Open government in transition: a case study of the Canadian Geomatics community round table

May 07, 2015

The recently released Public Policy Forum report Open Government in Transition: A Case Study of the Canadian Geomatics Community Round Table takes a look back at the journey of the CGCRT from the initiation of the National Mapping Strategy in 2007 to the release of the Pan-Canadian Geomatics Strategy in 2014. It considers the process through the lens of Open Government and concludes, “The Round Table and the Pan-Canadian Geomatics Strategy could be the first glimpse of a whole new phase in the Open Government movement, the benefits of which will reach far beyond the Geomatics community.”

Needless to say, we encourage you to read the full report.

The Case Study takes care to highlight the increased collaboration within the Geomatics community during the development of the Pan-Canadian Geomatics Strategy, which had input from representatives from non-profits, the private sector, education, and government, in a concerted effort to align the entire community around a few shared goals. According to the study, the years-long discussion in which participants outlined and defined their shared vision functioned in and of itself as a form of community-building; by talking and working together, a shared identity gradually emerged. This “sense of shared purpose, trust, and common interest” led organically into new and more collaborative ways of managing the community’s collective interests.

We are thrilled to have this outside perspective on the journey and the accomplishments of the CGCRT. We’re flattered to hear our work described in such positive terms, and we hope that we can live up to our new reputation as ground-breakers and path-clearers. And if, as the study author indicates, other sectors might see our work as a promising prototype, we wish them the greatest possible success in their collaborative endeavors.

Notably, some of the findings of this Case Study were even presented to the United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs (UNDESA) by study author Don Lenihan, in a meeting convened to “examine ways in which government can address increasingly complex issues through more effective collaboration with non-State actor.” In a discussion of Formal and Informal Institutions for Citizen Engagement for Implementing the Post-2015 Development Agenda, the CGCRT was put forward as an example of a successful collaborative process; a model to be emulated and perhaps applied in the context of alleviating poverty, improving community health, or reducing corruption. This was not our intent, but if our work has been helpful in those areas we are extremely grateful to all our partners for their role in shaping this unique process.

With the launch of GeoAlliance Canada on April 20, we will be formalizing our approach and taking another huge step into uncharted territory. There has never been an umbrella organization in the geospatial sector in Canada; we’re bringing together organizations that have never had any formal opportunity to work together.  By uniting our fractured sector, GeoAlliance Canada will advance the goals laid out in the Strategy in a way that the CGCRT, as an informal advisory body, was unable to do. Where the CGCRT identified a need for a “coherent, simple and compelling” story, GeoAlliance Canada will have the authority to broadcast that narrative around the world.

 

“To be sustainable, the Round Table must establish itself as a credible leadership body for the Geomatics community at large, with the profile and moral authority to speak for it in a way that commands attention and respect.”

 

One issue flagged by this case study was the question of sustainability. As things stood at the time of the publication of the Pan-Canadian Geomatics Strategy, the future of the CGCRT was very much in question, especially because the Round Table’s Terms of Reference ended in January 2015. Outstanding questions about the structure of a new leadership organization, who would be involved, what financial and human resources would be available, and even whether or not membership should be formalized at all remained to be answered.

Thanks to the efforts of the CGCRT volunteers – which continued well past their agreed-upon end date – these questions have been answered. GeoAlliance Canada offers a sustainable organizational structure with a formal membership and an elected Board of Directors (nominations will be open soon!). With thanks to the support system in place at NRCan, we will be able to make real changes to the “geo” landscape in Canada almost immediately.

We did not do all of this to further the Open Government agenda (although we support it wholeheartedly and hope our work has value in that arena). We did it because it just makes sense for the future of our sector.  We have to work together to find Canada’s voice on the world stage in order to assume leadership on the issues that matter to us here at home. Geo is everywhere, and by working together, GeoAlliance Canada can be everywhere too. We hope you’ll be with us.




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