OGN Papers 30th May 2018

OGN Coordinator’s Report May 2018

May 2018

01. Coordinator Summary

This report provides the financial and activity report of the Open Government Network Coordinator from January 2017 to February 2018

The past year has financial support from two sources – the Potter Foundation and the Big Lottery Fund (BLF). Both sources of funding end in 2018, meaning there is a need to seek funding for the coordination of the Open Government Network beyond the end of this calendar year. There are still a number of deliverables required for these grants, in particular related to the BLF grant.

The activity report will explain the various activities undertaken by the OGN Coordinator, including the internal operations of the OGN Steering Group, participation at domestic and international events representing the OGN, meetings with Government Ministers and recent recruitment.

It will also cover the activities conducted as part of the 2017 General Election, as well as how the OGN Coordinator has supported the implementation of the 2016-18 National Action Plan and the Network’s contribution to public consultations.

Finally the report also gives recent information about the development of the 2018-20 Open Government National Action Plan.

Throughout the activity report, efforts have been made to identify areas for improvement which are open to comment and changes as agreed by the OGN Steering Group.

02. Financial Report

2.1. Current Funding

Open Government Audit

Start date: 02/09/2016

End date: 31/03/2018

Amount: £15,000

Funder: Potter Foundation

Objectives

  1. Involve a broad range of civil society in auditing the openness of UK government
  2. Engage civil society in identifying priorities for reform
  3. Secure commitments to reform from government

Background

In September 2016, Involve secured a grant from the Potter Foundation to support the process of agreeing advocacy priorities for the Open Government Network ahead of the UK’s Fourth Open Government Action Plan.

Open Government Pioneers Project

Start date: 01/11/2016

End date: 31/12/2018

Amount: £68,775

Funder: Big Lottery Fund

Objectives

  1. Empowered engaged citizens, leveraging their knowledge of SDGs.
  2. Political representatives have greater awareness of SDGs and types of actions required.
  3. Government officials have a better plan for involving citizens.
  4. Open government seen as instrumental, and a common good towards progressing SDGs.

Background

The OGN Coordinator has been working with sister Networks – in Scotland (SCVO), Northern Ireland (NI Environment Link) and Wales (WCVA), – as part of the Open Government Pioneers Project, which aims to build the capacity of citizens and civil society to use open government approaches to progress the Sustainable Development Goals. This project is led by SCVO, coordinators of the Scottish OGN.

The blurb for the project reads: “The UK partners will work together over two years as part of the Open Government Pioneers Project to help people share the tools, techniques and resources required to engage and challenge their governments to serve them better. There will be a particular focus in supporting people who are not normally heard in the decisions that affect them, and the connection between citizens and devolved governments of the UK home nations.”

2.2. Resources

Involve’s resourcing of the Open Government Network was disrupted between November 2016 and October 2017 due to organisational changes and restructuring, including the previous coordinator taking over as director. This meant that we struggled, particularly at a senior level, to give the network the time it needs to coordinate. The organisation has come through this period and is now able to commit a stable level of resource to coordination of the OGN.

For the next year, this funding allows us to dedicate the following resource to coordination of the Open Government Network and associated activities:

  • Network Lead – Andreas Pavlou – 28 hours a week
  • Director – Tim Hughes – 3 hours a week

The remaining budget for 2018 is approximately £25,500. This resource is fully committed up to July in delivery of the new Open Government Action Plan, and beyond July in fulfilling commitments to the Open Government Pioneers Project. Where possible, Involve will supplement this resource with time from other members of staff at key crunch points. For the financial year 2017/18, Involve has contributed approximately £17,000 from general funds. However, this will be subject to the capacity of the team.

03. Activity Report – January 2017 to end of February 2018

3.1. Recruitment of new OGN Coordinator

Between April and September 2017, Matthew Harriott stood in to coordinate the Open Government Network. In September 2017, a new coordinator for the Open Government Network (OGN) was recruited – Andreas Pavlou – at a more senior level. He began work with Involve as Network Lead on 23 October 2017. Andreas brings a wealth of experience and expertise in the field of open government and has experience of working on the OGP in Spain.

3.2. General coordination activities

We have organised 7 Steering Committee meetings since January 2017 (including 22nd February). This includes drafting the agenda, taking notes and implementing actions.

On 15 March 2017, the OGN Steering Group held a Strategy Session in Manchester, where two clear areas of strategic focus emerged for the next year of the OGN

  • Campaigning for open and accountable Brexit process
  • Consolidation of existing open government reforms

Actions arising

> Consider whether these continue to be the priority focus of the OGN over 2018.

> Consider steps to achieving them, with possible indicators to measure impact/action.

3.3. Supporting Implementation of the 2016-18 National Action Plan

Over the last year, the OGN has helped to organise and attend three update meetings between government and civil society on the implementation of the 2016-18 national action plan. These were held in February, July, and November 2017, all in London with option for conference call dial in. The next, and final, update meeting under the 2016-18 action plan is scheduled for early April 2018. These meetings have been attended by representatives from the OGN Steering Group (OGN SG), commitment leads from government departments, Government OGP Points of Contact and the OGN coordinator(s).

In November, the OGN Coordinator helped to disseminate the invitation to comment on the Government and devolved administrations’ Mid-Term Self Assessment Report to the members of the UK and sister Networks. This received feedback and comment from Steering Group members but very limited feedback from the wider spectrum of OGN members.

Actions arising

> Review the implementation process for the 2016-18 Action Plan and consider model for 2018-2020 Action Plan.

> Ensure meetings are held in the late morning or early afternoon for OGN SG members based outside of London to have the reasonable option of attending in person, although conference call options will always be available.

3.4. Meetings with Government Ministers

A general election and unstable government over the last year has meant it has been difficult to build a working relationship with any minister holding the open government portfolio. This is further complicated by the division of some open government areas, such as transparency/FOI to other ministers. Since January 2017, we have had three ministers responsible for the Open Government Partnership process: Chris Skidmore, Caroline Nokes, and now Oliver Dowden. We understand that responsibility is due to shift again to DCMS Ministers in April.

The OGN Coordinator and Steering Group met with Chris Skidmore in April 2017 and Caroline Nokes in November 2017 to introduce them to the OGN, open government and the OGP process. We plan to meet the new Minister when it is clearer, or confirmed, whether responsibility for the OGP will transition to DCMS.

In addition to organising meetings with open government ministers, the OGN Coordinator was invited to attend a meeting organised by the BOND Anti-corruption Group with the Government’s Anti-Corruption Champion, John Penrose MP. At the meeting, held in February 2018, the OGN Coordinator presented the OGN, the OGP process, and offered the opportunity for the Anti-Corruption champion to present potential anti-corruption commitments within the next open government action plan. The BOND Anti-corruption group were also invited to think about new commitments for the next plan.

Actions arising

> Once confirmed, reach out to new Minister in charge of OGP

> Continue good relationship with Government Points of Contact on OGP

> Consider approaches to other Ministers, MPs and Lords

3.5. Participation in public consultations

The OGN has participated in two consultations since January 2017. The first consultation touched on wider open government issues, while the second was directly related to commitments in the national action plan.

In May, we organised a written response by members of the OGN to Professor David Ormerod QC, the Law Commissioner for Criminal Law, regarding the ‘Protection of Official Data’ consultation paper, which proposed changes to the Official Secrets Act. This action was taken due to significant concern among open government CSOs at the potential impact of the changes proposed to whistleblowing.

A response was submitted on 2nd February 2018 by the OGN to the government’s consultation on the revised FOI Code of Practice (the set of guidelines for civil servants for dealing with FOI requests). The OGN was invited directly by the Government to send a response, and the Coordinator worked with input from key groups such as CFOI to produce a response via Network Consensus method.

Actions arising

> Make greater efforts to involve the wider network in identifying, developing and editing responses to relevant consultations, particularly those directly related to any Open Government Action Plan commitments. This would involve not only identifying key individuals, but also providing clearer communications to the wider Network on the content of the consultation, why it is important, and how to engage. The Coordinator would need support from the Steering Group to help identify relevant consultations, input into the drafting process and encouraging engagement from the rest of the Network.

3.6. The 2017 General Election

Following the announcement of the snap general election in 2017, we organised an open letter that was sent to all major political parties to call on them to make commitments to open government, particularly regarding their Brexit policy.

Following the election, we organised a workshop – The Way Forward: Openness and accountability in the next parliament – that explored the opportunities and challenges for open government in the current political context.

Actions arising

>  The OGN should aim to engage in these key milestones in UK politics when they occur. More efforts need to be made in driving the impact of these actions.

> The OGN SG needs to consider the role of the OGN in terms of its interactions with the ‘political’ side of government, as well as (the impact of this and) its otherwise positive relationship with government officials in GDS.

3.7. Communications

We run the social media (Twitter, Facebook), website and Open Government Forum of the OGN.

Twitter activity has been constant in disseminating news about events, actions related to the action plan process, live tweeting events, interesting articles and other news. There are currently 2056 followers on Twitter (15/02/2018). Facebook is a newer medium but has yet to be used to its potential for the Network – reflected in the fact it has 35 followers. Overall, there are no clear objectives or targets set on how to use social media, increase followers, etc.

The UK OGN currently has 440 members in its Open Government Forum group. Of those members, 41 have been active with posts since the beginning of 2017. This is comparable to 2016. Due to the developer ceasing support for the Lumen platform, we are currently looking at alternative options for hosting the Open Government Forum.

In December, we produced a newsletter that was sent to the wider network which summarised the news and actions of the UK OGN from 2017.

Actions arising

> Find a new platform to host the Open Government Forum.

> Experiment with ways to increase engagement on the forum.

3.8. International events

In October 2018, based on his experience of the OGP and coordinating the OGN, Tim Hughes was invited to a peer exchange meeting hosted by the OGP in the Hague. In February 2018, the OGN Coordinator was invited to, and attended, the European Open Government Leaders Forum held in Milan, Italy, which discussed ‘participation as a key to better policy-making’. Scottish colleagues also attended this event.

Actions arising

> Future invitations to events should be circulated to the Steering Group to assess who is most appropriately placed to attend. This could be extended to the wider Network where relevant. This will help to increase diversity of people participating in these and developing capacity and experience (where this doesn’t undermine strategic relationship building).

> Attendees to such events should provide a report back of such events attended about the OGP. This should be with an eye on producing a blogpost about the event, what was discussed, learning experience, outcomes and relevance to the UK where possible.

3.9. Open Government Pioneers project

Collaboration with UKSSD

We are partnering with UKSSD to review the UK’s domestic implementation of United Nations Sustainable Development Goal 16 on Peace, Justice and Strong Institutions. The work has involved researching and identifying evidence for implementation of each of the targets under Goal 16, identifying how the UK is performing, explaining the wider context and relationship to UK public policy, and the challenges and opportunities faced in achieving it.

Following the initial research, this activity is currently in the peer review stage and we will invite the members of the Network (and sister Networks) to participate as part of this phase (until 16 March). Other organisations have also been invited to participate.

Following that, we will collect together all the comments and feedback, draft a short report (no longer than two or three pages) and then this will go to the UKSSD coordination team who will sense-check and proofread for style. This will be published in early summer 2018 as part of a civil society review of UK Government progress on the SDGs.

Re-imagine Democracy Conference

Since October 2017, the Coordinator has been helping to organise the Belfast Re-imagine Democracy Conference, as part of the Open Government Pioneers project – primarily by identifying and inviting key speakers and producing the online webpage for the conference.

The Coordinator will also be leading the workshop session for the conference in the afternoon, which will feed into the UK and/or Northern Irish process for developing open government commitments.

Engaging CSOs on the SDGs and open government

Over the next year we will need to engage CSOs about the links between open government and sustainable development, in order to meet the requirements of the Open Government Pioneers Project. Our intention has been to incorporate this into the action planning process.

Actions arising

>  Develop work plan to fulfil the outstanding requirements of the Open Government Pioneers Project

3.10. Developing the 2018-20 national action plan

Our current focus is around the development of the 2018-20 national action plan. This plan is being conducted in a context where there is significant scepticism about the level of commitments that can be achieved. This is caused by Brexit consuming government time and resources, an unstable government, the lack of an engaged minister, and the lack of clarity over the Point of Contact’s position in government.

As the result of this scepticism and the low levels of OGN activity over the past year, there is currently very low engagement of organisations and individuals (who are not steering group members) in the activities of the OGN. The relatively short time period in which to deliver an Action Plan (to be launched by the OGP Global Summit in Georgia in July 2018) adds further pressure to developing an effective and ambitious plan with wide engagement.

So far, we have conducted workshops in Manchester, Sheffield, Leeds, Birmingham and Bristol, as well as a workshop in Huddersfield at the NotWestminster local democracy conference. The total cost of these events has been £1,351.60 (covering meeting space, transport, accommodation, food and drink, but excludes staff time of Involve Director and OGN Coordinator).

These workshops were poorly attended (between two and ten people), despite efforts to contact local groups (primarily via local CVO networks, Twitter and email). However, they did produce interesting and useful topic areas and proposals to be explored further as part of the development of the action plan. These proposals have been shared with attendees via a GoogleDoc for further development. Next, they may be uploaded to the Discuto online consultation website, and/or be posted directly to the OGN Forum for discussion.

The Government Points of Contact have proposed an unconference-style event at the end of March which brings together government officials and civil society leaders to discuss and develop potential commitments for the 2018-20 open government national action plan. This could be a focal point for discussion from this point. We propose drafting a letter from the steering group to be sent to key individuals in UK civil society to invite them to join the OGN, outline the opportunity of the OGP Action Plan, and encourage them to attend the unconference. Following the unconference, a series of smaller thematic working groups could be formed with government and civil society membership to develop ideas.

Actions arising

>  Decide with OGN SG the the next steps and strategy for the development of the 2018-20 national action plan

> Carry out the next steps decided by the OGN

> Work with government PoC to ensure civil society participation at end-of-march event

04. The Year Ahead

While the OGN has begun 2018 with more capacity than it had this time last year, there are still a series of challenges which will need to be addressed over the course of this year. Solutions to these challenges may in some cases aim to tackle immediate issues while others mean laying more solid foundations for the years ahead.

Funding the OGN

As stated in the Financial Report, the OGN has funding that will last until 2018 which covers the costs of the Coordinator. This means the SG need to begin looking at alternative sources of funding for the Coordinator and Network that start by the end of the year.

Completing current deliverables

The OGN is currently funded by grants from the Potter Foundation and the Big Lottery Fund. These both have a series of objectives and deliverables that the OGN Coordinator will need to complete with strategic input and help from the Steering Group. These include specifically:

– UK (Belfast) Conference Workshop
– Webinar for England-specific SDG policy for network members
– Regular blogposts
– Report with UKSSD on implementation of SDG16 in the UK

Delivering the 2018-20 UK Open Government Action Plan

The process for developing the 2018-20 UK Open Government Action Plan is currently underway, and efforts will need to be made by the Coordinator, SG and wider Network to mobilise and envigorate members and organisations to engage, develop Action Plan commitments and become commitment leads and remain active members of the network.

Until 30 March: Open consultation period with civil society

w/b 9 April: One-day event in Scotland organised by Scottish Government

w/b 16 April: ‘Ideas Day’ unconference event in London

April to May: Prioritisation and further defining of commitments between relevant government and civil society groups

Early June: Final Action Plan text agreed between government and civil society

During June: Sign off period for government departments

July: Launch of Report (at OGP Global Summit in Georgia) –

Reinvigorating the OGN

Over the course of this year ahead, the Coordinator and SG will need to work towards (re-)building an active network of individuals and organisations who believe and are working on open government in the UK. This will mean re-engaging current members, as well as seek new members who are interested in the open government agenda.

With an election and rotation of Steering Group members planned for the first half of 2018, as well as the establishment of a permanent Multistakeholder Advisory Group, there are new opportunities for OGN members to engage. The need for a new platform also provides an opportunity to redevelop ways or working and communicating with the wider network.

 

2018 Timeline

March April May June July
OGP Events OGP Global Summit in Georgia
OGN Coordination Coordinators Report published

Possible transfer of Network to new online platform

Regular SG Meeting Regular SG Meeting Regular SG Meeting
SG Elections Nominations period for SG election Two-week period for election of new SG members Election results announced
NAP III IRM Report launch event Implementation Update Meeting NAP III Ends
NAP IV Open consultation period with civil society OpenGov Event in Scotland

(Mid April)

OGN Prioritisation event to discuss ideas for commitments

Continued discussion meetings between civil society and government officials to hone down commitments

Multistakeholder Forum meetings

UK Government sign off on Open Government Action Plan Launch of UK Open Government Action Plan
Pioneers Project Belfast ‘Reimagine Democracy’ Conference General activities under project General activities under project General activities under project General activities under project
UKSSD SDG monitoring Peer review period ends Submission of the draft report on Goal 16 Editing and submission of final report text Complete Report (all Goals) published

 

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