My 2020 in retrospective: key learnings and things I want to celebrate

When reflecting back on my personal year 2020, I know it has not turned out exactly how I have originally planned it or at least how I hoped it would be. All of us are still in the same boat as of December 23, when I am writing these lines!

In the beginning of the new reality, called Covid-19 pandemic, I was completely flummoxed by the whole thing, especially by how Governments and relevant international bodies reacted to the crisis. What was similarly frustrating, was the attitude among many vis-à-vis the crisis: “that’s baloney”, they would say, and containing the crisis became even more hurdle some.

But this post is not about them. The crisis has proven how important it is for us, as individuals, to be resilient and able to cope with emerging challenges. In a fast-paced world we rarely spend enough time and attention to self-reflection and the lock-down has been an awakening in these regards. 2020 provided a bit more time to review some of my strengths, align my values and goals.

I would often get caught in conversations about the future, and several friends and colleagues from across the globe reached out and asked about what I thought would be happening next. In line with this, I reiterated myself what a brilliant thing our intuition is, and how important it is to sharpen it. The little self-evaluation and introspection through reflection moments of this year were really valuable. And while it has been a very challenging year, there are still several things worth celebrating.

Here are some of the highlights of my professional year 2020.

Before sharing the highlights of my professional side of the 2020, I want to emphasise the importance of a number of skills that helped me during this challenging year:

  • Empathy and capacity to understand everyone around you, affected by the crisis. People react in different ways to crisis. Adults, teenagers and children, elderly - everyone has his/her own way and everyone needs support and understanding. This implies a lot of communication and interaction, a lot of listening and identifying possible solutions;

  • Clarity of my actions, decisions, of my objectives, plans;

  • Prioritisation and acknowledging what is that something I can work on or should dedicate time for; and what could be left out;

  • Agility and flexibility - being able to to adjust rapidly to a new modus operandi, and identify the best possible solutions for the new situation;

  • Empowerment and providing opportunities to peers and colleagues who might have not had previous experiences with remote learning, or engagement;

  • Mental readiness - accepting that it is a crisis I have not control over; however, there are certain things in my power to control still and this helps me avoid panicking and rather stay focused;

  • Communication and network building;

  • Digital skills and capacity to use all the possible IT solutions for delivering higher quality of the remote work;

What are your top skills which helped navigate through the challenges of 2020?

So, back to early 2020:

Just before the lock-down in Europe, I got back home from Kyiv, where together with my great Ukrainian colleagues, lead by Olesya Arhypska, we signed a Memorandum of Understanding (on behalf of Innovating Governance Association Austria) on a Strategic Partnership around the development and implementation of a mechanism for verifying the reliability of information about the ultimate beneficial owners in order to combat corruption, money laundering, fraud, tax evasion and other offenses related to the fraudulent activity of companies, improving standards of integrity.

Who knew the pandemic would thwart further developments around this strategic alliance?! However, we need to celebrate what has been achieved so far and I hope in 2021 we will continue more actively with implementation of the open ownership principles and of the Transnational Electronic Laboratory as proposed in the MOU. It would be fantastic to create a global bastion in the field to be able to identify on time those who have been notoriously venal.

Olesya Arhipska, Kyiv, March 2020

With my dear colleague, Sandra Pernar of Open Government Partnership, Kyiv, March 2020

Kyiv, March 2020

St. Michael's Golden-Domed Monastery, March 2020

For the same month, March of 2020, I had my plane tickets for Strasbourg. The second plenary meeting of the CoE’s Ad Hoc Committee on Artificial Intelligence (CAHAI) was planned to take place. Everything was cancelled and we all needed to adjust. Since then, we held two plenary meetings and two committee meeting. CAHAI is tasked to examine the feasibility and potential elements on the basis of broad multi-stakeholder consultations, of a legal framework for the development, design and application of artificial intelligence, based on the Council of Europe’s standards on human rights, democracy and the rule of law. So far, it has been an enriching learning experience, as I am part of Consultations & Outreach committee and lead some work on Tools mapping for international & national consultations on the AI feasibility study.

We need to celebrate the amount of work done in 2020 by members of CAHAI and the foundation laid for more work in 2021. I hope we continue with the same zeal. And I want to thank Corina Calugaru, Ambassador, Permanent Representative of the Republic of Moldova to the Council of Europe, for her support along the way. Those interested to learn more about CAHAI, follow the link

Artificial Intelligence is no longer a hype today, it is more and more about concrete actions being undertaken at different levels. Today, the COVID-19 pandemic has forced all types of organizations to adjust their day-by-day operations. And technology has played a key role in facilitating this change and organizations are investing more in technology. At the same time, preparing for future crises now tops the agenda for governments and businesses. The COVID-19 outbreak won’t be the last pandemic, experts say, and improving preparedness against any future or similar challenges should be a top priority.

A 2020 research study on the changing role of technology in the workplace by PEGA Report:

On a different note, I am grateful to DiploFoundation for its Artificial Intelligence Course, which I took in 2019. I strongly recommend the course to anyone interested to expand his/her understanding of the AI ecosystem and the various elements of it.

In April 2020, I was expected to have my first trip to Kazakhstan. It was supposed to be for an assignment related to conducting a two-day workshop in Russian language for approximately 40 researchers, think tank representatives and transparency advocates from across Central Asia with Eurasia Foundation (EF). Together with Dinara Musabekova, who leads this program, I have ‘translated’ what was supposed to be a two-day face-to-face program to a one month program full of online interaction, webinars, and direct engagement with participants. No one was ready for that, and yet, we kicked off with the remote modality which became a bellwether for the program until the end of 2020.

To make this Global Online Advocacy Workshop even more diverse and unique, I invited several colleagues focusing on various aspects of the advocacy in their respective countries, to join in as guest speakers and to bring specific examples and experiences of relevance to our peers from across Central Asian countries. I am grateful to Olesya Arkhypska, Co-Chair of OGP MSF in Ukraine, Giorgi Kldiashvili head of IDFI Georgia, Konstantin Charanovsky of Initiativa Pozitiva Moldova, and Viktor Nestulia, Senior Manager with Open Contracting Partnership. They have enriched the program and helped make it truly authentic. This would have not happened if we had the face-to-face approach and we need to celebrate the way we approached the situation.

Later, in the year, together with Dinara Musabekova and Aidana Ernestova from the University of Central Asia, along with Bakytbek Satybekov, co chair of Kyrgyzstan Open Government Multi-stakeholder Forum, and Emilbek Djumagulov of Aga Khan Foundation from Kyrgyzstan, we developed and implemented a valuable capacity building program to women led CSOs from Kyrgyzstan. The main objectives of the program were: providing support to women-led organisations to conduct rapid gender and vulnerability assessments through institutional capacity building of women-led on gender equality-focused responses to COVID-19 and SGBV as well as

technical support to respond to COVID-19 and SGBV through micro grants to CSOs.

Beneficiary CSOs should have completed the implementation of their small grants by early December 2020. What is great about the program is its dynamic community of women lead CSOs which was established, a strong demand for support for most marginalised and affected communities by the pandemic, with much learning and adaptation on the go.

I am grateful to Dr. Nadejda Komendantova, senior research scholar and a partner at the “Innovating Governance” Association Vienna, for joining as a speaker during webinars and sharing with participants the most recent approaches adopted during the pandemic by UN Agencies and Central Governments to address gender based violence, domestic violence and impact on children.

We had Ms Veronica Lupu, Chairwoman AWCS, Legal Expert specialised in lawyering for victims of Trafficking in Human Beings, sharing via a video interview about the emerging responses in Moldova when it comes to women led organisations and importance of coordination among them in the times of crisis.

Nicu Cretu, representing “Innovating Governance” Association Vienna, shared with participants highly relevant aspects related to economic recovery and possibility to explore entrepreneurship opportunities for communities of Kyrgyzstan and ways grant proposals could be more innovative and bold from this perspective.

We need to acknowledge that there is no one size fits all, and that the pandemic affected every single community. However, fast learning and adaption was key in order to be able to overcome the hurdles and speed up the recovery.

And we need to celebrate the strong community of Kyrgyz women determined to support their communities, and I hope several small grants brought some change into the lives of those who needed support most during covid times.

During the months of May – September 2020 I was invited to speak in a number of wonderful global and regional or national events. It was fascinating to see the rapid adaptation to the online modus operandi of so many stakeholders out there. However, I kept reflecting over and over again about the years of 2004-2007 during which I did my Post-Graduate studies in Diplomacy and IT (which had a face-to-face component combined with distance learning). Early 2005, I joined DiploFoundation Malta in my role of online tutor and research supervisor for the Internet Governance Capacity Building Program.

When the pandemic started, I felt as if those years of hard work of online facilitation, designing remote moderation and motivation tools, keeping the online participation and graduation rates as high as possible, were meant to specifically prepare many of us, including myself, for this unique year of 2020 :)

Jovan Kurbalija, the Executive Director of DiploFoundation, who is behind this wonderful program, is a true visionary of our times. The longer term impact generated by DiploFoundation programs throughout the years both in terms of knowledge building but also in developing key competences to help navigate the challenges of the 21st century, is absolutely transformational. I am convinced that thousands of Diplo graduates have played a crucial role in their respective organizations in 2020 by addressing the crisis through different lens:, i.e. AI, digital transformation, understanding global response to covid, impact on negotiations, and so many more. If you have not yet taken a course with Diplo, it might be a good time now :)

Anna Romandash invited me to speak during an event on Governing the Internet and Opening the Data: what is Europe’s digital future? organized by the United Europe.

I shared about the e-Democracy and E-Solutions for Moldova during a webinar lead by Victor Guzun, Moldova’s former Ambassador to Estonia.

During the fantastic Rockit Conference organized by Artur Gurau, I spoke about ways to build super resilient governments.

Alexandra Sabou from the Secretariat of the Eastern Partnership Civil Society Forum invited me as a speaker for the “Sustainable digital transformation for SMEs in the EaP region: (e)-ways forward in the post-pandemic world” event. I shared my vision about ways AI is impacting SMEs development.

Together with Dinara Musabekova, Bakytbek Satybekov, and other colleagues from civil society and public sector in Kyrgyzstan, we convened an event to deep dive into open government data. The event took place under the educational platform of the National OG Secretariat and aimed to clarify what is and what is not open data.

Shared some reflection on open government data during the Sharing data: Towards a data commons event, the session on Win-win solutions for data sharing, part of the ‘Road to Bern via Geneva’ dialogues.

I was delighted to share about "Open Data, Global Data Barometer, why use data and the value of data for policy making" during the Conference on "Resilience in times of crisis" organised for Moldovan CSOs by Legal Resources Center from Moldova with support from USAID. Thanks for the opportunity, Sorina Macrinici and CRJM team.

I spoke about "Citizen Engagement Practices", during the Conference on "Resilience in times of crisis" organised for Moldovan CSOs by Legal Resources Center from Moldova with support from USAID. Thanks for the opportunity, Sorina Macrinici and CRJM team.

Throughout the summer of 2020, I worked on an exciting project with my Moldovan colleagues, and I hope it will truly generate the desired outcomes. It is about building an HIV/AIDS sector Scorecard.

The United Nations General Assembly agreed in June 2016 that ending AIDS as a public health threat by 2030 requires a Fast-Track response, with three milestones to be reached by 2020: Reduce new HIV infections to fewer than 500 000 globally. Reduce AIDS-related deaths to fewer than 500 000 globally. Eliminate HIV-related stigma and discrimination. Point 10 of the HIV Prevention 2020 Road Map, stipulates that: “Countries will develop or adjust a shared accountability framework across sectors, civil society and implementers and provide for regular reporting of progress against results at the subnational, national and international level. The HIV prevention scorecard being developed by UNAIDS, in which scores are based on a combination of coverage, output and outcome indicators for key programme components in the Global AIDS Monitoring system, can serve as a useful tool for a regular review of performance at all levels.”

In order to join efforts in “Accelerating HIV prevention to reduce new infections by 75%”, a team of experts, under the auspices of the National HIV/AIDS prevention and Control Program in Moldova, with the support of UNAIDS, in partnership with Public Association “Positive Initiative” and other public institutions, came together to put this idea into practice. During the summer of 2020, we held several meetings and discussions with experts to define indicators for the scorecard we were building and ensure that there is both baseline data for those, as well as institutions keeping track of that data, so that one can measure progress made in one area or another.

I am sure that Svetlana Plamadeala, UNAIDS Country Manager, who is a very passionate and committed advocate of the health sector, along with several colleagues who joined in these efforts, will manage to institutionalise this tool, regardless the challenges posed by Covid pandemic and political turmoil in the country. Grateful to all the colleagues who worked on this initiative in 2020!

Early in summer 2020, I had another Moldova focused initiative. These were two assignments with the Council of Europe: one aimed at revising a "Handbook on transparency and citizen participation" which I worked on back in 2017. It was interesting to review new legal provisions adopted since then or add new elements such as open data or open contracting to this guide. The second assignment was Assessment of the results of local initiatives implemented in 2017 by the municipalities of Budesti, Costesti and Palanca. It is important to highlight that support from the Council of Europe to the three communities did significantly contribute to setting up a foundation for more responsive Local Governments, by increasing the inclusiveness of their decision-making processes, strengthening their citizen-engagement practices, updating the regulations on transparency in decision making, ethics, professional conduct and integrity, as well as adopting new technologies in moving forward. The covid pandemic has posed unprecedented challenges to the local public administration authorities and citizen engagement remains still a challenge for all three communities. Heavy migration is a phenomena many consider almost unstoppable, while LPAs are doing their best to create opportunities for engagement through both face-to-face and online platforms, and particularly through social media in order to connect with Diaspora as well. Respondents from across all three communities highlighted that in 2020 there are much more opportunities for citizen engagement and participation as compared to 2017. Nevertheless, engaged citizens still represent a relatively small (though growing) part of local populations and need to be encouraged to participate. I hope that my colleagues at CoE will be able to continue with the implementation of good governance practices at the local level. Dear Marite Moras, thank you for this opportunity to reflect on the governance processes in across the Moldovan communities.

2020 was a busy year for the Moldova National Open Government Multi-stakeholder Forum, with some intensity during the summer time.

Members have convened several times to discuss the results of the implementation of the National Action Plan on Open Government 2018-2020, as well as look into the potential priority areas for a new Action Plan on Open Government (2021-2023).

Given the pandemic, there was a decision to continue with the development of the new plan in 2021 and take advantage of the additional timing provided by the Open Government Partnership. Thanks much to Shreya Basu and Sandra Pernar at OGP for guidance along the way. Working on a new plan on Open Government has not been easy during an electoral year for Moldova, and it will be even more of a challenge given the current political crisis.

Regardless the facts, I am greaftul to my colleagues back in Moldova, who still believe in the potential of the Open Government agenda and keep dedicating their time for it: Adrian Ermurachi, Natalia Cristian, Cornelia Amihalachioae, Diana Ranga-Enachi, Stas Ghiletchi, Konstantin Charanovsky, Daniela Sorahmetov - you are my heros, thank you for all your dedication and commitment!

Members of the Moldova Multistakeholder Forum on Open Government

June 2020

Members of the Moldova Multistakeholder Forum on Open Government

July 2020

Members of the Moldova Multistakeholder Forum on Open Government

July 2020

Members of the Moldova Multistakeholder Forum on Open Government

September 2020

Our thematic module on Political Integrity is up online for public review, have a say and help shape a global metrics in this field:

One of the culminations of my 2020 is joining the Global Data Barometer project, managed by Tim Davies and this is something I want to celebrate as well. Not only this initiative focuses on an agenda I have been pleading for years, it does also bring perspicuity around data for public good.

The Global Data Barometer will provide rigorous new data and evidence on national data policies and practices for more than 100 countries across the world, focussing on data governance, availability and use for the public good. It will offer a critical new benchmark, backed with country profiles and good practice examples to support learning, planning and action.

It is truly a unique project. It is much more than just a project. It is an alliance, a consortium if you want, of various stakeholders who don't just believe in data for public good - they take action!

With core-funding from International Development Research Centre (IDRC), it becomes a vibrant community that unites those keen to advance the use of data for development, those who have zeal for data based/evidence based approaches for better governance, it is a foundation for the data for public good for at least the next 10 years ahead.

This is the project that keeps me awake until late at night or wakes me up at early in the morning :) and I have been learning so much along the way and that is due to the amazing people who are part of this initiative: Tim Davies, Steve Walker (who is also my mentor in the project), Amy Johnson, Nicolas Grossman, Silvana Fumega, Ana Sofia Ruiz, other colleagues, valuable guides of my GDB journey .

I am very proud of the community of regional hubs that we managed to establish in 2020. Seeing these organisations become Centers of Excellence in the field of data for public good in their respective regions in the years to come, would be fantastic.

The Barometer explores data in context through a number of thematic modules, looking at the connection between specific data governance, availability and use practices. Our thematic modules range from political integrity, migration, agriculture, climate, to company ownership, while the full list can be found here:

I truly believe in the potential of the GDB and I hope in 2021 we will be able to bring more partners on board.

I want to thank Viorica Olaru Cemirtan, Marcus Brand, Eduard Mihalas and Eduard Jongstra for their valuable insights in 2020 on partnerships for the GDB.

If you are reading this piece and became interested in ways to partner with us, drop a note :)

2020 was also the year of even more work on the promotion of the use of open government data, and this time with Office of the Co-ordinator of OSCE Economic and Environmental Activities @ OSCE Secretariat in Vienna. Building on its open data initiatives for the OSCE region, OCEEA aimed to provide a platform to generate discussion and build further capacity among relevant stakeholders on the use of open data towards enhancing good governance, curbing corruption and enabling economic recovery during, and after, the COVID-19 pandemic.

The important thing about data is that it should be available, equitably, fairly, so that we can use it in a trusted fashion. How do we build that trusted, open data environment? Data should be at the core of every choice that we make, and the more we have, the more gaps we are able to identify and address them regardless the nature of those. Understanding the landscape for data is crucial and the three great webinars I helped conceptualise and implement together with Bart Scheffers and the OCEEA team, happened due to the drive and commitment by Iris Pilika, who believes that more needs to be done for open data to be used to its full potential, particularly across OSCE member countries. Iris is a Programme Officer covering anti-corruption and anti-money laundering at the Economic Governance Unit in the OSCE Secretariat in Vienna. She brings a rich experience in the field of international trade and illicit finance, foreign policy and national security issues. She sees the enormous potential of data in corruption prevention, in improving global standards and norms around beneficial owners, public procurement, others. Joined by her great colleagues Dževad Sarač, and Eni Gjergji, together we managed to bring hundreds of participants from across OSCE region, who benefited from most up-to-date experiences in the field of open data.

A few additional highlights of the year 2020

I had the honor to join as a speaker, share about the emerging practices around citizen engagement, transparency, access to information, open government data, during the session with President elect of the Republic of Moldova, Maia Sandu. Invited by Mr Viorel Cibotaru, for the "Democracy, Efficient Governance and functional market economy: results of a successful transition" event, organized by European Institute of Political Studies (IESP). Many thanks, Mr Ciubotaru

I was honoured to provide support to the Embassy of Moldova in Vienna during the 1st and 2nd round of Presidential Elections. Moldova has elected the pro-European candidate Maia Sandu as the first woman president since the country’s independence in 1991. what was impressive in this elections was the Moldovan Diaspora. Around 260,000 Moldovans, a record number, voted yesterday in several parts of the globe. In moving forward, we need to better document and map the real number of Moldovans in the Diaspora. There is a lot of untapped potential in the diaspora indeed.

Many thanks, Dorina Roman for the great work of the Embassy and Consulate during both rounds!

Interviewed by my good friend and colleague from Japan, Izumi Aizu, about the Covid-19 response.

Izumi has an interesting background: he has been working in "human communications"​ field, starting with printing, then moved into producing advertisements and public relations material targeting international market from Japan. After the huge earthquake and Tsunami hit North East Japan in Mar 2011, they started a small volunteer group called Information Support pro bono Platform (iSPP) to help devastated people by using ICTs.

Had the honor to speak early December during the OGP Side event @ Annual Assembly of EaP Civil Society Forum which focused on "Open Government Partnership and the EU4Integrity Action: Multistakeholder collaboration for open Government reforms".

Grateful for things I managed to develop, contribute to, or work on in 2020.

Grateful for all the partnerships, collaborations, and initiatives of 2020.

Grateful for every single conversation I had in 2020 and all the learnings I am taking with me in 2021.

Grateful for all the friends and colleagues who reached out in 2020.

Blessed to have continuous support from my husband, daughters and my parents! They help me become a better version of myself year by year :)

Wishing you all a Merry Christmas and a New Year 2021! Stay healthy and well!