be circulated with tracked changes, so the steering committee can provide input.

Steering Committee Vacancy

Because time for the meeting had expired, it was decided to set this conversation for another time. Steering Committee members will consider the issue-area blind spots that could be filled, such as with environmental groups. 

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