Gaining Buy-in

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Gaining Buy-in

The process of attaining acceptance and a willingness by parties to engage in the use of ICT as a tool is critical. Use the questions below as a starting point on the discussion of "gaining buy-in." 

What processes are necessary to gain support and buy-in from government bodies/agencies?

What processes are necessary to gain support and buy-in from the public?

How can activists garner support from governments to see the value in open government? (What examples can be shared from government actions?)

How can activists garner support from both citizens to see the value in open government? (What examples can be shared from citizen and non-governmental organization actions?)

Share your thoughts, experiences, questions, challenges and ideas by replying to the comments below.

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Our main challenge

At Democracia en Red Foundation we believe that the political system insists in excluding many of us from the spaces where the decisions that impact our lives are made . The internet has changed everything: the way we share and consume culture, how we engage in commerce, and how we communicate with others.

But it has, for the time being, failed to influence and change in one key area of our lives: politics. This is highly related to the topic we are here discussing: how to gain support and buy-in from government bodies/agencies, how do we stimulate civic participation in these new platforms?

We are working on a user-friendly, open-source, vote and debate tool, crafted for parliaments, parties and decision-making institutions that will allow citizens to get informed, join the conversation and vote on topics, just how they want their representatives to vote. Here you can see our Live Demo for the City of Buenos Aires.

In our experience, and through the different implementations of Democracy OS, we have acknowledge that the main challenge is precisely to deliver consistent results and to make the participation count, for each and every actor involved (governments, citizens, NGOs)... That's how we trigger buy-in.

What do you think? I will later add examples on how we addressed this matter in our projects.

Buy-in requires awareness

As I have mentioned in other threads of this discussion, many governments are not aware that in a digital environment, achieving information integrity and access through time requires a well defined legal and regulatory framework and a new set of skills.  While there are governments that are well aware of what this involves, particularly in the Nordic countries, many do not know that this is an issue.  The significance of well managed records as evidence for all aspects of governance tends not to be on the international development radar at present and is often missing from discussions of  Open Government, Open Data, or Right to Information.   The Carter Center Right to Information Imlementation Assessment Tool ( and the Accountability and Transparency Initiative Open Government Guide ( are important exceptions.  Sharing information about the suite of international standards that have been developed to underpin information integrity, access, and preservation, would be a good starting point for building awareness.

See a case study on Openness and Information Integrity in Norway and a list of the main relevant international standards:


Buy-in requires work with the 10% & meeting them where they are

Too often, particularly in difficult contexts, we try and fill gaps- the 90% of systems within government that do not work- and hope that we can create buy-in for this process. But this is an endeavor that is set up to prove difficult from the outset- as it is fighting against what are often entrenched interests, sometimes perverse rules and a deep lack of incentives for change. Rather, to gain buy-in, we should be focusing on the 10%- the people and clusters of functionality and transparency that exist- and working with that 10% to expand this zone of effectiveness outwards. This means working with the grain on smaller issues, rather than against it on larger issues.    

The other key point from broader experience is that we need to "meet reformers where they are" not where we want them to be- as this will prove to be the best way to engage them over time and facilitate change. The Open Government Partnership ( does this well, for example, by allowing countries to use it's platform as a means to consolidate initiatives they already have underway as well as new commitments they develop. With civil society, the Accountability Lab ( does this through engaging young people in ways they understand- like film, culture, media and technology. This makes what can seem like technical or difficult topics feel much more accessible. Governments can use the same tactics internally to engage bureaucrats around refrom processes.  

It is about awareness

Of course, you are right, Blair. 

 My point is not that we need should attempt to fill ll in 100% of the gaps in the management of public sector information but that we do need to begin to address or at least be aware of the fundamenal significance of the integrity and availablility of the digital information that is essential if governments are to be accountable and citizens are to interact with their governments.  In many cases this issue has not even begun to be addressed, but it becomes increasingly important as technological development accelerates.  I think that there is much to be learned from the case of the Government of Scotland, which is in the process of developing an integrated approach to information governance.

The Scottish Government's Data Strategy for public sector information is governed by the Data Linkage Framework, which requires government departments and agencies to acknowledge the importance of data  quality in facilitating the use of data to maximize its value.  The aim is to strengthen data, for instance in terms of accuracy and the level of disaggregation required.  Operating within this Framework, the Data Sharing and Linkage Service, is being delivered through collaboration between the NHS National services Scotland and the National Records of Scotland. At the same time, the Public Records Act (Scotland) (2011), requires senior government executives to set out proper arrangements for managing the information it creates, including records and data.  The Keeper of the National Records of Scotland must be provided with evidence of the policies and processes that they are implementing, including the data that they generate.  This includes, for instance, the Scottish Environment Protection Agencyt's environmental impact assessment datasets and the management of Big Data compiled and managed by the National Records of Scotland.

Although we cannot tackle this issue all at once, we can begin to be aware that without information governance it will not be possible to acheive many of the goals of Open Government.

Hello Blair, hi everyone!

Hello Blair, hi everyone!

Thanks for this approach. Indeed, we agree that a very good starting point to gaining buy-in is focusing in that 10%, in those reformers reformers that have already embraced the will of change.

On November 2014, Democracia en Red launched DEMOS, a project to encourage civic participation in the debate about different law proposals together with the Buenos Aires Legislature. The initiative ad there its first success: we had reached the reformers in the most important local parliament of our country.

A total of 19089 citizens from Buenos Aires and neighboring districts visited the website, and more than 6000 of them signed up in order to take part in the debate. On top of that, got 26833 views.

It was a success story of partnership with a government institution and with politicians from the whole political spectrum. The Buenos Aires Legislature embraced the initiative and 12 political parties (all of them except 1) agreed to submit their flagship bills to be considered and debated in the platform.

On top of that, the most voted project was one that aimed at making better working conditions for nurses. It was presented by the Workers Party (Partido Obrero), a very small party, that had not enough political clout to get its initiative discussed in Congress. Because of DEMOS, this project not only got installed in the media agenda but was successfully introduced in Committee. 

Once again, as Blair said, partnering with teams and organizations that already want to promote openness, transparency and citizenship participation, was key to good results. In our experience, to gain support from citizens and goverments you need a clear path to closing the loop opened by the participatory instance. In our case, this meant that the citizen’s comments and feedback on the law proposals were going to be taken into account for the parliament discussions. 

Managing apprehension and tech fears from government

It seems like an important topic emerging in this conversation is engaging with advocates or areas in society making gains in transparency work. When it comes to helping those individuals increase the buy in from government, What are ways to help those existing transparency advocates manage apprehension and lack of techology know how from government officials?

Working with Government

Hi Ollin and everyone- great discussion so far! And I agree, Ollin, that in what we've seen it is often not a question of political will on the part of government to address these issues, but rather a lack of capacity, organization, knowledge, or all three. There may be a willingness to engage citizens using technology but a fear that a lack of knowledge will undermine the process or "show up" the individual or office. One thing we've seen that works is outreach to government officials on an informal basis- invitations to events and so on- to build the relationship and trust needed to suggest new ways of doing things. We've also developed training modules that we deliver for free on these issues, whcih can help too; and supported the idea of wikis- both as a way to learn about technology and keep up-to-date information on processes within a bureaucracy.

Bhoomi Land Registration in India

One example of advanced technology proving hugely successful even in the most difficult of contexts is the Bhoomi land registration system in Karnataka ( Bhoomi is a management system for land records (now with over 20 million land records for 6.7 million farmers)- with use of touch-screen offline kiosks in local government offices, through which users can print land records. This has been both facilitated by local government officials, and also cuts out a layer of interaction, reducing the oppotunity for graft at the local level. 




One way to gain buy-in is to demonstrate value in terms of cost savings to government offices and showing responsiveness to citizen concerns. Various e-gov tools help government agencies and officials gain insight in real time. City departments can accelerate response to emerging problems through crowdsourcing (e.g., See-Click-Fix, Government agencies can also save staff time by putting resources online, instead of having to respond to open records requests, for example. Economic development may also justify making data available, if start-ups and other enterprises are able to create businesses from public data.

To gain buy-in from the public, online platforms can offer convenience. Instead of requiring citizens to appear in person at town hall meetings, for example, allow them to participate remotely or asynchronously. Tools like Peak Democracy offer this capacity.

Activists can help show value to both sides by hosting civic hackathons, demonstrating the use of open data by helping hackers create new tools, and promoting platforms built on open data. Open Oakland ( has created or sponsored projects in several domains of civic tech. Open Budget Oakland ( is one of my favorite examples, with beautiful visualizations of budget information.

As public entities at the national, state and local levels increasingly invest in digitizing their data and making it available, the practice will become more common and the case for investment easier to make. See the enthusiastic remarks from U.S. CTO Megan Smith, Jan. 27:


Gaining buy-in Through Being Proactive

Engaging communities to buy-in to improving institutional performance using ICTs requires a proactive approach by governments- moving beyond a reactive response. In Pakistan, for example, the government of Punjab has developed a citizen feedback model that sends out a robo-call by the Chief Minister to encourage citizens who have used public services to use their mobile phones to report back on any issues they faced. The government examines feedback data patterns to manage service delivery performance (more about this project here). This helps to build trust in the system, because citizens' feel their inputs are actively sought rather than only considered (if at all) in relation to a complaint made. 

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