News 5th November 2014

Network meeting note | 29 October 2014

by Tim Hughes

Tim is coordinator of the UK Open Government Network.

Attendees

Tim Hughes, Involve
Josephine Suherman, Involve
Miles Litvinoff, Publish What You Pay UK
Nehal Depani, Compact Voice
Rachel Davies, Transparency International UK
Claire Schouten, International Budget Partnership
Thomas McGarvey, Transparency International UK
Andrew Parsons, Public Concern at Work
Beck Wallace, Cafod

Discussion notes

First Hour (OGP civil society network)

Update from Tim Hughes, Involve:

Involve has secured funding from Omidyar Network for two years, signed off in late June, to take on the coordination role. Our priorities: expanding reach and diversity of network, ensuring current commitments fulfilled, strong process for developing next NAP, focus on maintaining and building momentum for after the election.

Involve is looking after the development of an open source forum/ communication platform for the network. This will solve problem that only the coordinator can see who is on the email list and will allow us to collaborate more freely online without bombarding people with emails. Hoping to start using in the next week or so. No action needed from network members except to sign up when they receive a notification.

Discussion on how regularly to meet. Decided on regular meetings booked with decent notice (3-4 weeks in advance), but not held in diary further in advance.

Discussion on how to involve  a wider range of civil society groups. Involve discussing with Scottish government and civil society in Northern Ireland. Looking to build relationship with Wales. Last NAP London-centric and England-centric. Open Gov Manifesto planned to engage wider range of people in OGP. Depending on how successful it is, close date will be end of February or beginning of March.

Involve has a challenge fund pot from the Omidyar grant to be used to fund innovate forms of engaging civil society or government – civil society collaboration. One option for the use of this money would be to focus it on building civil society networks in Scotland and Wales. Interested in views on whether this is the right priority.

How to widen access to ‘non-techy’ groups, e.g. those in poverty?

Looking to use umbrella organisations, greater range of civil society groups etc as route to reach a broader range of people. Less likely to reach beyond active groups of citizens, although open to ideas on how to do that.

Could engage with journalists about benefits of open government in anecdotal way. Transparency International says Sunday Times are interested. University unions might also be open to this. Youth groups like Restless Development. Other groups delivering frontline services to reach ‘hard to reach’ audiences e.g. those in poverty, homeless. 

Tim fed back on idea to use case studies of past achievements to demonstrate what open government is and why its important to a wider audience. TI is collecting case studies on how FOI’s have been used to unveil corruption in local authorities. It’s a deterrent. People can relate to those stories. Other case studies include lobbying meetings around oil companies and the Iraq war. Necessary to have balanced case studies showing government being proactive and engaging as well as being ‘caught out’ through transparency measures. 

Could approach Mark Thomas, who has satirical show on R4 on crowdsourcing a manifesto. He could reach much wider audience.

Second Hour (with Lizetta Lyster from the Cabinet Office)

Should the CO’s resource be focussed on getting government departments to engage or working with civil society to widen engagement there? Lizetta feels focus needs to be on both sides. Feels there is a role for them to keep pushing and flagging, but broadening engagement is also key from their point of view. 

On the government’s self-assessment, Cabinet Office looking for case studies on good engagement with CS on the NAP. Will be thinking about their level of engagement with CS generally. December/Jan will be the next progress update, which will support broader evaluation. Shape of evaluation yet to be confirmed.

Follow up with the minister after first draft of self-assessment? 

IRM researcher will be circulating their plan for the assessment in the next few weeks. 

CO interested in supporting the OG Manifesto project. CO are aware of it and will start to think about how to answer some of the issues submitted. Unclear how far they can promote.

Actions

For meeting with the minister next week: 

  • Thank him for recognition in last process of importance of open government principles applied to private as well as public organisations.
  • Positive feedback on value of OGP for the extractives debate (UK OGP NAP commitment 9 re natural resource transparency has been v helpful esp re push for open & machine readable data)
  • Positive feedback on anti-corruption action plan to come out in next few months
  • Positive feedback on inclusion of beneficial ownership commitment
  • Positive feedback on difference in engagement between first and second NAP.
  • Need better engagement from departments on their progress on their commitments. Some departments have been better at this than others. Possible ask of Maude would be a write-round to departments setting out expectations.
  • Need a proper timeline with at least 3 weeks advance notice about drafts of new documents coming out of government, to help civil society to be able to participate.
  • The delivery – as well as development – of commitments should be as open as possible. Decisions on the detail of commitment delivery have often reverted back from open policy making.
  • Following up on strengthening of the Lobbying Register (already in the OG Manifesto twice!)
  • Clarity on the role of the Cabinet Office in the OG Manifesto, and in the devolved administrations? Neighbourhood social audits? A commitment from Maude to engagement and outreach in the meeting which we can hold him to account for.
  • Raising retrograde steps happening in other countries, such as closing down civil society space. What kind of pressure can be applied to get them to improve? OGP has released policy on this recently, on the different sanctions they might apply. Ensuring UK is advocate for civil society in steering committee discussions of regression and sanctions.
  • Ask the Conservatives to continue to commit to taking forward the commitments in the current NAP, as part of their manifesto.

General actions: 

  • Ask network for more feedback on progress of NAP commitments.
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