Sunlight in Argentina

Casa Rosada, the Presidential Palace in Argentina. (Photo credit: Dragan/Wikimedia Commons)

We are excited to announce that Sunlight is taking our international work to the next level, launching an 18-month effort to help translate global reform into national action through sustained and focused in-country work. With generous support from the Hewlett Foundation, we are now starting work with our friends and allies in Argentina toward a shared vision of an open and inclusive society — and more accountable governance.

We have just returned from our first trip to Buenos Aires and could not be more excited about this effort. We met with data journalists, NGO leaders, federal officials and local government open data leaders. There is a vibrant open data community throughout the country, and we look forward to helping advance their work on a variety of fronts over the coming months.

The approaching elections later this fall provide an opportunity and renewed enthusiasm for political reform in Argentina. And reform is indeed much needed for the second largest Latin American country facing poverty, high inflation, as well as inequalities in housing, health and education. Issues of transparency and access to information are at the heart of many of the country’s burning issues, whether in the form of a dysfunctional national statistics program or undue influence and entrenched corruption.

After years of experimentation and creative chaos, the global community of NGOs working on transparency reform is becoming more specialized, strategic and more coordinated. National- and local-level advocacy efforts are increasingly informed by the resources the international community is creating, such as norms and standards, toolkits and guidelines, or open source code. At the same time, government reform work is still often thematically and geographically isolated. Many local and national groups don’t have real access to these global resources, nor the capacities to deploy them.

Sunlight’s international work is grounded in combining technology, journalism and policy advocacy in a mutually reinforcing way. This approach has led us to place a high value on civil society organizations, whose voices have enormous potential in helping to shape agendas, priorities and national dialog. In the coming years, we will work closely with Argentine civil society groups to help them become more strategic actors within their own context, responding to a variety of kinds of opportunities and challenges, and helping to drive cultural change.

During our recent visit to Argentina, we were inspired by the work of NGOs throughout the country working on a variety of issues, including Fundacion Directorio Legislativo, Poder Ciudadano, Wingu, CIPECC, Cargografías, La Nacion or Chequeado. These are only a few of the many transparency activists monitoring their decision-makers, pushing for policy reform, creating more demand from citizens or scraping data, when need be. The strength of Argentina’s NGO community was a major factor in our decision to focus there, and we’re even more encouraged as we learn more about their work.

Even though Argentine politics can be nearly inscrutable to an outsider, the one theme most clear in our conversations was that the country is poised to make significant change as the approaching presidential election creates a new dialog about reform, and as innovation from other levels of government — both regional and subnational — are brought to the national level.

Over the next year or so, Sunlight’s international team will devote much of our attention to Argentina, through activities like consultations, trainings, data journalism projects and new initiatives with local civil society organizations. Our work will be informed and strengthened by our two global-facing programs — OpeningParliament and the Money, Politics and Transparency project — and build on the expertise of the international networks that we’re part of.

We could not be more excited to embark on this new initiative working at the intersection of international standards and national-level reform efforts. We’re looking forward to sharing more about our work as it progresses, so stay tuned!