Open Government Partnership UK

Reviewing the Open Government Network

This Open Government Network has been going for about three years now. The 10th April will mark the third anniversary of the first open letter the network sent to Francis Maude on the Open Government Partnership. With Spring arrived and nine months until the UK’s next OGP Action Plan being due, now’s a good time to take stock.

Since the network was formed it has operated on a relatively informal basis. There have been no firm criteria for membership and the majority of decisions have been taken through finding consensus via the email list or meetings. Last year it was agreed that a steering group should be formed, but until now it’s role has been primarily to communicate with the Minister. Involve has coordinated the network for about two-and-a-half years, and has taken much of the initiative on proposing and undertaking activities on the behalf of the network.

While this approach has worked fairly well up to now, the time has come for it to be reviewed, particularly in light of the growth of the network and new sister networks being established in the devolved administrations.

After Easter we are going to be setting up a series of forum discussions on the governance of the network. These include the:

  • Purpose of the network
  • Membership of the network
  • Role & membership of the steering committee
  • Position of the network coordinator

If you would like to be part of these discussions, sign up to the UK Open Government Network email list here.

Opening Up Government: Leeds Workshop | 24 March 2015 | Meeting note

The UK Civil Society Open Government Network is working with civil society organisations across the UK to deliver a series of workshops to discuss and develop commitments for the next National Action Plan, and build the community of transparency, participation and accountability reformers in the UK. For more details on this workshop series and where we’re holding them, click here.

Details

St George’s Centre, Great George Street, Leeds, LS1 3BR
Tuesday, 24 March 2015 from 14:00 to 17:00

Purpose

  1. Discuss and develop ideas for open government reforms in Leeds, Yorkshire and the Humber and throughout the UK
  2. Build the community of transparency, participation and accountability reformers in the UK
  3. Share the work of the Open Government Partnership and UK Open Government Civil Society Network

What does an “open government” look like? What are the benefits?

Attendees were asked to discuss what an open government looks like and what the benefits are.

  • Increase trust
  • Increase inclusion
  • Co-creation processes
  • Iterative processes
  • Greater public awareness
  • Direct citizen control of some budgets
  • Right of recall if rules broken and if not doing a good job
  • Non party political job description
  • Public meetings to present and discuss government decisions
  • ‘Bell principles’ as code of conduct with citizen control
  • Public information access workers
  • Information that is out there needs to be ordered in a way to make it more accessible
  • Accessible and comprehensible information
  • Does government really want to be more open or accountable?
  • Place/ person to help you find your way to the information you are looking for
  • More public engagement in policy and decision-making

What would a good open government reform look like? Reviewing existing open government ideas

Attendees were asked to look at the current commitments in the Open Government Manifesto and rank them in priority order. Each table was given a subset of half of the existing ideas.

Priority
Level

Table 1

Table 2

Table 3

1

Transparency in government contracting Co-production of public services Implement the recommendations of the Digital Democracy Commission

2

Give the Public a say in the future of our UK
Clean up UK politics
Bring contractors under the FOI Act
Government should lead on budget participation by the end of 2015
Civil society dialogue to decide what Open Data and open modelling is needed
Transparency in government contracting

3

Meaningful engagement when consulting with stakeholders
Open data modelling for strategic policy areas
Make open government a truly ‘national’ policy
Bring contractors under the FOI Act
Give the public a say in the future of Our UK
Open data modelling for strategic policy areas
A robust register of lobbyists
Independent support for local government scrutiny
Government should use UK company numbers to refer to UK companies
Launch a ‘Transparency of Surveillance’ Program
Support the development of an open local government partnership

4

Transparency of financial services markets to support financial inclusion
A robust register of lobbyists
Civil society dialogue to decide what open data and open modelling is needed
Government should lead on budget participation by the end of 2015
Fight Corruption in the UK and Abroad
Government meeting and Youtube
Fight Corruption in the UK and Abroad
Clean up UK politics
Make open government a truly ‘national’ policy
A Data Sharing Disclosure Standard
Open access to UK land ownership & sales data / big data to help increase community, commons, food security, transparency and citizen participation
Data for Open Government
Bring clarity to charity campaigning regulation
Incentivize crowdfunding of Social Impact Bonds

5

Transparency of financial services markets to support financial inclusion
Embedding UK progress on open data

What open government reforms would you introduce?

Attendees were asked to develop their own ideas for open government reforms they would like to see introduced. These commitments will be added to the Open Government Manifesto.


A fair constitution writing process in England and the UK

A bottom up process of creating a constitution for England and the UK beginning in wards, but happening regionally in England parallel not nationally at once in England, with the final constitution agreed by mandated delegates from the regions.

This idea originated with Anzir, Megan, Matthew, Andrew and Paul


 Better accountability of elected representatives during their term of office

Produce clear job description for elected representatives (comparable to other jobs).

Citizen oversight committee in each constituency (randomly selected from electoral roll) which is non-compulsory

Elected representatives report to committee, whose role is to publicise and report on MPs to constituents

Link to right to recall (triggered by breach of terms and conditions or petition of 25% of constituents


Citizen Assembly on voting reform

Randomly select a Citizens Assembly of 650 citizens to undertake a year long process of recommending a set of electoral reforms to consider e.g. proportional representation, right of recall, re-open nominations.

The assembly must be transparent, well-publicised and open to dialogue with wider citizens, to buid trust.

Binding referendum on the recommendations.

Why is this important?

You can’t have accountability if you can’t express your views on your representatives with your vote

Because FPTP needs to be more open.


 Encouraging/ allowing people to participate in government digitally

  • Increase skills and digital inclusion for people of adult age
  • Encouraging use of IT equipment and internet
  • Making people feel comfortable using social media
  • Increase participation and interest in government through social media
  • All services to save data so no time/ data is wasted and sites to work on slow connections/ limited data and all platforms such as phones, tablets etc
  • Fast internet access should be universally available throughout the UK

Why is your idea important?

Ensure that government services are available to all and also to encourage participation

It offers citizens flexibility (time/ location etc) and encourages skills which they can use in other ways.

Opening Up Government: Newcastle Workshop | 18 March 2015 | Meeting note

The UK Civil Society Open Government Network is working with civil society organisations across the UK to deliver a series of workshops to discuss and develop commitments for the next National Action Plan, and build the community of transparency, participation and accountability reformers in the UK. For more details on this workshop series and where we’re holding them, click here.

Details

Central Square, Forth Street, NE1 3PJ Newcastle upon Tyne
Wednesday, 18 March 2015 from 14:00 to 16:00

Purpose

  1. Discuss and develop ideas for open government reforms in Newcastle, the North East and throughout the UK
  2. Build the community of transparency, participation and accountability reformers in the UK
  3. Share the work of the Open Government Partnership and UK Open Government Civil Society Network

What would a good open government reform look like? Reviewing existing open government ideas

Attendees were asked to look at the current commitments in the Open Government Manifesto and rank them in priority order.

Priority Level

Commitment

1

Meaningful engagement when consulting with stakeholders (attendees amended to “Meaningful participation when consulting with people” to better reflect their priorities)

2

Co-production of public services

Bring contractors under the FOI Act

3

Support the development of an open local government partnership
Launch a “Transparency of Surveillance” Programme
Data Sharing Disclosure Standard

4

A robust register of lobbyists
Ensure the Integrity, Usability and Sustainability of Government Information for Openness
Data for Open Government
Open data modelling for strategic policy areas

5

Transparency in government contracting
Independent support for local government scrutiny
Give the Public a say in the future of our UK
Implement the recommendations of the Digital Democracy Commission

What open government reforms would you introduce?

Attendees were asked to develop their own ideas for open government reforms they would like to see introduced. These commitments will be added to the Open Government Manifesto.

Meaningful participation when consulting with people

Attendees chose to extend the existing manifesto commitment Meaningful engagement when consulting with stakeholders. They added:

  • Focus on capacity building – create a range of options
  • Centre of Excellence
  • Skills and resources for civil society and government

Opening Up Government: Bristol Workshop | 3 March 2015 | Meeting note

The UK Civil Society Open Government Network is working with civil society organisations across the UK to deliver a series of workshops to discuss and develop commitments for the next National Action Plan, and build the community of transparency, participation and accountability reformers in the UK. For more details on this workshop series and where we’re holding them, click here.

Details

Unitarian Chapel, Brunswick Square, Bristol, BS2 8PE
Tuesday, 3 March 2015 from 14:00 to 17:00

Purpose

  1. Discuss and develop ideas for open government reforms in Bristol, the south west and throughout the UK
  2. Build the community of transparency, participation and accountability reformers in the UK
  3. Share the work of the Open Government Partnership and UK Open Government Civil Society Network

What does an “open government” look like? What are the benefits?

Attendees were asked to discuss what an open government looks like and what the benefits are.

  • better 2 way conversation
  • accountability
  • services based on need
  • allow anyone to feed into the process
  • make all information available
  • more inclusive
  • active citizenship
  • policy based on evidence
  • consultative
  • transparent processes throughout policy making
  • fairer distribution of services
  • behave responsibly
  • co-production of public services
  • design open government so that people can get engaged and if they do that, they can change things
  • making policy and decisions through a feedback loop between citizens and decision makers
  • as much information available as possible presented in an easily digestible way
  • participative and representative democracy through adequate political literacy
  • systems change linked to behaviour change
  • public services accountable: outcomes, methodology, citizen feedback, decision making process, reach of services (equalities groups etc)
  • map out options available
  • consult/ involve relevant people by targeting them
  • share the decisions made in parliament
  • citizens and ordinary people more engaged and empowered through better information
  • better feedback channels
  • better quality services at less cost
  • everyday large scale problems
  • local vs national
  • culture change necessary
  • is open government 1-way or 2-way?
  • what are the metrics?
  • should be presumed that data starts open
  • how does openness relate to democracy?
  • powerful must accept a partial loss of control
  • follow the money
  • need good records, for example, minutes from meetings
  • challenge lobbyists who rely on obscure procurement processes

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What would a good open government reform look like? Reviewing existing open government ideas

Attendees were asked to look at the current commitments in the Open Government Manifesto and rank them in priority order.

Priority Level Table 1 Table 2 Table 3 Table 4
1 Meaningful engagement when consulting with stakeholders Co-production of public services Fight Corruption in the UK and Ireland
Make open government a truly ‘national’ policy
Co-production of public services
2 Give the Public a say in the future of our UK
A robust register of lobbyists
Clean up UK politics
Fight Corruption in the UK and Ireland
Transparency in government contracting
Clean up UK politics
Government should lead on budget participation by end of 2015
Meaningful engagement when consulting with stakeholders
Government meeting and Youtube
Data for open government
Implement the recommendations of the Digital Democracy Commission
A robust register of lobbyists
Meaningful engagement when consulting with stakeholders
Ensure the Integrity, Usability and Sustainability of Government Information for Openness
3 Bring clarity to charity campaigning regulation
Data for Open Government
Make open government a truly ‘national’ policy
Open access to UK land ownership & sales data / big data to help increase community, commons, food security, transparency and citizen  participation
Transparency in government contracting
Support the development of an open local government partnership
Data for open government
Clean up UK politics
Co-production of public servicesIndependent support for local government scrutiny
Give the public a say in the future of Our UK
Support the development of an open local government partnership
Clean up UK politics
Open access to UK land ownership & sales data / big data to help increase community, commons, food security, transparency and citizen participation
A Data Sharing Disclosure Standard
4 Co-production of public services
Incentivize crowdfunding of Social Impact Bonds
Transparency of financial services markets to support financial inclusion
Transparency in government contracting
Bring contractors under the FOI Act
A Data Sharing Disclosure StandardEnsure the Integrity, Usability and Sustainability of Government Information for Openness
5 Embedding UK progress on open data
Launch a ‘Transparency of Surveillance’ Program
Incentivize crowdfunding of Social Impact Bonds
Open access to UK land ownership & sales data / big data to help increase community, commons, food security, transparency and citizen participation

What open government reforms would you introduce?

Attendees were asked to develop their own ideas for open government reforms they would like to see introduced. These commitments will be added to the Open Government Manifesto.


Adopt an open and formal process for piloting new policies

What works is not objective. It depends on your values. For example if Universal Credit makes people so poor/ insecure that they have to take any job, that may count as the policy ‘working’. If you hold other values you might deem that policy not to be workingSteps:

1.       Identify values that sit behind policy proposal

2.       What is the problem you are solving?

3.       What does success look like?

4.       Define the pilot you are going to carry out

5.       Define how you are going to measure it

6.       Pre-define the change threshold for the pilot

7.       Pre-define the changes you are going to make

8.       Daily reporting of the above processes

One way to nudge this behaviour is to introduce a new convention around the first reading of a bill to include the response to each of the above steps.

Why is this idea important?

  • The idea ties ministers’ hands from meddling during or after policy pilots
  • It allows citizens to understand and monitor the proposed changes that will affect them
  • Success means different things to different people, so defining success at the beginning is important
  • Evidence-based policy making is not succeeding, and these changes may give the concept a second chance

Eradication of doublespeak

Create a list of agreed definitions of words that government must stick to

  • Scan the documents of government for those words
  • Sanction people/ departments for misusing language
  • Support for third parties (the media etc) to provide frank and balanced views of government policy
  • Pressure on government and politicians to talk about what they won’t do as well as what they will do

Investment in local intermediaries

There is a need for an agent who helps citizens participate in decision-making by providing tools, analysis and information. This will empower citizens.This will require funding and skills to train people in how the system works and where to get information and how to influence decisions.This includes mainstreaming data and digital literacy into existing communities

 


Layers of digital engagement

Government supplied open data can be altered by the colloquialisation layer

  • APIs can be defined and made easily available to developers
  • Government must be mandated to provide certain things in the raw data layer
  • Government should incentivise providers in the colloquialisation layer

Why is this important?

Currently government does not really engage with citizens. Therefore the digital engagement layer is vital for moving towards a more open and inclusive government

This is an untapped opportunity – there is currently disparate civic engagement platforms/ data


Minister for open government

A senior level (cabinet) post to champion and push implementation of open government, plus a senior civil servant role.


Open government accountability, eg an independent ‘Office for Open Government’

Holding government (local and central) to account on its implementation of the open government agenda.This could be through:

  • The select committee system
  • An independent Office for Open Government (modelled on the Office for Budget Responsibility)
  • Potentially have legal power.

Useful Links

Open Government and Participation: London Workshop | 9 March 2015 | Meeting note

Details

The Boardroom, Centre for the Study of Democracy, University of Westminster
Tuesday, 9 March 2015 from 17:30 to 20:00

Public participation in policy making is a fundamental part of the open government agenda. It can improve the quality of policy making, bring greater accountability and transparency, and help deepen our democracy.

The UK is a founding member of the Open Government Partnership, an international initiative bringing together networks of reformers inside and outside governments to promote more engaging, transparent and accountable government.

We invited attendees to join the UK Open Government Partnership Civil Society Network and the Centre for the Study of Democracy at the University of Westminster in a discussion to develop public participation commitments for the next OGP National Action Plan. These commitments were developed in Session 2 and will be added to the Open Government Manifesto.

Session 1: Reviewing existing open government ideas

Attendees discussed the merits of existing open government commitments and ranked them in priority order.

Priority Level

Table 1 Table 2 Table 3

Table 4

1 United States: Improve Public Participation in Government
United States: Promote Public Participation in Community Spending Decisions
Meaningful engagement when consulting with stakeholders
Meaningful engagement when consulting with stakeholders
Give the public a say in the future of the UK
Meaningful engagement when consulting with stakeholders
Give the public a say in the future of the UK
Finland: Develop dialogue skills in public administration
Co-production of public services
2 Genuine participation of children in policymaking
Give the public a say in the future of the UK
Genuine participation of children in policymaking
United States: Promote Public Participation in Community Spending Decisions
Israel: Public participation in policymaking processes
United States: Promote Public Participation in Community Spending Decisions
Co-production of public services
Give the public a say in the future of the UK
3 Canada: Consulting Canadians
Greece: Boost Public Engagement
Israel: Public participation in policymaking processes
United States: Improve Public Participation in GovernmentCo-production of public services
United States: Promote Public Participation in Community Spending Decisions
4 Israel: Public participation in policymaking processes Considered priorities (but not formally prioritized):
Genuine participation of children in policymaking
Finland: Develop dialogue skills in public administration
Greece: Boost Public Engagement

 

Session 2: What open government reforms would you introduce?

Groups discussed and worked up the public participation reforms they would like to see in the next National Action Plan. These commitments will be added to the Open Government Manifesto.


Developing dialogue skills in public admin

To prioritise dialogue skills in recruitment and performance assessment and add to performance assessment for all levels of the civil serviceFeatures:

  • not blanket – targeted e.g. on the fast stream
  • Civil servant of the future – dialogue skills as sexy as data skills
  • Link to civil service reform plan
  • Job opportunities and offer to staff beyond the ‘warm words’ on the job description e.g. job swaps into the private sector practitioners
  • Networks of sharing dialogue experiences – so you know people who have experience
  • Getting out and engaging and living skills

Why is your idea important?

  • embedding dialogue into civil servants working lives, everyday
  • better and broader involvement in policy: more fingerprints on it!
  • making policy more sustainable

Implementation

  • visible leaders/ examples in all whitehall departments
  • Within civil service/ departments:
      • awards for effective dialogue and engagement
      • promotion is linked to demonstrating how you have involved civil society in decision making/ policy making
  • Who to involve:
      • HR
      • Civil service group @ Cabinet Office
      • Civil society groups

Co-producing meaningful consultation principles and guidelines

The current consultation guidelines are broken. Government must co-produce new guidelines with civil society and citizens with an emphasis on reaching out to groups often ignored.Any co-production must include discussion of:

  • government and regulation
  • timing
  • feedback
  • comms – language and channels
  • depth and reach and inclusiveness
  • commensurate to scale
  • transparency
  • use of new tech and mix of on/offline
  • who these guidelines apply to e.g. public services? Civil service? Local government

Why is your idea important?

Government shouldn’t be developing its own guidelines because involving citizens will make them more meaningful to citizens

This could lead to more ownership and give citizens a way to hold government to account for the way it consults

Consultations are important as a backstop etc

Incentive to develop strong commitments increased by involving citizens

Opens up a broader and different understanding of best practice (via including experts)


Co-production of public services

  • Citizens involved in design and continuing service
  • citizens involved in problem-formation, moving away from consultations in which the agenda is already set
  • holistic approach working across governmental silos
  • needs examples of good practice – where it works or just learning
  • avoid a tokenistic approach
  • needs to engage a genuinely diverse range of people – could involve users as participants and facilitators
  • only in appropriate circumstances

Why is this important?

  • accountability
  • the principle of democracy
  • inclusive of currently missing voices
  • can tackle practical realities to achieve efficient and relevant services

Citizen participation in spending 1% of public budgets

  • The UK Government spends approximately £730 billion
  • It borrows £84 billion
  • Delivery of public services requires transformation, with greater citizen participation in designing, producing and delivering services.
  • Mistrust and a lack of confidence in our politicians, and disengagement from formal democratic processes such as voting are putting our democracy at risk
  • It is common practice that businesses and organisations set aside approximately 1-3% of their budget for transformation and innovation
  • We would like the UK government to consider spending 1% of their overall central and local budgets with citizens, by citizens, for citizens to produce transformed participation in public life

We propose an annual cycle of citizen led participatory activity which builds in ‘expert witnesses’ (citizens, professional bodies, policy experts, resident/service user experience), deliberation, and dialogue to help identify areas for future transformation and innovation in the policy and practice of democratic government.

We ask that a ‘test and learn’ approach is adopted by drawing on both volunteer central government departments and local level public sector organisations (police services, NHS bodies and/or Councils) to trial a participatory, citizen led budgetary process  to help identify future transformations in democratic participation, transparency and public accountability.  On completion of the ‘testing’ process, we request that the learning is captured and considered for future democratic improvement.

We would adopt the principles and values of participatory budgeting, but would like to move beyond the participatory grant making processes that are often used in the UK, toward participation in mainstream public budgetary processes.   The citizen process of spending the 1% budget would mirror the annual organisational budget process so that comparisons can be made on where citizen participation and decision making is different and/or similar to those responsible for spending the 99% of the mainstream budgets.

Why? – set out clearly why you consider it to be important.

It is a well-structured, internationally tested model of citizen participation in budgetary processes: Paris is currently aspiring to involve citizens in spending up to 5% of the overall City Hall Investment budget.

Whilst 1% amounts to a sizeable amount of money in real terms by including  citizens’ knowledge and understanding of local issues in  the decision making process, it will lead to more efficient (and cheaper) service provision long term.

In the UK elected representatives are required at a central and local level to set the strategic direction of public budgets.   However, research shows that there is an increasing level of alienation and distrust of politicians in the UK.

Participatory budgeting has been identified as an effective tool in a fast growing body of evidence that calls for a new relationship that connects the personal with the political.  Essential to refreshing our democracy is the need for new relationships between neighbours, and new relationships between the state and the individual.  (see Ritchie, S. (in press) “Community Engagement, Democracy and Public Policy: a Practitioner Perspective” in Wankhade, P. and Weir D. (Eds). The Police as an Emergency Service: Leadership and Management Perspectives, Springer: New York.)

The values and principles of participatory budgeting were developed with support from right and left of center governments: this is the obvious next step as those politicians demonstrate their commitment to greater citizen participation and budget literacy: the process will complement representative democracy, providing elected members with an informed, structured process of electorate engagement in budget making processes.

Who? – state who you think should be responsible for fulfilling the commitment.

Strand 1: Volunteer Central Government Departments: there are two possible scenarios here, which would need to be agreed in negotiation with OGP representatives:

a.       take 1% from all voluntary central government departments and pool the budgets for citizens to allocate according to their preferred strategic direction

b.      select one or two government departments to be the focus of the test and learn approach, so that citizens go through the same process as civil servants and elected members responsible for those departmental budgets

Strand 2: Volunteer Local Statutory Agencies (NHS bodies, Councils, Police etc)

Each organisation which is willing to be part of the process would decide its own local focus, with the only requirement being that the budget for citizens to influence is a mainstream budget.

How? – suggest how the commitment might be enacted.

We propose that the decision about which departments and organisations are involved should rest with the government of the day, but that they should seek to encourage those agencies at a central and local level to participate so that the learning is maximised for future consideration.

Once a decision about who will be involved has been made, we propose that a Citizen Select Committee/Summit is established to answer the following question:

What would it take to devolve 1% of a public budget to a citizen participation process?

They would hear from expert witnesses (relevant to the focus of the budget), which could include:

  • Local Government Association
  • Association of Police and Crime Commissioners
  • NHS England Board of Governors
  • Local and centrally elected politicians
  • The Treasury/Cabinet Office
  • CIPFA
  • Trade Unions/Frontline staff associations
  • Service Users
  • Non Service Users
  • Expert Practitioners
  • Association of Chief Police Officers
  • SOLACE
  • Royal Society of Public Health
  • Expert Polling Analysts
  • Organisations supporting the development of coproduced services
  • Think tanks
  • University Researchers

After considering the findings from the above, the citizens will recommend the way forward for agreement with government representatives.  This process will take six to twelve months.

The next stage will be the actual participatory budgeting process, which should start at the beginning of the annual cycle of budget setting that the relevant organisations usually adopt, and will run for a full budget cycle.

When embarking on the process of PB there should be a commitment to go beyond the 3-8% who might usually participate in forums, public meetings, committees etc, and attract those who rarely get heard in the public decision making process.  The preferred recruitment process would need to be agreed with government but could include:

1.      a targeted, random selection of citizens who reflect the wider population characteristics of the UK

2.      an open invitation to any who wants to participate (with specific targeting of those who aren’t already actively involved in existing government structures of engagement

When? – propose a realistic timescale for implementing the commitment

Year 1 Year 2 Year 3 Year 4
Citizen Select Committee
Participatory Budgeting Cycle
Reflection and Recommendations
Develop Policy Statements for all*      ✔

*develop the policy statements for all statutory bodies with unringfenced funding to adopt a PB process with 1% of the unringfenced monies (if they haven’t already joined the movement for more open statutory public services)

Useful Links