Meeting notes 7th May 2015

Opening Up Government: Birmingham Workshop | 20 April 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

BVSC: Centre for Voluntary Action, 138 Digbeth, Birmingham B5 6DR

Monday, 20th April 2015 from 14:00 to 17:00

Purpose

  1. Discuss and develop ideas for open government reforms in Birmingham 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?

  • User-centred design (e.g. council websites being more user friendly)
  • Live streaming council meetings
  • Leadership
  • Government giving up a level of control over the message
  • Skilled up citizenry
  • Skilled up local and national government (e.g. open data skills)
  • If info is secret, we should be concerned!
  • “Logical design”
  • Feed upwards
  • Important to make open info accessible
  • Need to ensure government can respond to what it hears – willingness and capacity
  • Open about what it’s trying to achieve
  • Open government could make all info available and accessible
  • Listening to responses and learning
  • Better communication between government and civil society
  • More accessible/ better resented data
  • Less jargon
  • Share evidence that decisions are based on
  • Government needs to be honest about how quickly change can (or can’t) happen

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.

Priority

Level

Table 1 Table 2
1 Open government accountability, e.g. an independent ‘Office for Open Government’ Meaningful engagement when consulting with stakeholders
Co-producing meaningful consultation principles and guidelines
Adopt an open and formal process for piloting new policies
Co-production of public services
2 Meaningful engagement when consulting with stakeholders
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
Transparency in government contracting
3 Citizen participation in spending 1% of public budgets
Co-producing meaningful consultation principles and guidelines
Developing dialogue skills in public admin
Developing dialogue skills in public admin
End corrupt money in UK property
Fight corruption in the UK and Abroad
Make open government a truly ‘national’ policy
4 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
Co-production of public services
Transparency in government contracting
Fight corruption in the UK and Abroad
5 Implement the recommendations of the Digital Democracy Commission
End corrupt money in UK property
Adopt an open and formal process for piloting new policies
Make open government a truly ‘national’ policy

 

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.

Education for Involvement: engaging students/ the community in citizenshipHow do we overcome citizens not knowing/ understanding the information they need to play a part? How do we equip people with these?

Education, starting in school (and those of school age, not at school e.g. home-schooled)

  • How do policies affect you in real life?
  • What does government do? Both locally and nationally
  • Where do you fit in?
  • Why should you vote/ be involved?

Embedded throughout the education system from an early age, in core subjects rather than standalone.

Educating people to take ownership and be an engaged citizen.

Understanding of processes.

Confidence building

Ability to participate in democracy and decision-making

Why is your idea important?

Only once people are equipped with the skills to be involved with government be truly open

Purpose/ benefits of openness?
Government should take a carrot – rather than stick – approach to increasing open government.
Openness presents the increased opportunity for:

  • Public services to collaborate around outcomes
  • Society being able to learn from mistakes

Benefits such as these should be the focus for developing open government.
There should be a focus on building the evidence base for open government – collecting and sharing the evidence of what works. This could be integrated into the work of the What Works Centres.
To support this, initiatives such as the Census should be maintained to allow comparison across time.

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