Meeting notes 27th April 2015

Opening Up Government: Manchester Workshop | 15 April 2015 | Meeting note

by Josephine Suherman-Bailey

Josephine is a Policy Analyst at Involve. She works on the Open Government Partnership and supports 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

The St Thomas Centre, Ardwick Green North, M12 6FZ Manchester

Wednesday 15th April 2015 from 10:00 to 13:00

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.

  • Need for third sector to justify decisions – outcomes focused
  • Providing data tools
  • Investing in skills and people re: data
  • If online openness improves, does it create a divide for those not online. Not just access but use.
  • commercial data blocks to be challenged
  • participatory decision-making
  • asks questions
  • meaningful engagement not consultations where decisions already been made
  • More collaborative working at a local level. Don’t just hold events, act on them (asset-based community development events)
  • Starts with issues that are shared
  • Collaborates with other government bodies on shared systems
  • Greater public involvement in decision-making between elections e.g. Citizens juries and deliberative events
  • Consultations earlier in policy cycle
  • More/better evidence for decisions
  • Greater range of voices heard and greater range of needs met
  • Opening up consultations to non-experts
  • More accessible language in consultations
  • Better use of social media by government as a way of being open
  • Local government less party political, more collaborative and network based
  • More level playing field for contracts – not advantage for those used to writing bids and not working with smaller/ other groups
  • Provides broad range of data not skewed
  • Greater use of FOI at a national level and by a wider range of people
  • Publish everything in public e.g. GitHub like the French
  • 2-way information flows
  • Gathers information given voluntarily
  • Framework of consent
  • Respects permissions/ consent

 

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.

PriorityLevel Table 1 Table 2 Table 3
1 Better accountability of elected representatives during their term of office Citizen participation in spending 1% of public budgets Co-production of public services
2 Co-production of public services
Citizen Assembly on voting reform
Transparency in government contracting
Co-production of Public Services
Open government accountability, e.g. an independent ‘Office for Open Government’
Transparency in government contracting
Citizen Assembly on voting reform
Implement the recommendations of the Digital Democracy Commission
3 Fight corruption in the UK & abroad
End corrupt money in UK property
Meaningful engagement when consulting with stakeholders
Co-producing meaningful consultation principles and guidelines
Citizen participation in spending 1% of public budgets
Adopt an open and formal process for piloting new policies
Co-producing meaningful consultation principles and guidelines
Implement the recommendations of the Digital Democracy Commission
End corrupt money in UK property
End corrupt money in UK property
Better accountability of elected representatives during their term of office
The UK government should commit to setting up an independent body, with membership drawn from civil society, to scrutinise and oversee Britain’s security and intelligence agencies
4 Adopt an open and formal process for piloting new policies
Transparency in government contracting
Open government accountability, e.g. an independent ‘Office for Open Government’
The UK government should commit to setting up an independent body, with membership drawn from civil society, to scrutinise and oversee Britain’s security and intelligence agencies
Make open government a truly ‘national’ policy
Developing dialogue skills in public admin
Meaningful engagement when consulting with stakeholders
Fight corruption in the UK and abroad
Co-producing meaningful consultation principles and guidelines
Meaningful engagement when consulting with stakeholders
Adopt an open and formal process for piloting new policies
5 Make open government a truly ‘national’ policy
Implement the recommendations of the Digital Democracy Commission
Developing dialogue skills in public admin
The UK government should commit to setting up an independent body, with membership drawn from civil society, to scrutinise and oversee Britain’s security and intelligence agencies
Open government accountability, e.g. an independent ‘Office for Open Government’
Make open government a truly ‘national’ policy
Developing dialogue skills in public admin
Citizen participation in spending 1% of public budgets
Fight corruption in the UK and abroad

 

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.

Better accountability and support (to get more people to stand) for elected representatives
Support/ getting more people to stand:
– non-party based training and support e.g. Equivalent of Greens ’30 under 30′ scheme
– protected time for council duties from employer (paid)
– better financial incentives, especially important for freelancers
– better resources and support to engage e.g. to get newsletters out
(Also look at international best practice)Accountability:
– go to more community events (and community groups invite them more). Add to job description on code of conduct.
– better training and use of social media including for events (e.g. Surgeries). Add to job description or code of conduct.
– clearer information for public and councillors about who to go to with an issue
– better information for councillors on local service data

 

Citizens assembly (improve)
Democratic space is a right. Each community must have access to a physical and virtual space to assemble and talk/plan whatever they want to. Presently it costs £100s to hire venues such as GMCVO or Friends Meeting House.
We need declared democratic space. Facilities should offer a number of days a year when it must act as a democratic space. Space for the people to assemble to discuss and found out information about issues affecting them or the nation. To discuss democratic engagement and process. The cost barriers of access to space, should be taken seriously as an objective of open government.
Open government must provide information on where free spaces are and when they’re available.

 

Rethink representation: ideas to improve access, accountability and transparency
Support for the local representative/ councillor/MP/MEP by active involved citizens given the chance to engage in democracy at local level, but not just from parties from anyone who wishes to be involved. Representatives to share space with libraries or community facilities in the heart of their constituency and leave the party fold to spend more time with the community they represent.
Rethink representation to spread workload, why not job-share representation?1 vote cast for compatibility with current system. But more than one person doing the role = a representative job share would mean the representative could be in more than one place at a time – council or locals
Open government can achieve more if it involves people in problem solving, and takes on board creative solutions to involve people. It should go far beyond the cliques, party faithfuls and lobbyists and prioritise those willing to act for the benefit of the community that is supposed to be served.

 

Gather data in different voting systems at the same time
– in some areas, during FPTP, also try to gather preferences that could be used to show other outcomes if other election methods used
– science!
– gather data that can be shown to public to demonstrate different options and allow informed discussion based on real data

 

Building the capacity to engage with communities
Create an investment programme to actively invest in new, data-based approaches and stimulate change.
Need to focus work on practical applications ensuring citizen involvement.
E.g. challenge fund : cross sector partnerships of local government, developers and citizen groups focusing on aim base approaches bid in a competition.
Outcome is to create scalable approaches that enable mass engagement
Additional investment into local enterprise partnership funded businesses support services to create dedicated data use and security support
Build capacity of public bodies to use data – needs active investment and exemplar work to encourage further development
Why is idea important?
Policies which have no financial element are often ignored by public sector administrations. A commitment to invest in this area creates incentives to engage with open government and sends a powerful signal
Also many may be willing to engage with this agenda but need the tools and skills to carry it forward.
The key with investment is where it is targeted. There is exciting investment to change central government approaches to data but not the resource in localities where it can make a significant difference.
Smaller voluntary institutions and businesses will lack the capacity to independently invest in new approaches but can generate innovation to aid transparency but also improve productivity. Current capacity to use large scale data sets is limited to large corporations and there is an asymmetry of information.
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