Transparency is about people

Numbers are all well and good. But we’re not perfect robot machines. That’d be weird.

People take decisions. Beautiful, irrational people. So transparency in organisations can’t only be about publishing vast amounts of data and hoping for the best.

We have to know who is taking the decisions. And who influenced the people that took the decisions. And whether they took the decision before or after lunch.

So open data is great. It’s lovely stuff. But if we’re to make institutions transparent, it’s going to be about people.

Very few people actually engage with numbers. People engage with people. So if we’re looking for public involvement, participation in or scrutiny of global governance institutions, then the people who work for global institutions are going to have to publish who they meet with, what they’re thinking, what they’re reading. What gets them fired up at work; what they worry about. What they’re doing, right now. 

If that sounds intrusive and terrifying, well, people already do this voluntarily. On twitter. We just need to get better at it. We need more people to do it. There needs to be a drop in self- censorship. And there will need to be better filters etc. But for now, just getting staff digitised is key. We don’t even know who runs global institutions – from giant private sector corporations to civil society to international organisations. A few leaders might have managed to get a digital profile going, and some do it really well. But they’re a tiny fraction.

So let’s shift the transparency discourse to be about people. How about a challenge to global institutions: get 50% of your decision-making staff on a microblogging platform. Talking about what they’re doing. The first one to do it wins some sort of transparency badge I’ll invent later. Let’s include digital people in the Open Government Partnership rules.

Is this possible? Could anyone actually do this? Should I find a few organisations and set up a race? Have any smaller global governance institutions already managed this? ITU? WEF? ICANN? Here’s looking at you.

Thoughts on a postcard please.

Flickr credit: iwouldificould

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