After serving as Acting Director, Gabriella was appointed through a competitive process.
Our research team have been practically embedding our MERL framework in current projects and programmes.
We are exploring a variety of solutions for promoting a healthy, collaborative, effective and fun remote-friendly work space.
We are building up case studies that demonstrate our plan and impact, and have created a service stream related to this work.
We have been leveraging social media regularly and effectively during the year.
There is way too much information on the subject which only relates to getting you to sign up with what ever lawyer firm has posted it.
Yours is the first site I have come across that is actually not just trying to help but has put valuable information out there. I was able to find everything I had questions about.
SANEF Elections Dashboard
Thanks to OpenUp for doing great work to pull all kinds of data together, providing journalists and the public with local government election intel to better understand municipal dynamics in SA!
We are using a lot of information from youth explorer [in our app] and it's helping a lot.
Matzikama Participation Tool
I do not think I have seen anything as beautiful and informative as this website. This is excellent work!
OpenUp is a national treasure. I learned so much about the township I grew up in (Osizweni) through Wazimap… it was like meeting my people all over again, and it helped me to contextualise the struggles I see whenever I visit home (14k annual median income, population age distribution etc.). You guys really are peerless. Great job
Living Wage Calculator
I smiled recently when the residents of my neighbourhood got into discussion on Whatsapp about how much to pay their domestic workers and someone posted this:
“Hi all, on this topic defs recommend tinkering with this excelling piece of local data journalism - it also shows all its background assumptions so you can ethically think through your (and your domestic workers) particular situation.”
Building sustainable systems that humans can navigate
Processes and relationships exist between citizens and government that, if functioning, can improve social, political and economic outcomes. And where they don’t exist, these processes could be created.
Charlie Chaplin working his way through "the machine"
Increase the force exerted on the cogs
Through community-building, creation of awareness campaigns and content development
Reduce the friction between the cogs
Through relationship-building, enhanced or facilitated communications and the implementation of tools
By creating new systems that connect citizens and state, or forward shared aims
By removing or adapting systems that connect citizens and state, or forward shared aims
To action these ideas, OpenUp believes we should undertake activities (and see impact) across three main sites “government”, “”citizens” and “processes”, because:
For the two beneficiary groups, the key to our interventions are summarised under our Inform, Empower and Activate (IEA) mission. In relation to both processes and relationships, our key objectives are to improve and refine existing connections. Central to all decisions around these strategies are data and information, which we both extract, repackage and disseminate. OpenUp can create positive change in these systems, by:
Building impact-centred technology
Building impact-centred tools
Making and/or opening data
Building evidence and knowledge
Training and passing on of skills
Engaging stakeholders, communities and knowledge-sharing
OpenUp has been providing support to tenants in the eviction process in South Africa through the Eviction Guide since 2019. It is a highly responsive mobile site (accompanied by a hard copy guide distributed by partners) which arose from collaborations with Ndifuna Ukwazi and Reclaim the City. However, the COVID-19 lockdowns in South Africa precipitated a dramatic increase of users - causing OpenUp to ask, how do we ourselves action user data to better inform our approaches to social impact?
Between the launch of the site and the declaration of the state of disaster in March 2020, the site had an average of around 250 users per month. By May 2020, this number had exploded to more than 4500 monthly users, before climbing slightly further in June 2020. As the chart above shows, moreover, the average number of monthly users since March 2020 has been in excess of 3250. Some of the increase is attributable to users visiting the site’s page specifically pertaining to COVID-19 regulations, which has become one of the site’s most popular pages, but we have also seen a significant increase in the number of visits to pages containing basic information on a person’s rights when faced with an imminent eviction.
By May 2020, this number had exploded to more than 4500 monthly users, before climbing slightly further in June 2020.
This revision of data was then incorporated into the Eviction Guide strategy - informing the next steps in the implementation of the project, which includes acknowledging the limitations of providing information alone in the face of systemic challenges. Whilst the Eviction Guide was developed collaboratively, OpenUp are not content specialists - yet we continue to struggle to see those who are content specialists adopt and internalise our products, in spite of their success. This is challenging as it implicates our long-term funding - requiring continued funds for sustaining and maintaining products. We have however actioned this realisation - incorporating sustainability and maintenance budgets within our core budget lines. This has also led to the team reaching out again to the non-profit sector to instead try and develop a community of content specialists and practitioners around the Eviction Guide, as an alternative method of sustaining its relevance and content development. As the Product Owner, Shaun, himself noted:
“You can look at it as an experiment in trying to answer that question. It's an opportunity to use our processes and our methodologies, our team and our skills to attack a specific problem, but then to also answer the question of does civic technology actually help to solve problems. So in a way the eviction project is one of the ways in which we are testing our own methodology, testing our own processes to see if civic technology actually can make a difference.”
The Guide clearly, and responsively, categorises engagement opportunities and highlights them to citizens — manifesting exceptionally important political opportunities for citizens to democratically participate year round.
In 2020, OpenUp also began the more earnest development of our Public Participation Guide pilot in Matzikama Municipality, a product idea spurred by our engagements with both citizens and government over the past few years. The Guide clearly, and responsively, categorises engagement opportunities and highlights them to citizens — manifesting exceptionally important political opportunities for citizens to democratically participate year round. However, in developing that version of the product we identified a few shortcomings and challenges (a vital result of having the product go through our “experimental” project phase):
We also conducted collaborative research with Ideas42 on the first phases of the Guide, which helped us construct the following priority areas for reimagining the site:
The Participation Guide is underway, and tests can be viewed here and here. OpenUp have then done 16 different forms of youth-centred user interviews, which has so far proven to be largely positively received:
The more detailed parts of these forms of feedback will be inputted into design, but there is also a more central value to our pivot: it more closely aligns to our goals to drive citizen-centred solutions through citizen-centred methods.
Since its inception OpenUp has partnered with a variety of civil society organisations in order to expand impact for both parties. Often the challenge for OpenUp has been maintaining a strict line between partner and mere service provider. We view technology as a catalyst and thus hope that in most cases the technologies will be adopted for maintenance by our partners, given its utility and the capacity-building we try to invest in.
We view technology as a catalyst and thus hope that in most cases the technologies will be adopted for maintenance by our partners, given its utility and the capacity-building we try to invest in.
One example of such a partnership is the one we continue with the Parliamentary Monitoring Group (PMG) (https://pmg.org.za/) and People’s Assembly (https://www.pa.org.za/). These kinds of partnership demonstrate the ability to reap dividends in terms of value for citizens.
Youth work is often seen as a subset of other impact work by social impact organisations. There is seldom sufficient acknowledgement of youth as the majority of civil and political actors in the country. Significant levels of youth unemployment, however, mean there are incredibly strong incentives for political engagement. What is missing are the tools to facilitate this engagement.
Significant levels of youth unemployment, however, mean there are incredibly strong incentives for political engagement. What is missing are the tools to facilitate this engagement.
OpenUp’s seminal Codebridge Youth (CBY) Programme continues to focus on politically and technologically capacitating rural youth, in various communities, to engage in local government politics. Yet during the majority of the reporting period, we were still subject to differing levels of lockdown, directly challenging direct engagement with youth within their communities. Nevertheless, progress on Codebridge Youth continued across sites (including our new site In Rosh Pinah).
There can be no better indicator of success, than youth self-organising through the CBY Cape Agulhas structures to for tutoring support:
One of our CBY members, Graça Visagie, has been hired to support the local Cape Agulhas Local Council (managing social media, communications and marketing) after leading on the Codebridge Youth communications.
Additionally, the activation of the youth is well demonstrated - with many of them readily seizing opportunities that arise from activities. One of our CBY members, Graça Visagie, has been hired to support the local Cape Agulhas Local Council (managing social media, communications and marketing) after leading on the Codebridge Youth communications. Renier Louw was the Coordinator of the Cape Agulhas Youth Council before being elected as a ward councillor in the community of Cape Agulhas.
There is also, vitally, a creative and cooperative relationship between the Codebridge Youth Community and the Municipality itself. This is the epitome of active citizenship, and is well demonstrated in this wonderful musical collaboration on the role of ward committees:
As general outputs, in the reporting period OpenUp completed a significant amount of activities in spite of the lockdown “hangover”. While travel continued to be challenging, we continued to develop our CBY remote skills development programme as additional support in response. Some outputs included inter alia:
In 2021/22, and in partnership with the Department of Cooperative Governance (CoGTA), OpenUp began to develop a proof of concept for the promotion of good governance in municipalities. The concept was to deliver a tool that could facilitate oversight of Municipal Committees.
The larger contextual problem concerns efficiencies in South African local government, which is what MPACs sought to address.
Section 79 of the Municipal Structures Act establishes Municipal Public Accounts Committee (MPAC) committees that are usually temporary, and appointed by the executive committee as needed. They are typically set up to investigate a particular issue and do not have any decision-making powers. The main purpose of the MPAC is to exercise oversight over the executive functionaries of council and to ensure good governance in the municipality.
The larger contextual problem concerns efficiencies in South African local government, which is what MPACs sought to address. However, they have still not fully realised their potential within the good governance landscape in South Africa. This is in part because of how reporting happened. The process of collecting the data from municipalities about the performance of the MPAC committee was done manually. This created a potential blocker to compliance from the Municipalities through a heavier, manual compliance; increased the risks of inconsistent and inaccurate reporting through a lack of standardisation; and created reporting oversight challenges given the lack of standardised, centralised reporting data.
OpenUp has consequently developed a significant tool for multi-tier reporting.
OpenUp has consequently developed a significant tool for multi-tier reporting. An outline of the DCOG Monitoring Tool training materials is available for review here, which can provide some additional insight into the current functionality of the tool.
An outline of the chief functions of the dashboard, which provides oversight into reporting, is that:
An outline of the chief functions of the backend, which provides for the constructions of the data uploading, is that: It allows the forms to be generated (questionnaires, sections, questions); it facilitates deployment of forms, and it facilitates deployment of Users.
A product has been finalised, and has been the subject of testing and uptake. It has not yet been rolled out across all provinces, but it provides a simple, clear tool for multi-tier reporting across government spheres in South Africa.
There are strong indications that existing digital hegemonies dominate the govtech landscape in South Africa - in other words, govtech is increasingly dominated by the outsourcing of technology development to big tech actors, resulting in vendor lockin, diminished public sector innovation capacity, and the deployment of inefficient solutions (read for instance here and here). Yet, with financial, technical and process (including procurement) constraints, it is difficult for public sector entities to source technology “differently”.
OpenUp up offers agile, user-centred design innovation in partnership with its government partners and at competitive rates
OpenUp up offers agile, user-centred design innovation in partnership with its government partners and at competitive rates (when the project falls within our own Constitutional mandate), with open source as a priority to help with sustainability.
We have, through a competitive process, won a second tender to produce Vulekamali Phase II in 2022-23. Vulekamali is being produced into a case study in collaborative design, which will be presented at the UN Sciences Summit in the next reporting period. And beside these indicators, which include references in academic publications like here and here, they demonstrate productive value to citizens:
We also continue to receive support to build and maintain the great Munimoney, and we believe its current sustainability is a marker of its success.
Sustainability of projects and organisations need to be examined from both the supply and demand side to create a collaborative, positive civic technology ecosystem.
Sustainability of projects and organisations need to be examined from both the supply and demand side to create a collaborative, positive civic technology ecosystem. This is why it is important to embed open source and capacity-building into the budgets for govtech projects (even in the municipal projects which often by necessity rely on core funds).
OpenUp have been developing Wazimap as a central product offering for several years. Whilst we see it as an important project for impact, we have begun engaging with its potential as a sustainability product for our broader impact activities. You can read all about it here.
South Africa’s open data context remains challenging - there is not only insufficient data readily available, but there are still challenges in placing that data into a clean, usable, and consistent format for comparative purposes. As much as literature talks about a lack of digital skills, this can be further defined as a lack of data skills across South African sectors. Wazimap is a significant step to solving parts of those problems.
Within the reporting period Wazi instances accounted for 7.2% of our total income received.
The product itself definitely demonstrates value for its users, providing context to data simply, and beautifully.
The product itself definitely demonstrates value for its users, providing context to data simply, and beautifully. Importantly, part of our offering is the addition of already refined and uploaded data sets from a variety of sources that all have strong policy relevance. It even makes the downloading of data simple, as a more interactive and contextual repository than say a CKAN instance.
We have an expanding profile of Wazi instances (many of which also have a sandbox enabling continual experimentation with indicators).
In spite of the potential of technology to advance participation and other important social, economic and political outcomes, there is still an exceptional lack of awareness about this transformative role and about the risks that can be associated with implementing technology in these same contexts.
OpenUp has significantly increased our presence at events, and in support of other civic technology communities to raise awareness of these opportunities.
OpenUp has significantly increased our presence at events, and in support of other civic technology communities to raise awareness of these opportunities. This is important both from a communications and awareness-raising perspective, as well as for community participation to increase opportunity access.
We continue to participate very actively in the Civic Tech Innovation Network, and engaged in multiple panels at CTIN Conference. Internationally, our Code for All participation is also incredibly active (which included several presentations at their Summit too). We have begun giving a strong voice to open movements, civic technology and citizen empowerment through a variety of presentations, such as at inter alia the SANEF on Community Media and Data Needs, 25 November 2021; and Corruption and the Rise of Whistleblower, 21 October 2021.
OpenUp continues investing significant energy into professionalisation of our operations, whilst still fostering a dynamic and fairly flatline responsibilities chain. Gabriella Razzano was appointed Executive Director after a competitive application process, and she and Lailah Ryklief lead on organisational development with Lailah as Chief Operating Officer.
In terms of our financial processes, our external bookkeeper - Janine Pretorius - has expanded her staffing, and as a consequence we have outsourced additional administrative finance functions.
We have increased our research capacity with the appointments of Jono Bosman, Carl Jacobs and Khumo Sello. In addition, we hired Sihle Makanya as Project Manager and Dirk Meerkotter as Fullstack Developer in the reporting period.
We increasingly offer employment, as opposed to freelancer contracts, where appropriate. This provides staff with security - and improves their own commitment to OpenUp as an organisation. This has had immensely positive results, with several OpenUp staff being placed in positions to attain their first homes.
We have been focusing increasingly on Staff Wellness, as well as on team building, especially in response to the immense individual strains staff were placed under during the whole of the lockdown period. We have elected a completely voluntary office attendance policy, which we are able to do because of the cost effectiveness of our premises. This allows our Johannesburg and Knysna staff to not relocate, but also we have seen an incredible appreciation for flexibility, given the varying personal commitments that each team member has.
In order to ensure the remote-heavy context does not result in damage to the team, we are regularly organising get togethers and functions, including a remote presentation by the Museum of Failure founder Samuel West that we hosted at a Cape Town hotel on 1 December. Another highlight was our team-building activities jointly held in Cape Town at the end of 2021 at Acrobranch:
In the above report, we outlined within the specific narrative sections key products that were developed. More broadly, we continue a low tech approach; technology is a tool, and as such must be context specific. This means actively choosing interventions that prioritise usability over stack preference — for instance, we have significantly benefited from the use of webflow.io for helping to implement highly responsive, simple websites, rather than pursuing on phone applications requiring software (unless necessary).
Our philosophy is fundamentally open (and open source). This contributes not just to transparency and re-use, but also to sustainability for public service development (it means we avoid vendor lock-in, in particular). As part of this too, we are proud of our Github contributions, which can be reviewed here: https://github.com/OpenUpSA. This is in itself an indication of our contribution to the development of a capacitated and socially focused civic technology community, where we have over 170 repositories with multiple forks and a few hundred stargazers.
In 2021 the Board resolved to appoint Gabriella Razzano as Executive Director. Late in 2021 Director Taya Darch went on maternity leave. She joyfully welcomed a second son to the world on 30 Jan 2022.
In 2021-2022, OpenUp’s general total of income was around R 11 600 000. We categorise our income as grant and project income, with grants being further divided into core or allocated grants (i.e grant funds for specific activities - which must be returned if not spent - are allocated grants). Project income is invoiced. A basic division of those income sources is displayed below:
There are further divisions within those income sources which also help demonstrate diversity in income. We can cut and splice our project income in a number of ways, but the main categories of income sources as defined by our strategy result in the following bar graph: