Story Behind the Open Government Tour mandala

A number of people have reached out to me asking how the mandala became the unofficial logo for The Open Government Tour. Today, I will share that story.

I encouraged #OGT14 City Champions to embrace their creative/artistic side; to take chances; to explore areas that have never been explored before; and more importantly, to have fun. That was my way of ensuring The Open Government Tour would be “Civic Engagement as Art.”

Jodi LeBlanc, the City Champion for Charlottetown, suggested that we try mandalas for her event. Like most people, I had no idea what she was talking about. Here is a definition that best suits how the #OGT14 used mandalas:

“People who colour mandalas often experience a deep sense of calm and well-being.  It’s a simple tool that doesn’t require any expertise, but it can be remarkably soothing and nourishing. Mandalas not only focus your attention, but allow you to express your creative side, which many of us neglect in our daily lives.”

Jodi didn’t need to convince me much further. I thought this was an awesome idea! So, the night of the event we placed un-coloured mandalas on tables along with markers. Once the event began, we invited the audience to doodle as we brought in guests to talk about Open Government and Open Data.

After the event we asked the audience if we should keep mandalas for future events. The answer was an overwhelming “yes!”

So, Jodi, myself, and some of the audience members started tweeting mandalas and Jacques Mailloux, City Champion for the Ottawa event, was paying listening. He had the brilliant idea of taking one of his favourite mandala and placing in the “O” of #OGT14. And so, the #OGT14 mandala was born.

NOTE: The #OGT14 Mandala was drawn by Rod Gallant, a Public Servant with the CRA.

Since you need people sitting at tables to doodle a mandala, we weren’t able to have this exercise at all #OGT14 events. But, we were able to do them in Charlottetown, Quebec City, Vancouver, and Sudbury. What was most amazing was seeing the creativity of the mandalas growing with each event!

NOTE: My memory may be a little foggy here, so I apologize to anyone who remembers differently.

Here’s an example of what I mean: For the #OGT14 events with mandalas, I would showcase mandalas from previous event to help audience members get a better idea of what this exercise was all about. In Charlottetown and Quebec City, audience members drew inside the lines and were for the most part conservative (mind you, we did have marker issues in Quebec City). However, in Vancouver, someone from the audience started drawing outside the lines.

A couple of other people from Vancouver saw what this person was doing and also opted to draw outside the lines (if Malcolm Gladwell were here, he’d say this rogue person was a “permission giver”). In Sudbury, I once again showcased previous mandalas, including the one that were “outside the lines.” And lo-and-behold, more Mandalas that featured drawing outside the lines.

Each Mandala had their own beauty, personality, and individuality. Now, Rod Gallant’s mandala – the one Jacques Mailloux used to transform the #OGT14 hashtag – is now the logo for The Open Government Podcast as well as my #OGT Newsletter, the “We Are Open People” rant, and Open Government Podcast.

…all of this stemming from doodling on a piece of paper.


Richard PietroRichard Pietro considers himself as an Open Government Fanboy in an attempt to create Civic Engagement as Art. Richard’s Twitter handle is @richardpietro and you can learn more about his work at


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