Meeting notes 16th December 2014

Securing open government commitments from political parties | Meeting note

by Tim Hughes

Tim is coordinator of the UK Open Government Network.

15th November 2014, 12:00 to 14:00
33 Corsham Street, London, N1 6DR and remotely

Attendees

Anthony Zacharzewski, Democratic Society
Claire Schouten, International Budget Partnership
David Newman, e-consultation.org
Ellen Broad, Open Data Institute
Josephine Suherman-Bailey, Involve
Louise King, Save the Children
Prateek Buch, Sense About Science
Simon Burall, Involve
Tim Hughes, Involve (Chair)
Vince Braithwaite, PublicMedia Projects

Summary

  • The Government is conducting its self assessment of the current National Action Plan. Complete the survey they’ve distributed if you were involved in that action plan or are interested in any of the commitments.
  • The Open Government Manifesto has been up and running for a month and a half, and we’ve collected 17 ideas for commitments so far. We’ll be doing a big push on it in the New Year, with meetings around the country. Please contribute your ideas to the manifesto.
  • We’re collecting short profiles of members of the network. Please contribute yours by completing this short survey.
  • We agreed that the election poses a threat to the momentum of the open government movement and that the network needs to plan for a new government by engaging with the political parties in the run up to the election in May 2015
  • We need to strike the balance between asking the parties to make concrete commitments the network can hold them to account for, and asking the parties to make high level commitments to open government to increase the likelihood they will adopt them.
  • We agreed that asking the parties to commit to the OGP, engaging with civil society and carrying on with the current commitments strikes the right balance.
  • As we know in coalition negotiations commitments can slide if they’re not in all partners’ manifestos, we agreed we need to engage with all parties.
  • While there is little cost to disseminate a statement to all, inviting politicians to roundtables, speaking to individuals etc, will have to be more targeted due to time and resources.
  • There was support for the idea of writing a statement that all orgs in the network can be signatories of.
  • If possible, we agreed that a hustings with open government movers and shakers in all parties to encourage a ‘race to the top’ was a good idea.
  • We need to emphasise how much this has an impact on peoples’ lives and what open government can deliver.

Update on current activities

The Government is conducting its self assessment of the current National Action Plan. Please complete the survey they’ve distributed if you were involved in that action plan or are interested in any of the commitments. 

The Open Government Manifesto has been up and running for a month and a half, and we’ve collected 17 ideas for commitments so far. We’ll be doing a big push on it in the New Year, with meetings around the country. Please contribute your ideas for commitments to the manifesto. 

Please contribute to the call for profiles on how open government has been useful to their organisation and their work. Fill out the quick and easy Google form here and read more on why we’re calling for profiles here.

Engaging political parties with open government

Why?

It’s important to get buy-in from political parties before the election to keep up momentum on the OGP. The UK’s next action plan will be due 6 months later, so we need to be able to hit the ground running on 8th May.

Other civil society’s experience of a changing government leading to a loss of momentum and even risk of loss of support. It’s important to think about how loss of momentum may impact internationally as UK is a leader.

There is a sense of nervousness that there will be loss of momentum since this govt and the last govt has done lots on open govt. A good strategy may therefore be to focus on the parties.

Parties respond to public perception. Eg on expenses they responded but now it’s blown over somewhat they’re ‘hiding things again’. How to encourage public pressure.

OGP is quite personality led, so building into manifesto and getting shadow/potential minister on board important.

Getting a champion in each party is a strong strategy.

What?

Because it will probably be a coalition the parties are reticent to make concrete commitments. So we should go for high level commitment to open gov and committing to the network, OGP and NAP.

If you ask for a broad statement they will make it. But then it will slip down the priority list. Tie high level commitments to something more concrete. The point is they could do and say they’ve fulfilled their commitments.

Should we ask for a commitment to carrying on the current list of 21 commitments? Most will be done but a few will still be going.

Ask in general terms for govt to commit to carrying commitments on.

Needs to be a minimum viable commitment so more likely to be agreed to in a coalition

General commitment to open by default? 

What are the criticisms which could be directed at OGP and openness, which the parties may be alert to? 

Openness as a principle not politically contentious. Its from a bureaucratic and commercial point of view where the difficulties lie.

Good to know what criticisms could be as this could dictate your strategy.

Need to make sure part of the what is that wider casting, beyond open data.

Do we start to tie together existing manifestos from members of the network?

All orgs involved in network could have a united ask for broad commitment. Then specific orgs could push more detailed campaigning asks.

Policy makers want to know you’re not a lone voice. If you can do that more effectively by getting them to sign up to this high level commitment you might be more successful.

Conscious that what we’re doing needs to add value to what others are doing and not be in competition.

How?

Needs to be done very quickly! Something ready for early January. There is still 5 months to engage key people. What work should we be doing outside manifestos? Asking for statements over and above manifestos.

There’s a distinction between manifesto and public campaign messages. We want to contact policy people

Need to speak to backroom people drafting manifestos. SpAds. Want to speak to politicians but also those drafting, probably more important to engage!

Do we want to do this as a statement of the network or individually? Not either or, but is that something we want to do quickly.

Time is a factor, need to move quickly. However lots of orgs have long sign off periods so might be easier to work individually.

Who should we target? Labour and Conservatives or extend to Lib Dems, Greens, UKIP?

We know in coalition negotiations things slide if they’re not in all partners’ manifestos. So we need to focus on all parties. Makes it harder.

DUP, SNP and Plaid may all be in play too if it’s a very messy election.

Don’t forget devolved nations’ govts and local govt. They will also be making decisions on open government.

Resourcing that is a question 

Little cost to disseminate statement. Inviting them to roundtables, speaking to individuals, might have to be more targeted due to time and resources.

What about open government hustings idea?

Experience of previous campaign hustings. Race to the top was the idea. But the difference here is that you need anger. People were angry about the policy area. Don’t know that’s the case with open govt.

We can fill the room with campaign people. Public facing makes it trickier.

When would we be able to put this hustings together? Is the date important? By that point it will be too late for the manifestos. We’re wanting senior people in party to go on public record. We want statements to follow up on and hold them to after election. Will this hustings be attractive? Where are the votes?

The key politicians do care about this agenda without thinking of votes.

Does it need to be real life? What about a webinar? How about the political blogs? If we’re not convinced the senior politicians will be around, this might be a way to make it stick and keep talking about it.

If you do it before the last few weeks before election and give lots of notice it will be easier. also lots of current campaign messages can be linked to open data.

I like idea of using party fora. Understanding how to pitch with other parties. How do they see role of open government? 

Stalls at spring conferences? To be able to speak to the politicians.

Digital Government review drafters – check whether any events coming up. 

In terms of our engagement with the parties, organisations have been having the conversation for some time now. It might be difficult to raise new issues now. Would be useful to write a statement that we can sign up to, but can’t lead or be proactive. 

How long is sign off process for big orgs? 

Early in new year. Sign off won’t take more than a week. 

Could be quite quick, unless completely leftfield.

If you’re trying to make something stick, having voices they won’t have heard from and making them think twice, policy makers will be hearing from the big orgs (usual suspects), but bringing in grassroots orgs can make policy makers think twice. Can put things in a way that wonks can’t!

Need to emphasise how much this has an impact on peoples’ lives and what open gov can deliver. Public interest.

Coverage of Maude’s speech, interesting as first time I could see what you can use it for. Need to make sure that focus is on value!

Tweet about this on TwitterShare on FacebookShare on LinkedInShare on Google+Email this to someone