What Citizens Can Teach Civil Servants About Open Government

Brazil’s largest city is embarking on an ambitious experiment to educate its public employees on the benefits of transparency.

Reposted from Governing Magazine by Maria Hermossilla and Beth Simone Noveck

An open government is one that is transparent, participatory and collaborative. But moving from traditional government operating behind closed doors to more open institutions, where civil servants work together with citizens to create policies and solve problems, demands new skills and sensibilities.

As more and more American public-sector leaders embrace the concept of openness as a positive force for governmental effectiveness, they would do well to look toward Brazil’s largest city, where an unusual experiment was just launched: an effort to use a variation on crowdsourcing to retrain Sao Paulo’s 150,000 civil servants. It’s described as the world’s largest open-government training program.

The program, known as Agents of Open Government – part of a wider city initiative called “Sao Paulo Aberta” (Open Sao Paulo) — aims to teach through peer-to-peer learning, where government employees learn from citizens. Twenty-four citizen-led courses that began last month are aimed not only at government employees and elected community representatives but also at social activists and the general population.

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