What’s next for contracting reform? Insights from over 70 ideas to ‘Lift’ public procurement

30 Aug 2019

By Kaye Sklar

Ok, eager beavers. We knew you were committed to transforming public contracting, but the interest we had in our first ever Lift impact program bowled us over. More than 70 teams from all around the world shared their best ideas with us for data-driven contracting solutions to public problems. We’re thrilled to have so much interest in this new program and believe it will be a great opportunity to work together to transform how contracting delivers results for everyone.  

As the applications move through the formal review process, we couldn’t resist taking a sneak peek at them. The quality and diversity of ideas is truly impressive. Taken together as a whole, these applications also say a lot about the field of open contracting. Here are some of our insights:

  • Many Lift applicants could spot clear opportunities for contracting to contribute to their society. They identified crucial goals, such as growing economic opportunities for a wider variety of suppliers, including women entrepreneurs and small businesses; others focused on providing citizens with better public services, like schools, roads, public transport, medical care, cultural venues, and public facilities in underprivileged areas. This was, of course, the goal of Lift, but we did not expect so many teams from so many countries to come forward with so many goal-driven reform proposals. 
  • Civil society is a powerhouse of great ideas. Nearly 60 percent of our applications came from civil society organizations. Some of the applications focus on monitoring while others were targeted at advocacy. We did see that only a few of those projects included strong feedback loops where government and civil society collaborate to fix problems. While this kind of collaboration is, of course, not always possible, we hope that Lift can help teams find new entry points for working together.
  • Many practitioners see the Open Contracting Data Standard (OCDS) as a gateway to achieving larger goals. Most applications aimed to improve the scope of available open contracting data as a means of exploring how to respond to specific problems. We were pleased to see how many countries are working on integrating the OCDS into their e-procurement projects.
  • But we can do more to encourage reformers to link data to specific goals. While nearly all the proposals we received included implementing or improving OCDS data, a few only focused on transparency and publishing open data. Data is an important component of achieving impact, but it must be accompanied by a clear purpose for using the data to achieve goals. Without effective feedback loops, these efforts might not lead to results. We at OCP will work harder to give more guidance on how to use the OCDS for a purpose.
  • Strong, diverse teams are key for successful reform. It’s not enough to have the best policy plans or technology. We have learned over the past few years that having a diverse, capable, and collaborative team can make or break a reform project. Some of our strongest applications did have teams that include managers, experts and influencers. Only a few teams had a mix of government and civil society, or different government agencies working together. We were surprised by this and will see what this means for implementing effective feedback mechanisms.

We are still in the early stages of Lift, yet we are already energized by the amount of interest in the program and these initial insights. Our community of open contracting reformers is growing. With open contracting being implemented in more than 50 countries, we were pleased to receive proposals from both familiar members of our community and many new voices and places. 

For us, Lift is a springboard to better understanding reformers’ ambitions and pain points, to help them and the whole open contracting community to drive systemic change. We will try to support everyone who submitted an application in achieving their goals. In the Fall, we will not only announce the Lift winners and begin working with them, but also offer Learning Cohorts, community calls, and many other opportunities to everyone to boost their open contracting skills and knowledge.

We are counting down to ‘Liftoff’. Stay tuned for more updates and insights!