What: Meeting of civil society network
When: 16 May, 1200 t0 1500
Where: The Open Data Institute
On the afternoon of 16 May, members of the OGP civil society network will be meeting to discuss progress so far with the development of the draft action plan (still to be published by the Government) and the next steps of working towards the final action plan (to be published in October). This will include discussion of which commitments the network should prioritise, tactics for increasing the pressure on government to commit to open government policies, and how we can increase the membership of the network. Any representatives from civil society organisations are welcome/encouraged to attend. If you’re interested in learning more and/or would like to attend, please email me (email@example.com).
Tim Hughes – Involve
This was originally posted on the international Open Government Partnership blog: http://blog.opengovpartnership.org/2013/05/critical-components-for-engaging-civil-society-in-the-national-action-plan/
In two recent, companion posts on this site, Graham Gordon from the UK OGP Civil Society Network and Ilaria Miller from the Cabinet Office reflect on whether the process of drafting the UK’s second National Action Plan (NAP) has been worth it. Both, despite the challenges, agree that it has been. Ilaria finishes her post by saying:
I AM VERY PROUD OF HOW FAR WE HAVE COME, WE COULDN’T HAVE DONE IT WITHOUT OUR CIVIL SOCIETY PARTNERS AND WE WILL NEED THEM EVEN MORE GOING FORWARD.
What I want to do here is go into a little more detail about how the UK process has actually happened. And I think this is important because we have been engaged in a different kind of conversation about how to implement open government. In doing so we are piloting a different way of making policy. Along the way I will reflect on a number of the challenges that we have faced which haven’t been picked-up in either of the previous posts.
At its very simplest, the process for creating the draft NAP has seen a small network of civil society organisations meet with two Cabinet Office civil servants from the Transparency Team on a weekly basis. These weekly meetings are used to discuss, debate and build a better understanding of the key elements of Open Government which will need to be included within the NAP. More recently they have been used to discuss, edit and amend the draft text of the NAP.
There are 7 components to the process which I would identify as being critical to its success so far. We haven’t got all (any?) of them totally right yet. The simple descriptions hide a lot of nuance, but at their baldest they represent a good picture of why the process has worked so far.
1) Having a clear way of explaining how what we are doing is different: the UK’s first NAP was produced through a fairly standard consultation process; government defined the issue, asked the questions, heard the responses and drafted the plan. The second NAP is being drafted by the civil society network and civil servants working together for submission to Ministers. The civil society network and civil servants are attempting to co-produce the draft NAP for political sign-off. Government isn’t identifying the key questions and commitments, but neither is civil society. We are engaging together to do so.
2) Regular meetings, owned by both sides: the regular meetings have been critical for building the relationship and trust between government and civil society. They have been co-chaired by both sides, with the agenda being jointly developed. It is during these meetings in particular that government has been able to demonstrate that it is trying to draft this NAP in a very different way.
3) Being very clear who we are: this is particularly important for the civil society organisations involved. We do not represent civil society en masse (who could?). We don’t claim to be more than a very small number of civil society organisations who have the energy, enthusiasm and knowledge of relevant areas of open government to make a contribution. We don’t even claim to be the only organisations with enthusiasm and knowledge in the area. The civil society organisations understand that the Cabinet Office, which has been leading the process from the government side, does not represent the whole of government and cannot make commitments which fall within the jurisdiction of other government departments. This will mean considerable effort on the side of those most fully engaged with the NAP process to develop on-going relationships with the relevant ministries.
4) Attempting to reach-out: this is the one critical component I think we have done least well. The civil society network began as being largely, but not exclusively, made up of international development and governance NGOs, with a small smattering of people interested in open data. We have managed to draw in a few more organisations and individuals working in the UK at national and local level. However, we have not got beyond the process and governance geeks to draw in organisations interested directly in public outcomes rather than government process.
On the government side it has largely been the Cabinet Office which has engaged. Other departments have joined some meetings, but these have been largely one-off and they therefore don’t properly understand how the process is different and what value it brings.
The next phase of the NAP development will have to see us reaching out much more widely, particularly to civil society organisations working with local communities on issues that matter to them. We will also have to ensure that key government departments engage more deeply as the commitments are firmed up.
5) Keeping the process itself open and transparent: while those who are part of the network can’t and don’t represent civil society (and haven’t had the resources to reach out widely), we can make sure that the process is open and transparent. Through using a blog set-up for the purpose and actively posting details of the latest status of the NAP, when and where meetings are and on what topic, and publishing minutes very soon after each meeting, we hope to demonstrate that this is an open process and to draw others in.
6) Using a combination of face-to-face meetings, email lists, document sharing platforms and teleconferencing facilities: even with a small, largely London based set of civil society organisations taking part, people find it difficult to attend meetings. A combination of methods has been important for ensuring that everyone is kept aware of what is happening, and giving them many ways to participate and contribute.
7) Having dedicated coordinators: the open government agenda is far wider than the mandate of any one organisation. From the civil society side this has proved a particular problem as it means no-one can justify the staff time to coordinate meetings and civil society responses to developments in the process. It is a measure of how important they feel this is that they have funded my organisation Involve to coordinate the network and, from the civil society side, the process. It certainly feels from my perspective that we couldn’t have got as far as we have without this key resource.
As both Graham and Ilaria acknowledge, this is challenging. The NAP will make firm, time-bound commitments for what the government is going to do to open up government. Different political perspectives will mean that the government will not do everything that civil society wants to do. However, given the nature of the process, government feels the NAP is going much further in some areas than it would do alone.
For those close to the centre of the process (on both the government and civil society side) this feels fine, the levels of trust are relatively high. For those much more distantly connected to the process the same is not true. I suspect this is because, different as the process is trying to be, it still looks like a government consultation to anyone not following it closely. It is an indication of these challenges that the NAP, which was due to be published on 24th April, has not yet emerged from the government machine. It will do, government and civil society will continue to work towards a shared set of actions for open government, and the plan will be stronger as a result.
Simon Burall – Director, Involve
This was originally posted on the international Open Government Partnership blog: http://blog.opengovpartnership.org/2013/05/government-and-civil-society-joint-working-on-the-uk-action-plan-definitely-worth-it-2/
I have been involved in the OGP since its early beginnings and it has been a real privilege to witness the growth of a movement so exciting and ambitious.
The idea of making governments more open and transparent, because this benefits not just the citizens, but the government itself, is far more revolutionary than it may sound and it takes time and effort to let it sink in and make it happen.
The UK started this journey from a fairly advanced position. Transparency is one of this government’s key priorities. In the Cabinet Office, the Transparency Team was already working to develop a strategy with open data at its heart.
But the essence of the OGP is that to achieve “Open Government”, governments cannot work on their own and there is another voice entitled to speak out loudly: civil society. This is why the OGP is different and this is where the real challenge lies. And even when you think you’ve got it – understand what it means – you may find that it’s not quite like what you thought.
The UK government woke up to the extent of this challenge when a coalition of civil society organisations wrote a letter to ask for more effective engagement.
We asked civil society to sit down with us and work together to help us make a difference. We didn’t open the dialogue because we had to or to pretend inclusiveness, we did it because we knew how much added value policies have when they are developed through exchange of diverse ideas, contributions from experts and those who work on the ground.
But it’s not easy. It takes time. And it’s about setting expectations.
Governments need to become more ambitious and commitments should go above and beyond policies already in place.
However civil society also needs to understand that OGP is not about simply presenting a list of demands and expecting governments to meet them all at once. It is about genuine engagement and responding to opportunities; which policies need priority action and which ones could wait; pick the right battles worth fighting.
Governments and civil society need to come to terms with their different ways of working and establish an honest approach. Trust is key; pace needs balancing; government needs time to properly consider wider implications while civil society seeks immediate action.
And sometimes both sides are so focused on their specific issues that they forget the wider perspective. What are we ultimately trying to achieve? Is it just about national action plans?
The UK has hosted three days of OGP events in London last week. On the last evening I was enjoying the reception in the beautiful setting of Lancaster House, chatting and mingling and the answer was there: a room full of people from different countries and backgrounds, civil society and government officials, ministers and open data “geeks”. We were all there because we all have one thing in common: we believe in “open government” and in the positive results it can bring. This is extraordinary and it is the big change that drives all the other single achievements.
So yes, the UK Government has not yet been able to publish its draft plan as quickly as we hoped and yes, we have not met all civil society demands. Some we will meet, some we don’t know yet, others we probably never will. But if somebody asked me whether this process was worth it, I say “yes, it’s been great”.
Some people think we haven’t gone far enough, but: “how far is far enough?”. This is a journey and I am very proud of how far we have come. We couldn’t have done it without our civil society partners and we will need them even more going forward.
So I say: “think big, give time, acknowledge all achievements, don’t lose the trust and more results will come”.
Ilaria Miller – Transparency Team, Cabinet Office
This was originally posted on the international Open Government Partnership blog: http://blog.opengovpartnership.org/2013/04/civil-society-participation-in-drafting-the-uk-national-action-plan-has-it-been-worth-it/
Today the UK government planned to publish its first draft of the new National Action Plan for the Open Government Partnership. The aim was to coincide with the Steering Group Meeting in London and to show the progress made so far in developing commitments to be included in the final plan in October. Due to the internal clearing process for government policy, they haven’t been able to publish it as hoped, but the plan is for this to happen in the forthcoming weeks.
Developing this draft plan has been the product of a lengthy process of open policy making led by the Cabinet Office, with extensive involvement of civil society throughout. Tearfund, along with about thirty other organisations, has been heavily involved. So, 6 months later, I ask myself whether it has been worth it. Is this evidence of the UK becoming “the most open and transparent government in the world” as David Cameron committed to in 2010 after being elected Prime Minister? Or is it just a consultation exercise with little to show for it?
In terms of content, without doubt the second plan (latest draft seen last Friday) is streets ahead of the first one published two years ago. There is a much broader understanding of open government, which moves beyond an open data focus to include wider issues of transparency (such as tax transparency), citizen participation in policy-making and government accountability. With a section on global partnerships there is welcome recognition that the open government agenda goes beyond national borders to include, for example, an encouragement for other countries to pass laws for greater transparency in payments by extractive industries, or to work with other governments to reach the highest standards of budget transparency and citizen participation in the budget process.
Furthermore, the plan doesn’t shy away from tackling some thorny issues such as working with the UK’s Crown Dependencies and Overseas Territories to support them in signing up to global anti-corruption conventions.
However, there are some worrying omissions. Commitments around Freedom of Information Legislation are not included because government and civil society are pulling in different directions. Commitments to opening up company registers to include requirements for transparency in beneficial ownership are weak and links between the OGP and G8 agendas haven’t really been made in a way that represents an emerging global agenda.
Civil society has put together a list of areas for future discussion and these are to be included in an annex. We will continue to push government to include commitments in these areas in the final plan.
As far as the process goes, there have been significant benefits. Cabinet Office colleagues have shown great personal commitment to the open policy-making process and have been responsive to many of the commitments civil society has asked to be included. The process has helped to build good working relationships as well a better understanding of the issues involved and government plans. Debates over Freedom of Information and more transparent data on companies are two areas where a frank and open discussion have led to greater clarity about what is needed, although as yet no further commitments to action.
Perhaps the greatest frustration has been the limited involvement across Whitehall as the open policy making process hasn’t penetrated all areas of government. This has meant that some commitments in the draft plan are vague and not as advanced as we had hoped and others as yet have no timescale attached. This clearly shows the need for greater cross-departmental coordination and engagement, a process which is time-consuming.
In terms of self reflection, one challenge for civil society has been to manage expectations of the process. As mentioned above, developing the action plan has the potential to bring together different departments and develop government policy, but this will not replace ongoing lobbying and policy discussions with the lead departments on each issue.
The next few months will be crucial to engage all relevant government departments and ensure that the final action plan includes specific commitments, responsibilities and a timescale for implementation, so that the UK government can really lead the way in open government.
Graham Gordon, Senior Policy Officer – Governance and Corruption, Tearfund
The UK OGP civil society network today submitted the following to the Government’s consultation on its self assessment against the UK’s 2011 open government action plan:
To whom it concerns,
Over the past few months civil society organisations that form part of the UK OGP Civil Society Network have been working with Cabinet Office colleagues in an open policy-making process to develop the commitments for the UK’s Second National Action Plan, to be published in time for the OGP Annual Conference at the end of October 2013. We have appreciated the commitment of colleagues, in particular Sophia Oliver, Ilaria Miller and lately Pete Lawrence.
During this process there has been widespread recognition by both civil society and government that the first action plan focused too much on open data and that going forward the vision of open government should be broadened to include not only open data, but a wider focus on transparency, participation and accountability. That is why the current version of the second action plan is divided into the three areas of open data and transparency, participation and accountability. There is also a fourth area around global partnerships, that seeks to develop commitments for how the UK government can work with others to build on best practice and support the highest standards of transparency, participation and accountability worldwide.
As one of the aims of the consultation on the first action plan is to “identify commitments that it will be important to keep in the next action plan”, we enclose the attached document (sent to the Cabinet Office team on March 20th as part of the ongoing consultative process), that includes many commitments that we think should be included, and that we are confident will also be in the draft action plan due to be published before the Steering Committee meeting on 22-24 April.
Coordinator, UK OGP Civil Society Network
Attached document: UK OGP interim action plan_20 March_Draft narrative
As part of the Open Government Partnership process each country must carry out a self-assessment against it’s National Action Plan, ahead of the independent review mechanism providing a view on that plan. The UK Government has now produced it’s self-assessment, and it is available linked below for comments. As the team from Cabinet Office explain:
Today, almost two years since the UK’s initial involvement and the official launch of the OGP in New York, we are publishing the self-assessment report on the UK National Action Plan, originally published in September 2011.
Back in the spring of 2011, the UK Government was one of the founding members of the OGP, sharing the excitement of being in at the start of a new global movement anddiscussing how best to shape it. Around the world, there were clear signs of a growing appetite for openness in government that had to be satisfied: we had to take action and be part of the movement or be left behind. We wanted the OGP to be a voluntary initiative, but participating countries had to demonstrate real commitment to change and make a difference. The national action plans are the living proof of governments’ desire to become more accountable to their citizens and in this way, earn their place in the partnership.
The first UK Action Plan was drafted in the very early days of the OGP, when we and our partners were still clarifying the scope of civil society engagement, implementation periods, reviewing mechanisms and so on. So much has happened since, and this report is an honest account of the UK’s performance to date and how much our agenda has evolved.
The consultation will remain open for two working weeks until 15 April. A final report will be published on 19 April. The Independent Reporting Mechanism will use this material to conduct their own review. Please read the report and post your comments. Although we anticipate that people may have different views, our commitment to listen and engage is genuine and it is this approach that has been guiding the ongoing work to develop the new national action plan, which we expect to publish at the end of October.
Three sections of the Self-Assessment are posted for comment using CrocDoc – which allows you to annotate each document with notes and feedback. The aim of allowing inviting feedback is to:
- Identify commitments that it will be important to keep in the next action plan;
- Provide the Independent Reporting Mechanism with a more exhaustive picture of our progress, to assist the experts that will develop the UK report.
View the documents on Gov.uk, or read the commentable versions below to share your thoughts:
Over the past couple of weeks, through meetings at the Open Data Institute and collaboration online, we’ve been developing a narrative that links the open government commitments we’ve been discussing over the past five months, and presents a vision of open government driving both prosperity and democratic renewal. This draft interim plan includes commitments on open data and transparency; participation and responsiveness; accountability; and the UK’s role in global partnerships.
It has been developed through the active collaboration of experts in open data, transparency, participation and accountability from the civil society network and the Cabinet Office Transparency Team, with input along the way from other government officials.
It is important to note that the commitments within the interim plan have not yet been agreed to by ministers. In the next step of the process, the interim plan will be jointly submitted to Francis Maude for his comments and input. With his steer, we will then begin the process of seeking sign off for the commitments.
We’ll be posting the draft on this blog in the next few days. So watch this space!
The draft interim action plan submitted to the Cabinet Office can be found here: UK OGP interim action plan_20 March_Draft narrative
The Guardian has published a piece on the need for data integrity if open data is to improve government transparency, particularly in the developing world. The piece, written by Dr Anne Thurston, founder and director of the International Records Management Trust, calls on the UK government to encourage data integrity as part of its international transparency agenda.
The article can be found on the Guardian’s Public Leaders Network site:
For more information on the links between government transparency, data integrity, and trustworthy records, please visit: http://irmt.org/open-government-trustworthy-records-presentation
Following on from an Open Data Manchester special session on ‘open data futures’, and an open civil society workshop on the OGP, Open Data and Open Government are on the agenda at the upcoming Future Everything conference and festival in Manchester, 21st – 22nd March.
The festival includes a panel discussion on the Open Government Partnership (Thursday 21st, 14:30), and a workshop exploring different visions of Open Government.
These sessions take place alongside a packed programme of related events, including a panel with UK Director of Transparency Paul Maltby on ‘The Politics of Open Data’, and sessions on smart cities, and open business.
To widen consultation on the UK’s updated OGP National Action Plan a workshop will be taking place in Manchester on 20th March, open to all civil society organisations and representatives, to come and input into the important Open Government Partnership process. The announcement to be found on the booking website is below.
The UK Government is working in collaboration with a network of civil society organisations to develop an open government plan with a set of concrete open government commitments.
We need your help to develop it further – telling us what’s missing, what works and what’s needed at a local level, and if/how you’d like to be involved in developing it in the coming months.
We want to invite you to a workshop on Wednesday, 20 March 2013, from 1400 to 1600, at Four Piccadilly Place to begin the conversation with you. Register to participate here.
The UK is a founding member of the Open Government Partnership (OGP), a global effort to make governments better by promoting transparency, empowering citizens, fighting corruption, and harnessing new technologies to strengthen governance.
To become a member countries must endorse a high level Open Government Declaration and develop a National Action Plan setting out concrete commitments to open government. The Minister for the Cabinet Office, Francis Maude, has committed to developing the UK’s next National Action Plan in partnership with civil society. As the current chair of the OGP, there is a spotlight on the UK as it develops its next set of commitments and an opportunity for civil society to work with government to ensure they are ambitious and respond to real world issues.
Progress so far
Work has already begun over the past five months on developing the action plan, with the Cabinet Office and a network of (mostly nationally and internationally focused) civil society organisations working together to develop a set of commitments. Together, these commitments will make government and other powerful institutions more transparent (including through opening up data), enable greater citizen participation in policymaking, improve the responsiveness of government, better public service delivery and enhance the accountability systems that, among other things, reveal and prevent corruption in public and private organisations.
We think we’ve come a long way over the past five months in developing a plan, in an open and transparent way, that’s ambitious and that’ll make a positive real world difference, in the UK and beyond. But we know that there are gaps in what we’ve developed and still much more work to be done to make the most of this opportunity.
What we’re offering/asking for
That’s where you come in. We want to extend the network of organisations and people involved in developing the plan, and get the benefits of your knowledge and experience of what works and what is needed to open up government, particularly at a local level.
With this in mind, we’re holding a two-hour workshop, linked to the FutureEverything conference, to begin a conversation on the following points:
- Tell us what’s missing from the draft action plan and what works and what’s needed at a local level
- Share with us examples of government being opened up in the north west
- Discuss how we might best involve you and other local level organisations in developing the action plan over the next six months
Your thoughts and suggestions will be recorded and used as we continue to develop the plan. We cannot promise that we’ll be able to develop commitments around everything you suggest, but we can promise to include you in an ongoing conversation about what’s possible and report back to you on progress.
We hope that you’ll be able to join us.
Ilaria Miller (Cabinet Office Transparency Team) and Tim Hughes (Involve, and coordinator of the UK open government civil society network)