Meeting notes 20th March 2015

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

by Josephine Suherman-Bailey

Josephine was a Policy Analyst at Involve. She worked on the Open Government Partnership and supported the coordination of the UK Open Government Partnership civil society network.

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

bristol

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.

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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

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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

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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

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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

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Minister for open government

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

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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.

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