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Summer Newsletter


OpenNorth’s Executive Director Jean-Noé Landry met with The Obama Foundation and former United States President Barack Obama at the Open Government Partnership’s Global Summit in Ottawa this past May.

Welcome from the Executive Director

Hello and welcome. Big news everyone!

With longer term funding for multi-year programs in Canada and around the world, OpenNorth is embarking on a new stage in its journey. While staying connected in the civic tech sector, and the global open government community, our work now evolves three main areas of programming.

Growing from 3 staff in 2016 to 17 full time employees and many collaborating partners, our staff are committed to advancing core values of openness, accountability, collaboration, inclusion and human dignity.

In March we formalized our organizational research capacity in the form of the Applied Research Lab, with initial funding received from the J. W. McConnell Family Foundation’s Social Innovation Fund.

In June, we launched OpenNorth’s new One-to-One Advisory Service that will provide guides and assessments to help communities understand where they are in the process of becoming open and smart.

Both events mark a new era for OpenNorth. It will be one focused on providing new opportunities for communities around the world and in Canada to improve the ways in which they communicate with and serve their citizens.

On behalf of the whole OpenNorth team, I’m looking forward to the future work we will do over the course of this year.

Jean-Noé Landry Executive Director, OpenNorth 10 July, 2019

Organizational News

As the organization embarks on its future work, we have adopted three pillars to guide us:

Pillar 1: Community Support for Open Smart City Implementation OpenNorth is the lead technical partner of the Community Solutions Network and is responsible for the One-to-One Advisory Service. Available at no-cost to communities of all sizes across Canada, the Advisory Service operationalizes the Open Smart Cities definition developed by OpenNorth in 2018 and offers online basic and advanced courses, implementation guidelines, templates, as well as personalized guidance from leading advisors on open smart cities domains of data, governance, people and engagement and hardware and software.

Pillar 2: Applied Research to Solve Complex Problems We bridge geographic and cultural divides by mobilizing and synthesizing knowledge to create practical outcomes for problems institutions and communities face in facilitating data collection, bridging organisational silos, structuring multi-stakeholder data collaboration, and building internal capacity to manage data - we call this applied research. We implement this approach via the Applied Research Lab, which uses quantitative and qualitative methods to further data strategy, governance, interoperability and data-based engagement. We draw upon our extensive research partnerships on issues including AI ethics and digital transformation.

Pillar 3: Local-to-Global Scaling Up of Solutions We partner with international organizations to make our local experience and expertise relevant to others and bring back knowledge to communities in Canada. Our scaling up of local work is achieved through support from the Applied Research Lab in tailoring capacity building programs for local and national stakeholders undergoing organizational change. In so doing, we actively contribute to international peer-to-peer knowledge networks.

Project Updates

  1. The launch of OpenNorth’s One-to-One Advisory Service marks a new era. In it, OpenNorth is partnering with Evergreen to work directly to support communities of all sizes across the country in assessing their progress on becoming open and smart. We help them determine the road forward to overcome data governancepeople & engagement, and hardware and software challenges they face. Thanks to funding from Infrastructure Canada’s Smart Cities Community Support Program, we hired a new team and recruited leading advisors to fulfill OpenNorth’s part of this programme. Read more here.

  2. Ethelo and OpenNorth are excited to announce the acquisition by Ethelo of “Citizen Budget,” Canada’s leading municipal budget consultation tool. Launched in 2011 by OpenNorth, Citizen Budget has been used by over 100 Canadian municipalities for their public budget engagement. Find the full story here. Long life to Citizen Budget!

  3. Our Executive Director’s meeting with former United States President Barack Obama this past May on the sidelines of the Open Government Partnership’s Global Summit in Ottawa. During the meeting with President Obama and a small group of other international young leaders to discuss the challenges that face efforts to make government more open, transparent and accountable, Jean-Noé spoke about the challenges facing citizen agency in smart cities and the need to define new terms of democratic engagement that account for inequalities in technological systems. Find out more about this exciting meeting.

  4. At the Open Government Partnership Summit 2019 in Ottawa we heard from speakers throughout the week who ranged from ministers to city officials and activists. Notable was the increased emphasis on algorithms, AI, and disinformation, in relation to democratic participation and engagement - the Applied Research Lab present their observations from the Summit here and here. For this Summit, OpenNorth was also responsible for planning and facilitating the OGP Loca Side Event, a one-day meeting of open government stakeholders, particularly those in local government. This was attended by local government representatives from the Global North and South, as well as civil society counterparts, where discussion focused on approaches and tools for collaboration between civil society and local government.

  5. A recent project with the Privy Council Office (which supports the Prime Minister and Cabinet) gave OpenNorth the opportunity to build a prototype online learning tool on data literacy for public consultation that was designed for public officials in the Canadian Federal Government. This project also allowed us to reimplement our local to global approach in partnership with the National Democratic Institute in Ukraine. Before anyone can make decisions based on data (ie. the “data-driven decision making” paradigm that we hear so much about), they first need to be able to open, read, process, analyze and summarize that data. Find the full story here.

  6. On May 14, 2019, the Government of Canada announced that the City of Montreal was one of four winners of the country’s first-ever Smart Cities Challenge with the largest funding ($50 million). OpenNorth will be contributing to Montreal’s project in the realm of data governance. To support the development of the city’s winning proposal, OpenNorth teamed-up with a Dark Matter Labs, MIT’s designx initiative, la Maison de l’innovation sociale (MIS), Percolab, the Laboratoire d’innovation urbaine (LIUM) de Montréal, and others, on the Smart Commons project (funded by The McConnell Foundation’s Cities for People program) to document enabling conditions for regulatory experimentation. Find the full story here and read the first issue of Legitimacities with a case study on Montreal.

  7. OpenNorth’s Applied Research Lab worked with LIUM to draft the City of Montreal’s first Open Data Action Plan. The plan addresses the need to build a data culture in which openness, accessibility and usability are emphasized so that work with data can be adopted by larger, more diverse audiences. The plan also aims to reflect the realities and needs of city employees, their teams and their departments as they work as data publishers and key users of open data. Find the full story here.

  8. In March 2019, OpenNorth Applied Research Lab Urban Research Analyst, Miranda Sculthorp, attended the Rencontres nationales de la participation in Grenoble, France to exchange and debate participatory tools and methods with decision-makers, experts, activists, practitioners and citizens. Find the full story here. Miranda also attended RightsCon in Tunis, Tunisia in June 2019, where she observed and discussed smart cities, privacy, and surveillance in the Global North and South. Read the full story here.

  9. Funded by the Open Data for Development Network (OD4D), OpenNorth published a report on Open Data for Smart City and Urban Development in the Global South. In these contexts, open data is found to enable governments, international non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and local public and private leaders to innovate and create. Derived from case studies informed by interviews, our report explores some of the linkages between open data and urban development across a number of global south cities. Read the report here.

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