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A workshop on Multi-Stakeholder Initiatives and Governance: What did we learn and where to go from here?


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On February 11 and 12, the Transparency and Accountability Initiative (T/AI), with the support of the World Bank, convened a workshop on international multi-stakeholder initiatives (MSIs) addressing public governance issues, particularly related to government transparency and accountability.  This workshop sought to focus on understanding the ‘state of evidence’ on MSIs, and to share learning across a diverse group of individuals, ranging from MSI secretariats to researchers to civil society actors.

The workshop featured an overview of the evidence on MSIs (see presentation) and robust discussion on key themes, such as MSI theories of change, learning priorities, global-national linkages, and the involvement of citizens and civil society, against the backdrop of closing civic space.  Participants shared rich perspectives and wrestled with thorny challenges.

See below for a summary of the event and links to key resources.

How we got here

Setting the stage

An opportunity for frank discussion and collective learning

Workshop participants represented a diverse group of MSI stakeholders, who don’t often get opportunities to interact with their counterparts in other initiatives.  The workshop created spaces for specific stakeholder group discussions, involving the following groups:

  • MSI secretariats
  • Country level MSI actors
  • MSI boards
  • Researchers
  • Funders
  • INGOs

In addition, workshop participants identified key themes related to MSIs, and discussed with others some of the specific challenges and opportunities related to these issues.  Some groups generated interesting new insights or proposals for the MSI communities, others wrestled with thorny challenges that had no clear or immediate solutions.  Topics included:

Additionally, the workshop featured a space to take the emerging learning and insights in a very practical direction, through a deeper engagement with the new Open Contracting Partnership.

MSIs: Opportunities and Challenges

Throughout the workshop, participants highlighted specific challenges related to MSIs, many of which were previously identified and discussed in the previous meeting that T/AI has convened, but clearly require more thought and concerted action.  Yet thinking also turned to opportunities that MSIs must capitalize on to advance their agenda.

Learning about MSIs: An ongoing process

One of the goals of the workshop was to bring together MSI practitioners with those engaged in research and learning related to specific initiatives or across the sector.  The overview and synthesis work that Brandon and Jonathan are doing is an important piece of this, but there are a number of other compelling research efforts currently being undertaken or upcoming, that will provide new insights for understanding the role and contribution of MSIs across contexts.  Several individuals shared important learning initiatives:

Where do we go from here? A learning agenda for MSIs

The two day meeting highlighted the breadth of issues and actors related to MSIs, and differing perspectives and priorities they have with respect to these initiatives.  But across this diversity, participants clearly articulated a need to deepen our knowledge about how MSIs work, particularly in grounding global processes in national and local contexts, and what their contribution is to more transparent and accountable governance.

Conversations throughout the workshop often played out on two levels.  At one level, there was significant discussion about ‘big picture’ issues and challenges.  This included unpacking MSI theories of change (and discussing whether they could or should have one), thinking about how global initiatives intersect with national (and local) realities, and wrestling with the crisis that the closing of civil space represents for MSIs.  On the other hand, participants identified and discussed many opportunities for more concrete sharing, learning and potential collaboration.  Many of these conversations happened when stakeholder groups from across MSIs had an opportunity to engage each other, as well as when a more diverse set of participants wrestled with a challenge of mutual interest.  However, some of the most important learning and connections may have happened over a cup of coffee, when casual conversation revealed unexpected opportunities for future engagement.   These two levels of engagement and learning, big picture and more concrete, mirrors the dynamic of other learning spaces T/AI has convened, particularly the annual workshops of the TALEARN community of practice.

T/AI will continue to contribute to the evolving understanding of MSI dynamics.  We will continue to organize and consolidate the learning that happened during the February workshop, sharing it back to participants and more broadly.  In addition, the consolidation and synthesis of MSI evidence that Brandon and Jonathan are developing will be released in the coming months, accompanied by some more specifically targeted think pieces.  Finally, T/AI will be collaborating with Global Integrity to carry out a deep exploration of OGP across several contexts, which should complement other country level studies of MSIs being undertaken this year.  We commit to actively sharing the emerging lessons from our work and engaging with others who have a strong interest in strengthening learning about MSIs.

3 responses to “A workshop on Multi-Stakeholder Initiatives and Governance: What did we learn and where to go from here?”

  1. […] the past year, T/AI has been supporting a series of dialogues and workshops exploring MSIs to understand the existing evidence while probing key challenges and […]

  2. […] helped organize two workshops exploring lessons from multi-stakeholder initiatives (MSIs), in which EITI featured prominently, as well as coordinating a study to address the evidence […]

  3. […] A workshop on Multi-Stakeholder Initiatives and Governance: What did we learn and where to go from h… […]