Onwards to AbreLatAm 2015: what we learned last year
This post was co-written by Mor Rubinstein and Neal Bastek. It is cross-posted and available in Spanish at the AbreLatAm blog.
AbreLatAm, for us “gringos”, is magical. Even in the age where everyone is glued to a screen, face to face connection is still the strongest connection humans can have; it fosters the trust that can lead to new cooperations and innovations. However, in the case of Latin America, it also creates a family. This feeling creates both a sense of solidarity and security that lets people share and consult about their open data and transparency issues with greater passion and awareness of the challenges and conditions we face daily in our own communities. It is unique, and difficult to replicate. You may not realise it, but in our experience, this feeling is not so common in other parts of the world, where the culture of work is more strict and, with all due respect for our differences, less personal. AbreLatAm therefore is a gift to the movement itself and not just to those of us lucky enough to attend.
For open data practitioners from outside of America Latina like us, AbreLatAm is a place to learn how communities evolve and how they work together. It is a place for us to listen, deeply. So, our command of the Spanish language is not so great (pero es mejor que ayer!) but we don’t need Spanish to feel the atmosphere, see the sparks and contribute, in English, with hand gestures to amplify the event. We try hard to understand the context and the words (and are grateful for the support we have from patient translators!) and are understand the unique problems in the region. For example, the high levels of corruption, the low levels of trust in government and highest rates of inequality in the world. However, other problems are universal, and we should all examine how to solve them together. The question is how?
The Open Knowledge Network has gained tremendous inspiration from AbreLatAm. What appeared early on as a good opportunity to promote the Global Open Data Index and build connections with the Latin American community has become so much more — a fertile ground for sharing and feedback. Some of the processes that we are doing now in this year’s Index, such as our methodology consultation and datasets selections, were the direct result of our participation in AbreLatAm last year.
We are very excited to see what we will learn this year. As AbreLatAm matures, it also receives more attention and attracts more participants. AbreLatAm was, and still is, a pioneering community participatory event. The challenges now are about scaling, and it is a mirror to similar challenges around the globe. How can we harness the energy of an un-conference with such a vast amount of participants? How can we go from talking and sharing to coordinated global action?
The movement’s ability to scale will only be a success if it’s rooted in community-based, citizen driven needs and not handed down from on high by way of intellectual and academic arguments rooted in a Eurocentric experience. AbreLatAm is an ideal setting for discovering this demand in the Latin American context and matching it and adapting it to global practices and experiences that have succeeded elsewhere– be it in the North or South! Likewise, the LATAM community has much to share in terms of their own experiences and success, and at Open Knowledge we’re keenly interested in bringing those back to our global network for reflection and consideration.