Meeting notes 28th November 2016

Where we’ve got to; the OGP Summit; & what’s next | 10 Nov 2016 | Meeting note

by Tim Hughes

Tim is coordinator of the UK Open Government Network.

On 10 November, the Open Government Network and Cabinet Office met to review progress on the UK Open Government Partnership process so far, consider how we can make best use of the OGP Summit, and plan next steps. Below is a note of the meeting.


Participants

Tim Hughes, Involve
Kaela Scott, Involve
Simon Burall, Involve
Jag Goraya, The Better With Data Society
Gavin Freeguard
Lorriann Robinson, The ONE Campaign
Rachel Davies, Transparency International
Maria Stephens, CRAE
Michelle Brook, Demsoc
Tonu Basu, OGP
Tom Orrell, Publish What You Fund
Paul Taylor, OpenUK
Rachel Rank, 360Giving
Elcena Jeffers, Elcena Jeffers Foundation
Colin Horswell
Ruchir Shah, SCVO
Miles Litvinoff, Publish What You Pay UK
David McBurney, NI Open Government Network
Thom Townsend, Cabinet Office
Jeremy Foster, Cabinet Office
William Gerry, Cabinet Office

New OGN funding

Involve has been successful in securing funding to coordinate the OGN from three sources:

  • The Big Lottery Fund, to look at the crossover between open government and Sustainable Development Goals, with the Scottish, Welsh and NI networks.
  • The Potter Foundation, will to conduct an audit of open government in the UK in order to develop priorities for the Open Government Network.
  • NESTA, to expand the reach and impact of the OGN, and particularly to look at how the OGN can use digital technologies to engage members of the network.

Update on NAP3 commitments

The latest update is available here. Broadly things are on track. However, there are some points to raise in the following areas:

  • 4. Innovation Hub – CO are returning to this following other priorities over the summer, and will be beginning to operationalise the Hub in early 2017. The next meeting of the Hub will be taking place on 23 November 2016.
  • 5. Open contracting – CCS aim to complete by 14 November. Even though there have been problems with Contracts Finder, it is a huge success that has changed government practice. Simon (Involve) said that at some point we should reflect on why  open contracting commitment was so successful. Thom noted the Paris Summit will provide a welcome impetus for the open contracting agenda, with the launch of the Contracting 5 (C5) initiative.
  • 6. Grants data – CO are working with departments to publish before June 2018. Some of the data is on data.gov.uk. Rachael said she understood the action plan is a living document and timescales can be revisited.
  • 7. Elections data – there are ongoing discussions with the election management suppliers about the changes. A key challenge will be around ensuring local authority returning officers use it. Organisations in the room stated that civil society could lobby the returning officers to implement it.
  • 11. Better use of data assets – the departmental data plans have been postponed due to the delayed publication of the Government Digital Transformation Strategy. The new Director General of the Government Digital Service has stated publicly it will be published by Christmas.

Update on next round of commitments

Cabinet Office is continuing to push for commitments in the areas of research transparency and records management. However, it is unlikely there will be more commitments from the UK Government by the OGP Summit in December. The Cabinet Office is working with devolved administrations to add commitments from their governments to the UK’s National Action Plan in December.

Discussion of NAP 3 processes and commitments

Thom Townsend (Cabinet Office) asked the civil society representatives what is working and what isn’t working six months into the implementation of the third National Action Plan. He encouraged civil society to work with government on the milestones, and to advocate as appropriate where they felt progress was insufficient. In discussion three main levers for progresses were identified: recognition for achievement; civil society push hard; and a minister cares.

There was a proposal that the OGN should crowdsource new ideas again. OGN need to have a sense of what matters inside government so there is government support. Thom referred to the public reform agenda, and participation and engagement to improve public services delivery. There needs to be a clearer link between open government and the priorities for ordinary citizens.

There was a discussion about the government’s priorities – e.g. housing, education, prisons and health. One method of prioritising efforts could be to select a policy priority, then identify new commitments that relate to the area, in consultation with pre-existing CSOs and businesses. Tim Hughes said the open government audit and SDGs may be good opportunities.

Making the most of OGP Paris Summit

The Paris Summit is a key opportunity to engage and excite the Minister about the open government agenda, and ensure its high on his list of priorities. This will allow for the implementation of NAP3, and enable new commitments to be identified and agreed upon.

Tonu Basu from the OGP Support Unit talked about the OGP mid term review and strategic refresh. At the Summit they will present the findings and the Paris Declaration. The draft Declaration is available here; there is an opportunity to suggest changes until 24 November and see what collective actions governments are signing up to. At least three governments, experts or sub nationals have to sign up to a commitment for it to be considered. Collective actions are not automatically transferred into National Action Plans.

Some countries are keen on signing up to the broad commitments but others are hoping for more specific actions. The OGN said that collective actions which the UK signs up to should not be so vague they are meaningless for ministers.

Government Attendees

Ben Gummer, Minister for the Cabinet Office, is going to the Summit, likely on Wednesday and Thursday, as well as Sir Eric Pickles, the newly reappointed Anti-Corruption Champion.

Discussion of opportunities to engage the Minister

The OGN Steering Committee will write to Ben Gummer before the Summit with their view on what he should say. Perhaps the OGN could pick up on developments worldwide and its relevance to open government i.e. anti-establishment feeling, lack of trust and corruption.

OGN will revisit proposals that were not taken forward in its manifesto. In writing to the minister it will be important to communicate the level of demand and the potential value in delivering proposed commitments from the manifesto.

Transparency International will probably talk to Sir Eric Pickles next week about an opportunity to do more on beneficial ownership in overseas territories at the Summit.

There are barriers that need to be overcome due to the political transitions that occur at the ministerial level which mean ministers are less likely to prioritise open government. There may need to be discussions about whether the OGP process can help in a particular context, or whether another approach should be taken.

A suggested topic for MCO to talk about at the Summit was public trust. There is a disconnect between what goes on in the OGP process and and what people know about open government. Questions that civil society felt it would be important to answer were: How do we communicate more broadly? What support can be given to improve active participation in open government?

Actions

  • OGN to write to MCO by 28 November
  • Cabinet Office to arrange a meeting between officials and the OGN in the New Year to discuss the prioritisation of new commitments and a meeting between the OGN and Ben Gummer.
  • Cabinet Office invites feedback from the OGN and others to commitment let us know if they believe the OGP process is not working. Please contact william.gerry@digital.cabinet-office.gov.uk with any feedback you may have.
  • OGN to trigger its process to nominate new members for the Steering Committee.
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