davebriggs + transparency   23

Opportunities and challanges for citizen engagement… some thoughts
The World Bank’s Striking Poverty project is currently hosting an online conversation on the benefits and challenges of citizen engagement. The discussion is being led by the excellent Tiago Piexoto and the contributions are well worth reading for a deep and thoughtful insight into the powerful transformation potential of involving citizens in the decision that affect their lives.

Tiago asked seven questions and I’ve made a brief contribution to the blog based on these. I’ve shared them here in a slightly edited form (read: tidied up a bit!). There are a lot of other interesting comments in the featured conversation, I highly recommend you have a read!

How can we measure the success of citizen engagement initiatives?
Measurement is difficult and problematic. What you measure depends on what you think you want to achieve. And this should be defined in advance. In addition, there will always be intangibles that you didn’t think of, so it’s equally important to be reflexive and flexible enough to capture these as well.

Often as the host, you’re measuring from your perspective but remember that engagement is a two-way process so think also about 360 degree measures that show successes or failures from the perspective of all the stakeholders, including citizens. You might have reached the target 100,000 visits but the message was wrong so nobody took anything away. Nobody took any action!

I’m also highly suspicious of the bureaucratic and political drive to quantify and measure in the short term. Numbers only tell one part of the story and so it’s vital that we create qualitative measures too. And we need to look at the impact of engagement over time (there can often be delayed reactions to engagement). Such things as changing levels of trust might be hard to measure but that not a reason for not trying.

How essential are processes of organisational and institutional change?
This is an interesting question. When organisations are our-dated, out-of-touch, undemocratic and unable to understand their stakeholders, change is vital! What matters is that organisations must become responsive and demonstrably reactive. The process of engagement has to change so that it’s seen internally as being ‘business as usual’ all the way through the life cycle and not a tick-box exercise once the decision’s been made.

Organisations need to listen. But that’s easier said than done! They also need to pre-empt what we think of as ‘engagement’ by listening to the crowd. That’s where social media is vital. This way engagement and decision making can be shaped by prior understanding of stakeholder needs not just statistical data or policy.

Can political will towards increased participation be stimulated?
The short answer to this is that politician’s interest will be stimulated when they can see there is some benefit from doing better participation (I won’t say more, I’d rather focus on the quality of the process). If there is a clear cost/benefit argument, it will happen. This can sometimes be driven by political cycles but if you can show that the benefit is lower cost decision making (the sooner in the process a problem is discovered the less it costs to fix it!) and better outcome that more people agree with then it’s hard to argue. It might also be necessary to create new metrics to demonstrate the value of citizen engagement; the measures are out of date and out of touch then what will they actually tell you?

What role does organized civil society play in citizen engagement processes?
An absolutely vital one. How can participation happen if one side of the equation isn’t involved? I believe that we have to move from the ‘them and us’ mind set to one where we co-create. This means involving civil society in the process from day 1, involving them in the design of the participation processes and treating them as equal partners in the policy and design process.

How can we foster inclusiveness and what are the impacts of different methods of participant selection?
This comes down to trust and belief in the process. It takes time. One engagement at a time, one person at a time. As people engage, see authenticity in the process, see that the process is clear, transparent and above all genuine, then they will start to trust it. As you build trust, you build social capital. These people become your best ambassadors. But you can’t force this on people or make it happen, you have to trust the network do it… and they only will if you are authentic, so fake it and you lose!

Can we learn anything from the private sector about listening to external audiences?
Everyone can learn from everyone else. But what’s the question? Yes, public engagement can learn from other industries that engage the public, certainly from brands… building relationships, engaging the customer in a conversation (not just when you need them but over time) and reacting to customer feedback. Commercial brands have learnt to do this because they lose sales, reduce profits and ultimately shareholder returns if they don’t. They have an incentive… maybe we have to incentivise public service through measuring satisfaction with their own democratic ‘brand’. There is a penalty for politicians – they can lose their jobs – but for civil servants where is the incentive to take risk with engagement, to try something new. Failure is a key part of any successful system yet public systems are seldom allowed to fail.

What is the actual role of technology (if any) in participatory processes?
It’s a tool, technology mediates. It makes engagement possible over time and space, more people, different places. It speeds things up (not always good as at creates expectations that can be hard to manage). Digital supports off-line too by being able to aggregate conversations and disseminate data. But it’s just a tool…
Campaigning  Digital_democracy  Digital_inclusion  eParticipation  Policy  Transparency  from google
march 2013 by davebriggs
Some key factors for effective open policy
There’s a good summary of the recent Open Government Project’s meeting about open policy and participation up on the OGP-UK site and Tim Davies has summarised his thoughts rather well too. So, since I’m in agreement with what’s been said, I thought I’d summarise what, for me, are the key big issues that we’ve got to consider if we are serious about getting the policy process more open, more flexible and better used by more people. Here’s my 10 easy-to-read points (I know I could have easily made it 20 or probably even 50, but these will do for now!):

Open government only works when there is trust
Citizens don’t trust government
Governments don’t trust citizens
Open government is not top down
Open government is not bottom up
Open government is effective when there is bi-directional aggregation and sharing
No organisation, group, project or tool is unique
There is no such thing as best practice
Good practice is all over the place
Partnership, co-creation and tolerance is always better than control, hierarchy and fear

And, as it’s nearly Christmas, let’s make it 11 for the price of 10:

Open policy is much, much more than open data, it’s about transparent and timely access, process, action and feedback and should fundamentally challenge the assumptions behind the current policy making process.
Digital_democracy  eParticipation  Open_data  Open_Government  Policy  Transparency  UK  from google
december 2012 by davebriggs
Developing the UK’s next open government National Action Plan
At Involve, we’re currently coordinating a network of civil society organisations in the UK which has formed around the Open Government Partnership process. See here for more details on that.

Over the coming months the civil society network will be working with the Government to develop an ambitious open government National Action Plan. Starting on this coming Thursday (29 November), we’re going to be developing the themes and narrative for an interim plan, to be published in March.

I’d particularly draw your attention to the first session, which will be covering elements of public participation and open policy making.

The full schedule looks as follows:

29 November: NAP theme: Participation and open policy making (@ the ODI, 1230-1400)
Brown bag lunch meeting with the Cabinet Office Transparency Team and other relevant policy makers

13 December: NAP theme: Extending the principles of openness and transparency (@ the ODI, 1230-1400)
Brown bag lunch meeting with the Cabinet Office Transparency Team and other relevant policy makers

10 January: NAP theme: Anti-corruption (@ the ODI, 1230-1400)
Brown bag lunch meeting with the Cabinet Office Transparency Team and other relevant policy makers

17 January: Defining the process of engagement post March (@ the ODI, 1230-1400)
Brown bag lunch meeting with the Cabinet Office Transparency Team

24 January: NAP theme: Moving forward the global agenda on openness and transparency (@ the ODI, 1230-1400)
Brown bag lunch meeting with the Cabinet Office Transparency Team and other relevant policy makers

31 January: NAP general narrative (@ the ODI, 1230-1400)
Brown bag lunch meeting with the Cabinet Office Transparency Team

If you would like to attend any of the sessions or have any questions, please get in touch via: tim@involve.org.uk


Blog  anti_corruption  cabinet_office  National_Action_Plan  Open_Data  open_government  Open_Government_Partnership  open_policy_making  public_participation  transparency  from google
november 2012 by davebriggs
Open Government Partnership
The Open Government Partnership (OGP) is a global effort to make governments better by promoting transparency, empowering citizens, fighting corruption, and harnessing new technologies to strengthen governance. The initiative was launched in 2011 in New York by eight governments, including the UK. To become a member countries must endorse a high level Open Government Declaration and develop an OGP National Action Plan setting out concrete commitments to open government.

Involve is currently coordinating a network of civil society organisations in the UK which has formed around the Open Government Partnership process. This network is open to any representatives of UK civil society organisations or individual citizens to join.

The UK Government published its first National Action Plan in September 2011, setting out its commitments for its first year in the OGP. The Government’s progress on these commitments will be reviewed in early 2013. The UK has recently taken over as lead co-chair of the OGP.

The development of its second National Action Plan and its position as lead co-chair of the OGP presents the UK with a chance to demonstrate real leadership on open government in the coming months. The Minister for the Cabinet Office, Francis Maude, has committed to developing the UK’s next National Action Plan in partnership with civil society. Over the coming months the civil society network will be working with the government to develop an ambitious second National Action Plan and to ensure the UK takes this opportunity to demonstrate leadership across the open government agenda.


Featured  Our_work  anti_corruption  civil_society_network  embedding_public_engagement_in_government  Open_Data  open_government  Open_Government_Partnership  participation  transparency  from google
november 2012 by davebriggs
Opening up government
If you are involved in promoting any aspect of Open Government, such as transparency or participation, we encourage you to attend a meeting of the UK Open Government Partnership Civil Society Network.

When: 11 October, 10:00 to 16:00

Where: The Free Word Centre, 60 Farringdon Rd, EC1R London

Click the link to sign-up, or carry on reading to find out more: http://uk-opengov-civilsociety.eventbrite.com/

What is the Open Government Partnership?
This November the UK will take over as lead chair of the Open Government Partnership (OGP). The OGP is a global effort to make governments better by promoting transparency, empowering citizens, fighting corruption, and harnessing new technologies to strengthen governance. The initiative was launched in 2011 in New York by eight governments, including the UK. To become a member countries must endorse a high level Open Government Declaration and develop an OGP National Action Plan setting out concrete commitments to open government. So far the declaration has been endorsed by over fifty countries, 34 of which have developed their open government commitments.

What is the UK OGP Civil Society Network?
Civil society participation is integral to the OGP, which is jointly governed at an international level by both governments and civil society organisations. Involve is part of a loose civil society network engaging with the Open Government Partnership process. The network focuses on both the UK’s own open government commitments for domestic and foreign policy, and the role of the UK in providing international leadership on key open government topics.

Becoming lead chair of the OGP provides the UK with a unique opportunity to demonstrate its leadership on key open government topics. But for the most to be made of this opportunity, it will require strong support and pressure from civil society to build and maintain momentum and ambition.

What is the meeting?
On 11 October a meeting is taking place of the UK Open Government Partnership Civil Society Network. The purpose of the meeting is threefold; to:

Introduce the Open Government Partnership and provide an update on recent developments in the UK and beyond;
Build shared understanding of the OGP, and the particular issues UK-based civil society would like to see it address;
Put together a draft UK OGP Civil Society Network Strategy for the next 12 months.

If you are involved in promoting any aspect of open government (understood broadly as: increasing the availability of information on government activities; supporting civic participation; implementing high standards of professional integrity in government and increasing use of new technologies for openness and accountability) we encourage you to sign-up and attend via: http://uk-opengov-civilsociety.eventbrite.com/

If you would like any more information, please get in contact: tim@involve.org.uk


Blog  Events  civil_society_network  OGP  open_government  Open_Government_Partnership  participation  transparency  from google
september 2012 by davebriggs
City of Edinburgh starts webcasting
Yesterday Public-i helped City of Edinburgh Council with the first-ever webcast of its Full Council meeting. Watched by more than 600 people, it was greeted as a success by the Lord Provost, Cllr Donald Wilson. He said: “It is very encouraging to see so many people engaging with the Council meeting. We realise it will [...]
Local_Government  Public-i  Public-i_Products  Argyll_and_Bute  Connect  Edinburgh  Highland  Moray  Scotland  Transparency  Webcasting  from google
september 2012 by davebriggs
Pickles invites bloggers deeper into the Town Hall
Eric Pickles, Secretary of State for Local Government and Communities, seems to love transparency. Back in June 2010 he asked councils to publish all spending data over £500. His department matched it and just last week announced they were lowering …
Digital  bloggers  Eric_Pickles  social_media  Town_Halls  transparency  from google
august 2012 by davebriggs
Transparent e-gov
The UK Parliamentary Public Accounts Committee (PAC) met earlier this year and its report on “Implementing the Transparency Agenda” has just been published. The report has the usual somewhat confused outputs that one expects from a PAC report i.e. that little is likely to be changed as a result! Part of this is due to the blurring across strands of government such as ‘Departments’ and local authorities.

The responsible ‘Department’ for Communities & Local Government (CLG) demanded certain information from local government some time ago and although all but one council supplied this, despite the vagueness of the request, more is desirable. However, without some clarity as to format, fields and level i.e. standards, this will remain only of value to a the more advanced ‘armchair auditor’. The report appears to realise the difficulty without being able to make any difference.

The conclusions ask for “price and performance information for adult care”, but with outsourcing of so many arms of service I’m not even sure this could be made available. Similarly for “spending per pupil in individual academy schools” which is surely locked away in the ‘academy’ accounts? As the report states, and has probably been stated before by them, auditors and others that “the government does not understand the costs and benefits of its transparency agenda” – so what will this report change? There is a resounding cry for evidence-based policy but since when do politicians do that?

The report states that “The Cabinet Office recognises problems with the functionality and usability of its data.gov.uk portal”, so what will be done? It then goes on to state that “four out of five” visitors to the site leave immediately! Should we be surprised?

Finally, the report acknowledges that with eight million people without Internet access, they won’t gain any benefits from the data – well actually they might, with ‘armchair auditors’ and journalists doing it for them, especially since those eight million are unlikely to have the analytical skills to play with the data in the first place, and we are relying on the media to report it. We need the data in open, standard formats so that true comparisons can be done as to what happens when policy is led by political agenda rather than any hard evidence. In summary – Is there any open data about open data?

Filed under: citizen, e-government Tagged: #OpenData, CLG, data.gov.uk, Public Accounts Committee, transparency
citizen  e-government  #OpenData  CLG  data.gov.uk  Public_Accounts_Committee  transparency  from google
august 2012 by davebriggs
Closing doors on open data?
When the Cabinet Office released its white paper on open data last month I asked this question:

So, can I FOI Service Birmingham now?

This was because, while the Open Data white paper can be viewed as a continuation of policies which develop our right to open data, we are also going through a period where the organisations which provide public services are being dispersed, often out of the public sector itself.

Whether it is privately owned health providers or social enterprises delivering local authority contracts, more and more of the organisations which hold and create the data produced in the course of public services are exempt from Freedom of Information legislation.

My question about Service Birmingham being FOI-able is because it is a private company established by Birmingham City Council and Capita to run the city’s IT infrastructure and services. To the best of my knowledge it has always resisted Freedom of Information requests, claiming exemption on the basis of it being a private enterprise.

Off the top of my head, in Birmingham we also have the following

Amey - A trans national company, whose parent Ferrovial are based in Spain, which has just embarked on a 25 year Private Finance Initiative contract to run the city’s highways network.

The new Library of Birmingham is now a charitable trust and so is exempt from Freedom of Information legislation.

Where I live in Balsall Heath is one of three localism pilots in the city where community organisations and housing associations are going to control Community Budgets. My understanding is that Balsall Heath Forum is exempt under the Freedom of Information Act.

Acivico is a Wholly Owned Company that has been spun out of Birmingham’s Property Services. Their website says “Acivico Ltd is a company created by Birmingham City Council to offer a range of services to the council and other public and private sector organisations.”. As a wholly owned company they ought to have the same obligations as all other public authorities in complying with the Freedom Of Information Act [launches PDF], but I don’t think this has been tested yet.

And there are bound to be more in Brum that I’ve forgotten or not heard of.

It’s worth stating at this point that not all of these organisations are antipathetic towards open data. Amey have supplied at least one response to an FOI request based on their Birmingham contract and I know from work I’ve done with the new Library of Birmingham that they are interested in the possibilities it offers them. Whether any organisation would willingly respond to some of the more challenging and confrontational FOI requests that are made is questionable though.

So, when the white paper came out last week I was keen to see what it had to say about this issue. All I could find was this, tucked away neatly in the appendix:

The scope of the FOIA is an issue that has been raised in evidence to the Justice Select Committee during post-legislative scrutiny of the Act. The Government will consider any recommendations of the Committee before bringing forward any proposals for future policy in relation to the FOIA. With regard to transparency outside the FOIA, the Open Public Services White Paper of July 2011 highlighted the need to strike the right balance between greater service provision in collaboration with private and civil society organisations and continuous transparency. The Government is mindful that transparency should be proportionate, bearing in mind potential burdens on provider organisations (especially small businesses and charitable organisations). In taking forward transparency and open government, we will, by the end of this year, set out how best we can achieve greater transparency by providers.

So, it’s not in their scope, they will take on the recommendations of the committee, but It’s Complicated.

It looks as though open data is brushing up against other interests here. The government has an ideological commitment to what it refers to as the decentralisation of service provision. Above it is implicitly saying this will trump open data.

Another way of putting this is that for our government it’s more important to move services away from being provided by the public sector than it is to ensure the transparency and scrutiny of those services.

I’d argue that now is the very time when transparency and scrutiny are most important.

So, at this weekend’s Local Gov Camp I’m going to facilitate a session where we talk about how we scrutinise these new decentralised services and the role that open data can play in doing that. I’d like it to include a mapping exercise from those present of where services are being spun out in their authorities and what the responses to any FOI requests have been.

If you have any examples you’d like to see included in this then please add them in the comments.
local_gov  open_data  Amey  bcc  Birmingham_City_Council  Capita  localgovcamp  localism  scrutiny  transparency  from google
july 2012 by davebriggs
Is the deluge of data good for government? | LGiU's local democracy blog
"Over the past couple of weeks, however, a series of news reports have underlined the growing importance of open data to the mainstream contemporary political conversation but have also revealed some ambiguities in our attitude towards it. "
opendata  transparency 
april 2012 by davebriggs
How #gmp24 happened
"The challenge was to find a way to show people the wide range of issues the police are called to deal with."
police  polcasm  twitter  transparency 
october 2010 by davebriggs
Dig Up Political Influence | Poligraft
Looks interesting and cool, though not sure I fully understand it
opengovernment  opengov  transparency  media  politics  democracy  influence 
august 2010 by davebriggs
Data.gov.uk chief admits transparency concerns
"Cabinet Office official Richard Stirling, who leads the team that runs Data.gov.uk, said that if he was at the Office for National Statistics he would have concerns about statistical releases and people making assumptions "that aren't quite valid"."
opendata  datagovuk  transparency  dataliteracy 
august 2010 by davebriggs
Good and bad transparency
Great post from Steph on the implications of opening up government data.
government  opendata  transparency  opengovernment  government2.0  gov2.0  lesteph 
june 2010 by davebriggs
Posting information online could preempt FOIA requests (3/18/10) -- GovExec.com
"Taking advantage of technology and preemptively posting frequently requested information online could help agencies address new Freedom of Information Act queries and tackle backlogs"
government  government2.0  opendata  tech  transparency  gc20  foia  foi  freedomofinformation  opengov  opengovernment  efficiency 
march 2010 by davebriggs
Federal Agency Ideascale Dashboard
"To satisfy the Open Government Directive agencies are soliciting your ideas on how to make them more transparent, participatory, collaborative and innovative."
government  opengov  transparency  gov2.0  dashboard  ideas  tracker  data  ideascale  government2.0  consultation 
february 2010 by davebriggs
Local Government Data
The Government will encourage local government to release local public data and make it free for reuse, and establish an open-platform local data exchange.
data  opengov  transparency  localgov  localgovweb  localgovcamp  opendata  digital  digitalbritain  government  digitalengagement  egov 
december 2009 by davebriggs
"Today, the Department of Internal Afairs launched data.govt.nz, a beta site where government agencies can register their non-personal data sets for use by members of the public and organizations."
transparency  government  data  opendata  blog  gov2.0  newzealand 
november 2009 by davebriggs
Local Blog impact on Local Democracy: Somerton Town Council | Online Journalism Blog
"Local Bloggers are beginning to produce a few good examples of effective scrutiny of Local Councils. In this piece David Keen, who is a Vicar in Yeovil and writes regularly for my Wardman Wire political site, gives an account of a local controversy in the Somerset town of Somerton, which has lead to a number of resignations from the Town Council."
hyperlocal  localgovernment  journalism  blogging  somerton  towncouncil  nalc  parish  transparency  accountability  localgov  politicians  councillors  government  scrutiny 
november 2009 by davebriggs

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