The Open Institute (OI) was established in 2012 to develop policies, tools and knowledge that strengthen citizens’ voices in the governance and development of their societies. Based in Kenya, and operating across East Africa, it collaborates with governments, citizens, civil society organisations and other roleplayers in support of the following objectives:
- Demonstrate the power of active citizens and effective and sustainable use of data and technology in eliminating poverty and inequality;
- Support the inclusion of active citizens in the governance and development of their society;
- Support and promote efforts by responsive governments, particularly in Africa.
OI sees a future with an open society that is managed by informed, fact-driven citizens, and features a responsive and accountable government that delivers the services its citizens need at the level of service they deserve. This society includes active non-state actors who play an active role in educating citizens on their role as responsible and active citizens in safeguarding democracy and development. These non-state actors also engage actively with the government to provide feedback from the grassroots on the changing realities facing citizens and the emerging needs for which services and policies must evolve to meet.
This society is composed of citizens who are informed about their role, empowered to play it and equipped with the right infrastructure, appropriate technology and relevant policy and legislation. OI envisages in this future an African continent that is making inclusive progress towards the elimination of poverty, creation of wealth and the establishment of capable and developmental institutions.
OI’s activities revolve around empowering local, grassroots communities through the following programmes:
Global Goals for Local Impact – this programme is founded on the belief that the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) can best be achieved at hyperlocal levels. OI works with administrators in Nakuru North Sub-County and local communities to collect data for better identification of the communities’ needs and gaps. Communities then devise ways to respond to these needs and gaps – either through advocacy or through direct action.
Responsive Government – a thriving society is highly dependent on the responsiveness of its government. OI works with governments to strengthen their ability and inclination to listen better to citizens and respond to their needs. In doing so, OI supports government structures (ministries, parastatals and officials) to acquire the technical tools that enable them to provide information transparently to the public, as well as enabling citizens to provide feedback to them. An example of these tools is the Open County Platform that showcases all revenue and expenditure of Kenya’s 47 counties in a simple way for citizens to understand.
OI has created a methodology for working with local, grassroots communities that has proven to be successful. This has led to many notable achievements and impact, including:
- Managed to successfully empower communities to organise themselves and use citizen-generated data to make better decisions for themselves;
- Created an environment where these communities are able to hold their elective representatives to account based on the data they have collected;
- Worked with all 47 Counties in Kenya through the Council of Governors to create tools that allow the counties to be transparent and show revenue and expenditure.
OI’s work has been recognized as a winner of the UN SDG Impact Award, and 2017 Kenya Open Data Award for Social Impact.
As many other NGOs, OI is also confronted with funding challenges. Most of its activities are resource-intensive and time-sensitive, and despite their impact, access to funding is limited and difficult to come by. Furthermore, NGOs in Kenya often work in silos and do not collaborate, even if they are working on similar projects, and there is a great need to stimulate collaboration in this space.
This is the seventh NGO profile of my #NGOs4Africa Campaign.