A Conversation on Open Government with nine international leaders and former U.S. President Barack Obama
OpenNorth Executive Director Jean-Noé on meeting with Obama Foundation
Leaders from around the world in open government gathered last month in Ottawa for the Open Government Partnership (OGP) Global Summit. One of the participants was Jean-Noé Landry, the Executive Director of OpenNorth and lead technical partner of Future Cities Canada’s Community Solutions Network.
Jean-Noé was also one of the nine international leaders selected to meet with former U.S President Barack Obama to discuss government transparency, inclusivity and accountability. This intimate conversation was organized by The Obama Foundation to hear directly from these nine leaders from organizations from Afghanistan, Argentina, Canada, Estonia, Kenya, Kyrgyzstan, Ukraine, and the United Kingdom to learn about the unique cultural and historical challenges that they are confronting, and determine what needs to be done to help them keep expanding their impact.
Former President Obama’s highlighted the role that each leader has as an individual, pointing out the importance for integrity, the need for truth, facts, and tactical engagement.
“Recognition from The Obama Foundation was a huge honour, personally and professionally. It amplifies the work that our team at OpenNorth is doing,” said Jean-Noé from OpenNorth’s headquarters in Montreal. “The opportunity to be in that moment, holding that space, it gives you a greater sense of purpose and responsibility that makes you want to be bolder, more inclusive, more courageous with your activism.”
Obama pointed out to the group how it is important for leaders to realize the responsibility they have in their positions of leadership, and have a strong sense of our core values as activists.
“Uncovering the facts, being objective and able to have confidence in what we know – and defend it is critical,” said Jean-Noe. “There is a real struggle for authenticity and these are the foundational and core principles and values that are at the heart of our democratic institutions and socio-political systems. The more we can support each other in our critical thinking in challenging our assumptions about our local democracies, the more that advantages the world at large.”
A well-earned seat, at the head of the table
OpenNorth’s initial expertise started as open data and civic technology. Now they have become leaders on open smart cities in Canada, and around the world. For Jean-Noé, their track record shows how they’ve always stayed a step ahead – seeing and anticipating industry trends – and how they have built relationships and partnerships with cities, international organizations, municipal networks, and a wide range of stakeholders, locally and globally.
“This network of relationships and partnerships is crucial to our success as the lead technical partner of the Community Solutions Network. Working with Evergreen and partners, we are the bridge-builder - helping communities talk to the right people and find the right partners by tapping into our existing networks or creating new ones.”
Jean-Noé highlighted the importance of collaboration, and the significance of bringing leaders together in the way that the Obama Foundation did in Ottawa. “We need to curate that kind of approach and nurture it and double our efforts to support different kinds of leadership within and outside government.”
“There is a degree of inter-connectedness that exists in our individual and personal struggles that we live true in our own society, but ultimately it is on a much bigger, global scale,” continued Jean-Noe. “The one thing that bonded those in Ottawa together was that we saw the common challenges in our countries and are being witnesses and drivers of changes that are occurring in society. At OpenNorth we take this very seriously in our work because that’s part of our role as an intermediary, mediator and bridge builder.”
Obama pointed out to the group how it is important for leaders to be courageous in their activism, realize the responsibility they have in their positions of leadership, and have a strong sense of our core values as activists. For Jean-Noé, “uncovering the truth, the facts, being objective and being able to have confidence in what we know – and defend it.” is critical. Especially in 2019, when “there is a real struggle of authenticity and legitimacy – [that come] at huge costs if we are not vigilant and if we do not step up. These are the foundational and core principles and values that are at the heart of our democratic institutions and socio-political systems. There is a body of knowledge that describes the democratic advantage internationally and the more we can support each other in our critical thinking in challenging our assumptions about our local democracies, the more that advantages the world at large.”
Building relationships to create open smart communities
OpenNorth is committed to their role as intermediary and bridge builder. This commitment is something that has enabled them to transition from an organization focused on open data to one that is among the few who are advancing the ‘openness movement’ and setting the international agenda. Since creating the first global definition of an open smart city with academic and governmental colleagues, Jean-Noé and his team have operationalized their research and findings as the lead technical partner of the Community Solutions Network, a program of Future Cities Canada.
Launched in March 2019, the Community Solutions Network is a new platform for communities to connect and build a national centre of excellence in open smart cities. Led by Evergreen with OpenNorth and partners, the Network is a community-centric platform, serving every type of Canadian community: big, mid-sized, Indigenous, small and northern.
OpenNorth leads the Network’s One-to-One Advisory Service to operationalize the open smart city definition developed in 2018. At no cost to the community, the Advisory Service offers basic and advanced courses online, guidelines, templates, as well as personalized guidance. The intended audiences are municipal leaders, and technical leads within cities and communities.
As OpenNorth continues to expand, Jean-Noé shared that “the key for us is to maintain our focus on not only capacity-building but field building and going into those areas that are ambiguous and challenging. We need to continue questioning the assumptions that we have about the work that we do.”
For more information on the Community Solutions Network and Advisory Services, visit the CSN webpage on FCC site.
Photos © of The Obama Foundation.