Testing 123 – a unique fund for accelerating transparency!

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Transparency and accountability in government is receiving renewed support driven in part by our common desire for a better world where government fulfils its role most effectively when its activities are open and transparent to the citizens. Perennial failure of leadership and corruption amongst other things has however nurtured wide spread apathy amongst citizens in most African countries. The strong sense of powerlessness meant that the concept of downward accountability and constructive engagement with civil society and citizens are still relatively uncharted.

With the above context, a key priority to balance as we drive for more open government is the need to make all voices count by supporting novel approaches that enhances citizens’ engagement in development and governance processes. Identifying and supporting these untested novel ideas from unlikely sources is what the Global Integrity Testing 123 Innovation Fund aims to accelerate.

The fund which is one of its kind aims to enable innovation in government transparency and accountability by investing in up to 10 brand new ideas that create new information or illuminate existing information with the goal of holding those responsible to account.

At an Open Information Session organized at the Co-creation Hub Nigeria on the 15th of October 2012; over 20 social entrepreneurs, open government champions, geeks and concerned citizens gathered to learn more about the fund through a Q&A session with Nicole Anand (via Skype). A panel discussion involving the founders of BudgITngiWatchLive and The Constitution for All Projects was also held at the session to highlight works being done in bridging the gap between government and the average Nigerian.

While the Q&A provided insights that I hope will help the local community in Nigeria benefit from the fund, the key learning experience from the session for me came out of the panel discussion. The opportunity to experiment & test assumptions was clearly the single most important success factor according to the panelists. They highlighted how their seemingly innovative ideas were based on little or no empirical intelligence but a strong theory of change informed by personal experience. Given the chance to experiment, they have gone ahead to create popular platforms that are playing a key role in the emerging knowledge revolution in Nigeria.

The experience of these 3 social change agents highlights the strength of Testing 123 Innovation Fund in building bottom-up community driven initiatives aimed at driving government transparency in countries such as Nigeria. While the need to guarantee result will often scare investors away from untested ideas and organizations, the likely gains available for the development of nations at a time like this are bound to be missed while sticking to the traditional ways of doing things – tested ideas and organizations (which are yet to lift us out of our undesired state).

By ‘Bosun Tijani (Connector – Testing 123 Innovation Fund, CEO/Co-founder, Co-creation Hub Nigeria)