Introducing Design With: A Reboot Podcast Series

Last year, we hosted four incredible interviews with folks driving radical collaborations across the globe. Our world has transformed so much in the time since, but the wisdom of these great leaders sustains. Take a listen.

We are actively engaged in the dialogue and debates of our space: on issues of social justice, global development, and democratic innovation, and on the ethics and methodological evolution of design, mediation, and co-creation practice. More of our writing can be found at Medium.

Discussing the Role of Research in Design

On March 8th, Marielle Velander will join the makers and doers at this year’s Design Nation Conference in Manhattan, New York, discussing effective design from ideation to influence. Leading an executive seminar, Marielle will speak to Reboot’s design principles and practices with emerging designers, and share why research is a critical piece of the design puzzle.

Can City Spending Save Democracy?

As part of the Cities, Government & Politics track at this year’s SXSW Conference, Lauren Gardner will lead a session on March 10th illustrating the impact of city spending innovations from Madrid to Mexico City. Sharing insights from our in-depth research in global “participatory budgeting” (PB) processes, she will explore the potential for PB to engage and inform citizens, and perhaps transform our democracies along the way. Join the conversation at #SXSW.

Building Community Around Open Data

Reboot is excited to participate throughout this year’s NYC Open Data Week, organized by the Mayor’s Office of Data Analytics and BetaNYC. On March 2nd, Zack Brisson will join a panel on open contracting and smart cities at the kickoff School of Data event; on March 7th, Kisha Bwenge and Adam Parker will lead a “Storytelling for Civic Tech” panel; and on March 8th our team will host the closing reception for the week, to celebrate NYC’s vibrant open data community

ogp summit

The (Unofficial, Unsolicited) How-To Guide for the OGP Summit Session of Your Dreams

Editor’s Note: This post was co-written by Panthea Lee & Nathaniel Heller, and first appeared on Open Government Partnership Stories


This May, the Government of Canada (GoC) and Open Government Partnership (OGP) will convene the 6th OGP Summit in Ottawa, bringing nearly 100 national and local member governments of OGP and their civil society counterparts together to discuss the opportunities and challenges to make governments more responsive and accountable to citizen needs.

The call for proposals for Summit sessions is open for another week (through February 6, 2019), and we know our community is hard at work identifying topics and preparing proposals for Ottawa. But we’re eager to make this Summit the best one yet. We’ve both been to too many events where the best conversations happen by the coffee station, where we end up only catching up with those we know, and where formal programming is seen merely as a set of color-coded barriers between breaks and before happy hour. Magical things can happen when smart, ambitious people get together, but we need to be strategic about facilitating that magic; as we have too often seen, it doesn’t happen on its own.

In that spirit, here are five tips on how we can collectively make this year’s Summit greater than the sum of its parts:

Tip 1: Harness the unique value of gathering in person.

It’s 2019. Technology is wonderful(-ish). Strangers and colleagues alike can video-meet and share ideas, tips, and resources to help each other along from anywhere in the world. So why meet in person? Simply put: gatherings allow us to dig in to the thorny stuff. There’s no substitute for face-to-face gatherings to discuss complex issues; wrestle with difficult questions; come up with collective solutions; and rally, organize, and support each other to make them happen. It’s also a great way to build meaningful social capital between potential allies and partners.

Let us think bigger and more creatively about the value of a global gathering to do things that we otherwise can’t through digital, remote, asynchronous channels. Let us realize the promise of face-to-face human connection, dialogue, and action.

Tip 2: Do talk about ideas. Don’t put on a dog and pony show

As you’re thinking about topics, remember why you started working in this movement to begin with—start conversations from that place. Meaning: Ask the big questions, debate the answers.

People are human. They like arguments and contested ideas, not four people saying the same thing using different words. They want to be entertained, not lectured at or sold to. No one wants to come to a session that is marketed as “Useful Thoughts on a Big Think Topic” that is then delivered as “How My Organization Is (or Did Something) Awesome.” You can easily identify the latter by the ratio of heads-staring-at-phones to heads-looking-at-the-lectern.

Be biased towards a discussion format that pits presenters and participants with different ideas against each other. (And if you’re organizing a panel, design a cohesive and critical conversation that speaks to the above, rather than a lineup of tangentially linked show-and-tells.) Sharing how you or another organization did something is fine (concrete examples are helpful!) but then talk about what worked and what didn’t. Tell us how you achieved those wins and be honest about where we’re falling short.

Tip 3: Tie your session to what is happening in the world.

There’s a lot going on in the world right now. Nationalist political agendas are gaining traction. Corruption scandals erupt and confound weekly. Threats to civic space are growing the world over. Despite working on these issues day in and day out, these issues become abstract topics to chew on, rather than concrete challenges to address when we enter the conference force field.

But change doesn’t happen in the abstract. Change happens when groups of committed people develop targeted, sophisticated responses to specific challenges in specific contexts, and launch them within specific windows of opportunity. Put simply, it happens when they solve real-life problems using common sense, smarts, and often a dose of luck.

So as you develop your sessions, ask yourself: How can my session contribute, in a very concrete way, to the changes I’d like to see in the world? What are immediate needs or opportunities I see, and how can we address those? Name those challenges, people, and opportunities specifically rather than falling back on archetypes, personas, and frameworks.

Tip 4: Propose solutions. Be action-oriented.

The Summit is not just about high-level deliverables like policy reform commitments or pledges of new partnerships. All sessions should have a bias towards solutions and action. At the beginning of your session, be clear about what your objectives are, then revisit those at the end. Attendees should walk out having achieved that objective; otherwise, you’ve missed an opportunity to learn, influence, and organize.

The best solutions or ideas in the room might come from lay participants rather than presenters. Do your best to structure the discussions as a two-way conversation between them. At the end, summarize the ideas surfaced, invite attendees to name concrete actions they can take to move them forward, and volunteer to coordinate follow-up.

(Bonus) Tip 5: Make our new friends feel welcome.

While this principle may not apply to all sessions, it’s important to keep in mind. Given that inclusion is a priority for Ottawa, the organizers are investing in bringing people and communities that don’t usually participate in these conversations. This means that in May—in addition to existing commitments to support more women attending—we’ll see more young people, more representatives from indigenous communities, and more colleagues from the Global South. This is fantastic.

To make sure everyone can get the most out of the Summit—which, in turn, will help the open government community expand and deepen its impact—and welcome our new friends, we can:

  • Make sessions as jargon- and acronym-free as possible
  • Indicate the ‘experience level’ each session is appropriate for—there is certainly value in sessions tailored to seasoned open gov folks; if that’s yours, please note that
  • Get to know these new players joining our fold, and help them think through how our movement can support their work, as well as how we can benefit from their inclusion and ideas

Of course, we’re not the only ones that have been thinking about how to maximize the value of gatherings. The OpenGov Hub community, for one, published this really helpful guide last year to provide practical tips and tricks for a successful session—read it!

Finally, a disclaimer: neither of us sit on the Summit selection committee for sessions, and our recommendations are in no way endorsed by either the GoC or OGP. So if you follow our suggestions, we’re grateful, but there’s no guarantee your proposals will get accepted. But if many of you follow these suggestions *and* your proposals get accepted, we can expect a pretty darn exciting Summit this year. (You can also buy us a drink at the after party to thank us!)

See you in Ottawa, where we’ll be excited to debate ideas, rally around promising solutions, and roll up our sleeves and get to work.


Photo courtesy of the Open Government Partnership’s Flickr page.

Royce Nitta and Emily Lanzas Bogaard

Welcome Royce Nitta and Emily Lanzas Bogaard!

Meet Reboot’s new spring interns, Royce and Emily! Royce, our Business Development Intern, is currently pursuing his MPA in social impact, innovation, & investment from NYU | Wagner. He brings a range of experience as a marketer and strategist, and will apply his skills to our events and business development team. Emily, our People and Operations Intern, is currently pursuing her MA in Industrial and Organizational Psychology at Hofstra University. She specializes in applying psychology to workplace challenges to make individuals, teams and organizations work more efficiently and achieve their goals.

RTD4AM Article Newly Published in Peer-Reviewed Journal

The Journal of Development in Practice recently published “Can ICT-enabled real-time data contribute to adaptive management in development programming?” co-authored by Rebooter Carrie Oppenheimer. Based on our work in Tanzania—with our partners at the Institute of Development Studies, Overseas Development Institute, and Feedback Labs—the article details our research into how development program managers are successfully using real-time data to improve results for a new birth-registration system in the country.

Amplifying Accountability workshop

A New Strategy in Nigeria: Why Donors Should Invest in Accountability

Editor’s Note: This op-ed from Adam Talsma was recently published on Nigeria Health Watch. 


The key to improving health care in Nigeria is not necessarily better doctors, more advanced medicine, or technological advances. It’s better governance.

Dr. Mike Adeyemi-Lawal made this point clearly in a recent Thought Leadership piece, in which he encourages politicians to commit to tangible health goals—and encourages citizens to hold them accountable….

In the work of holding government actors to their promises, citizens have an important ally: International donors. Many donors have long invested in Nigeria’s health sector and created positive outcomes. Now, to create lasting impact, donors have an important opportunity to shift strategy. To ensure everyone can access the health, education, and other services they need to thrive, more donors need to …

Read the full op-ed on Nigeria Health Watch:


Person holding a mobile phone

Using Data, Getting Results: New From the Journal of Development in Practice

Editor’s Note: We are excited to share this article co-authored by Carrie Oppenheimer and newly published in the peer-reviewed Journal of Development in Practice. Based on our work in Tanzania—with partners Institute of Development Studies, Overseas Development Institute, and Feedback Labs—Carrie and her co-authors detail our research into how development program managers are successfully using real-time data to improve results (or not!). 


The use of RTD for AM is not, paradoxically, about technology—it is about the strategic and cultural environment that enables RTD to be utilised as a driver of organisational decision-making and of institutional transformation. While RTD can certainly raise the questions and highlight opportunities, it cannot open the door to this kind of transformation either within programmes or more broadly in organisations. As with other forms of evidence utilisation, the key factor is political, institutional, and individual will.

Read the full article at the Journal of Development in Practice:


“Accountability: The Key To Improving Health” Published in Nigeria Health Watch

Nigeria Health Watch, a health advocacy and policy blog, published an op-ed by Rebooter Adam Talsma on the importance of government accountability for improved outcomes in the health sector. The piece encourages international aid donors worldwide to include accountability measures in their strategic approach to building effective and sustainable public service delivery within the Nigerian health sector, and beyond.

Facilitating Dialogue for Anti-Corruption in Action

Zack Brisson and Ugochi Ekwueme will be key participants at the upcoming event, “Tackling corruption: making progress, learning lessons and building capacity,” hosted by Transparency International UK and Wilton Park from January 16-18. Zack will be the lead facilitator for over sixty experts in attendance, synthesizing the open dialogue on effective anti-corruption implementation. Ugochi will bring her expertise in open government to chair a session on building anti-corruption networks across sectors.

A New Model of Collaboration to Protect Journalists in Nigeria

Editor’s Note: This post was written by Adam Talsma, Chioma Agwuegbo, and Yop Pam.  

Two years ago, journalist Jones Abiri was arrested by the Nigerian Department of State Services for the “offense” of criticizing the federal government. That unlawful arrest puts a spotlight on the threats increasingly facing journalists in Nigeria. And the story of how Abiri was finally released, after more than two years in prison, shows how the media sector in Nigeria has begun working in new collaborative ways to face these threats and push for more accountable governance.

Abiri’s story is just one from Reboot’s ongoing work with the MacArthur Foundation’s On Nigeria Program and its eight media grantees. This program is part of an important conceptual shift that recognizes that the real obstacles to service delivery in Nigeria are governance challenges. And it seeks to remove those obstacles by supporting Nigerian-led efforts to promote accountability, transparency, and good governance.

The Accountability Ecosystem

When it comes to the complex challenges of improving governance, the MacArthur Foundation and Reboot recognize that no single organization can create watershed change. Instead, we aim to foster an “accountability ecosystem,” a web of efforts that strengthen and reinforce one another. At Reboot, we use the metaphor of the ecosystem to emphasize the interconnectedness of the many key players that must work together to hold the Nigerian government to account: civil society organizations, journalists, social media influencers, subnational media advocacy organizations, government reformers, and citizens.

Collaboration between the diverse actors within the accountability ecosystem, some of whom may have previously viewed each other more as adversaries than allies, looks much easier on paper than it is in practice. Yet collaboration is a key feature of a well-functioning accountability ecosystem. Because powerful actors are motivated to preserve the status quo, attempts to highlight abuses of power are often met with aggressive pushback from the government and the private sector. Collaboration, including sharing resources and expertise among these different groups, strengthens the entire ecosystem and protects individual actors who might otherwise be persecuted for their work. We’ll be writing more about the specific strategies Reboot uses to support collaboration—stay tuned for an upcoming blog post, this month.

How Collaboration Protects Journalists

One early example of collaboration in action is the Media Alliance, a coalition being shaped through the On Nigeria program with the facilitation support of Reboot. The Media Alliance responds to government harassment of journalists in a sustained way, while working to make journalist intimidation a high-profile and high-priority social issue for both government officials and the public at large.

Responding to journalist Jones Abiri’s arrest was one of this nascent alliance’s first efforts. When Abiri was first arrested, two journalist protection organizations released statements, but got no response from the government. More recently, a member of the Media Alliance investigated further, and met with members of Abiri’s family in his hometown. When the investigations were released, multiple members of the Media Alliance signed a joint press release and worked with local civil society organizations to spread the message.

The response on Twitter was overwhelming. It raised the public consciousness of the issue and pressured the government to respond.

Shortly after, Abiri was released on a reduced bail and formally charged, a significant victory in a case where activists had lacked proof he was even alive. The Alliance continued to mobilize partners to speed Abiri’s trial to a positive conclusion: Mr. Abiri was acquitted of all charges, his detention was denounced as “criminal intimidation,” and the government was ordered to pay him compensation.

Today, we’re proud to share this and other of our partners’ milestones on the road to impact. Check out Reboot’s new report: Amplifying Accountability: Building a Culture of Collaboration with Media and Civil Society. The report shares case studies, stories, and lessons learned from this ongoing project—along with specific recommendations for donors and practitioners who want to increase their impact toward good governance.


Support for the Long Haul: Meet Reboot Media

The Media Alliance that secured Abiri’s release, as well as the #ISupportFreePress campaign we blogged about last week, and other initiatives highlighted in the report, have grown out of Reboot’s long-running work. For three years, we have been engaged with local organizations in West Africa to understand the unique challenges and opportunities facing media there, through our Reboot Media program.

In all aspects of that program, we are working to seize opportunities to foster a stronger accountability ecosystem in which individual journalists and innovators are protected and enabled to bring abuses of power to light.

Our new report offers an inside look at the strategy behind this work. We hope you’ll take a look, and then find us on Twitter to share your thoughts—and to lend your voice to our  #ISupportFreePress campaign.

Journalism Is Not a Crime: Updates from #ISupportFreePress Nigeria

Every society needs brave, hard-working journalists to hold our governments accountable—and, just as importantly, every journalist needs a committed, aware society to protect their work. Only when citizens themselves are invested in freedom of the press can independent media fulfill its watchdog role.

That’s the motivation behind the “I Support Free Press Campaign,” a movement of media and civil society organizations, rallying online and in-person, to spark mainstream conversations about journalist harassment. During the first week of the campaign, the #ISupportFreePress hashtag reached more than 300,000 people, as journalists and supporters tweeted their personal experiences and values:

We’re excited to extend the conversation all across Nigeria. And we want you to help!

Join Us: Abuja Town Hall, December 4

Tomorrow, we’re co-organizing a town hall meeting in Abuja. Join us!

Journalism Town Hall
Tuesday, December 4, at 10am
Ventures Park
29 Mambilla Street Off Aso Drive
Maitama Abuja

The town hall will bring together media union representatives and journalists for a panel discussion about the work these unions are doing, and their plans for improving journalist welfare. We’ll be joined by the presidents of the Nigerian Union of Journalists, the National Association of Women Journalists, and the National Press Council. Our collective hope is that this town hall will lead to lasting commitments to protect journalists and encourage more investigative reporting in the public interest.

Join the Conversation Online

You can still get involved by tweeting as part of the #ISupportFreePress campaign! The campaign is a collaboration between the Reboot Media program and the Premium Times Centre for Investigative Journalism, with support from the MacArthur Foundation. Our goal is to build awareness across Nigeria about attacks on journalists and, more broadly, the importance of the free press and its effect on a democratic government. It’s part of a wider effort to build momentum ahead of the upcoming February 2019 national elections.

In addition to building citizen awareness, the campaign also brings journalists together to create best practices for fighting press suppression. That’s why we’ve been working offline with journalists for discussions, including at events last month in Lagos and Abuja, where more than 30 journalists gathered to share personal stories of harassment, and the Premium Times Centre for Investigative Journalism premiered a short video documentary about press freedom:

You Can Get Involved

If you’re working in Nigeria—whether as a journalist, a member of a media organization or CSO, or a citizen concerned about corruption—we invite you to host a meeting in your community to help bring the serious issue of journalist harassment into the limelight. We have a toolkit of conversation starters, meeting tools, and even free t-shirts.

Email us at isupportfreepress@reboot.org and we’ll get you resources to increase the impact of your event. Because freedom of the press is a cornerstone for ensuring accountability for all.

Welcome Amira El-Sayed!

Reboot is thrilled to welcome Amira El-Sayed to the team as our new Director of Programs & Strategy. Bringing her expertise in leading complex, large scale transparency and accountability initiatives, Amira will guide Reboot’s work across our portfolio to support public sector innovation around the world. She looks forward to applying her strategic and programmatic skills to further our mission for good governance.

Global Design for Participatory Democracy

Reboot, in partnership with the Hewlett Foundation, is hosting a new, action-oriented workshop for participatory budgeting (PB) experts, implementers, and funders. Taking place Barcelona, Spain from November 28th to 29th, our PB Exchange will bring together diverse stakeholders to co-design approaches to strengthen PB initiatives. Building on the global momentum of PB, and immediately following the IOPD Conference on participatory democracy, this workshop will focus on peer exchange and problem-solving for PB.

Reimagining Open Society in the Digital Age

From November 14th to 16th, Zack Brisson will attend the 2018 Bridges Project Retreat: “Re-imagining the Open Society in the Digital Age,” near Paris, France. Hosted by Counterpoint UK and the Open Society European Policy Institute, this retreat will bring together top leaders, researchers, and thinkers in governance and technology to examine the future of digital societies. Participants will discuss interdisciplinary solutions to the dilemmas surrounding our rapidly evolving tech and global politics.

Collective Action for Global Peace and Good Governance

Zack Brisson will be a mentor at the annual Paris Peace Forum from November 11th to 13th, engaging participants around financial transparency with the Open Contracting Partnership, as part of the Paris Peace Forum Hackathon. This convening is a solutions-oriented platform for all global governance actors, including heads of state and local government from 84 countries, to debate and innovate around new models of international collaboration. Follow the conversation at #ParisPeaceForum.

Join Us In The #ISupportFreePress Media Campaign!

Chioma Agwuegbo, Yop Rwang Pam, and Ugochi Ekwueme will kick off our #ISupportFreePress Campaign on November 2nd in Abuja, and November 3rd in Lagos. In partnership with media organizations across Nigeria, #ISupportFreePress aims to build a social movement around the urgent need to protect press freedom, so that journalists can safely contribute to government accountability and transparency. Show your support on social media with @TheReboot and #ISupportFreePress.

Welcome Ugochi Ekwueme!

Reboot warmly welcomes our new Program Associate, Ugochi Ekwueme, to our West Africa office. Ugochi brings a range of experience and influence in the media and governance space in Nigeria, working as a strategic communicator, practitioner, and advocate for government transparency. She also draws from her background in documentary film to drive social social change. Ugochi looks forward to contributing to our open governance and media development work across the continent.

Taking Action Against Corruption

From October 22nd to 24th, Zack Brisson will attend the International Anti-Corruption Conference (IACC) in Copenhagen, Denmark. The IACC is a biannual convening of global leaders from governments, civil society, multilateral agencies, and the private sector to strengthen the anti-corruption movement. Participants will develop commitments around this year’s theme: Together for Development, Peace and Security: Now is the Time to Act. Join the conversation at #18IACC.

Welcoming New Leadership for NYC Open Data

New York City recently appointed Kelly Jin as the Chief Analytics Officer and Director of the Mayor’s Office of Data Analytics (MODA), and we look forward to witnessing her leadership as she amplifies the impact of public data in NYC. Reboot was excited to share our support and enthusiasm in the City’s official announcement on Jin’s appointment, and you can read the full press release here.