Taking the OGP Co-Creation Process Online – Identifying Problems & Priorities
Cómo llevar el proceso de cocreación de OGP a un espacio virtual -Identificar problemas y prioridades para el plan de acción
Identifying Problems and Priorities for the Action Plan
There are a number of online engagement approaches that can be used to identify problems or priorities that citizens or specific target audiences face that can be addressed in whole or part by adopting open government approaches. Online engagement can also be used to surface ideas for solutions or commitments, gather evidence to support or rule out potential commitments or solutions, or gauge preferences between one or more ways to tackle a specific policy problem.
Guiding principles to identify problems and priorities
- Prior to public engagement, conduct awareness raising on what open government is, and share information on your country’s participation in OGP, links to previous plans, type of contributions you are seeking (new ideas, feedback on existing, or a mix of both), information on how contributions will be taken forward, and contact information for getting further data or details.Ensure all the above information is available and disseminated through multiple channels (social media, email lists, newsletters, radio, TV or print media where feasible, government websites, email list serves and through networks of stakeholders) and on the platform or tool you will be using for crowdsourcing.
- Don’t build it and assume they will come. Develop an outreach and engagement strategy to reach the audiences you are seeking to engage. For example, if you are hosting a survey or discussion forum on your OGP website, think about ways to let new audiences know about the existence of the opportunities to engage (e.g. social media, most frequently used government websites and the main government website, radio or newspaper announcements, email list serves, or newsletters). The Government of New Zealand has developed a useful resource on how to develop an online engagement strategy that is worth consulting.It is good practice to have an introductory video, demo, or clear guidance on all features of the platform or tool that will be used to ensure it is easy for participants to maintain interest in participation. An advanced practice might be to conduct user acceptance testing to get feedback on the tools to be used to anticipate troubleshooting needs or explore alternatives if acceptance rates are low.
If there are specific communities who have not yet been involved but who are directly impacted by this potential commitment, additional outreach may be needed in advance of the engagement period to ensure they are well briefed and prepared to participate fully in the online process. A good practice is to take the process to spaces where those communities engage, in-person (when safe to do so) or online, rather than expecting them to come to spaces created specifically for OGP co-creation processes.
- Decide on the questions you want to ask, the problems you want to solve, who you want to engage, and then decide on the tools or approaches you want to use. When asking the questions, think about the kinds of outputs you want and then choose whether you pose open ended questions, provide multiple choices, or use structured templates. For example, asking audiences who have previously not engaged with OGP to come up with specific commitment ideas (especially using the template!) may result in unactionable insights or incomplete information. It may be better to ask them to identify the main challenges they face in interacting with the government or accessing services, or suggest areas where they think improved access to information, opportunities for participation in policy making or holding their governments accountable might lead to improvements in their work or wellbeing. You can also give some thought to what stimulus you give people to kickstart their thinking. You can sequence questions, starting with broad, general, open-ended questions that seek top-of-the-mind responses and then introduce more focussed questions where you want to get people to think in more specific terms. For specialized audiences who have some prior knowledge of the policy landscape, you can ask for specific policy proposals. Ideally OGP co-creation processes will include a blend of both. You could also target your content to the interest of specific groups, especially if they have not been engaged in OGP co-creation processes before
- Communicate clearly with your audience about how their contributions will be considered in developing the action plan and what to expect next in the co-creation process and how they might engage in the future. Also communicate clearly whether contributions or inputs received will be published and how you will close the loop on how inputs received relate to draft or final commitments in the action plan.
- Plan to develop ideas. Initial ideas received through crowdsourcing or consultation meetings and workshops targeted at a non-specialized audience may not always be exactly what is needed to develop commitments but can be further honed through follow up processes. For example: public consultations might yield responses pointing to problems citizens face but not necessarily the policy solutions. These ideas can however be shared with those who have specialized knowledge on open government to identify how transparency, accountability or participation might contribute towards solving those problems and suggest relevant commitments.
- Be diverse and inclusive. While crowdsourcing, consultation meetings and workshops, or deliberation can be targeted to specific audiences, it is important to ensure that these processes reach a diverse group, including those usually left out of these processes. Think about what groups and networks you are connected to that can help engage audiences you are unable to reach directly and secure their support in getting the word out. In some circumstances, lack of internet access or fluency may prevent participation of specific communities, so consider additional complementary methods of reaching and consulting these groups.
- Agree how contributions will be considered: It is important to have a clear plan how contributions received will be considered, synthesised, clustered and narrowed down to identify potential commitments for further development and consideration in subsequent stages of the co-creation process. This includes planning how, when and by whom this will be done and ensuring that sufficient time and resources are allocated for this process.
- Close the feedback loop: It is important to let participants know how their contributions were eventually used. This can be done through a combination of emails, providing an update on the platform where your crowdsourcing exercise was hosted, incorporating this into the final action plan or policy document and sharing it with networks who can help reach those who contributed in earlier phases, or organizing follow up meetings.It is important to note both – what contributions were considered and taken forward, and what couldn’t be taken forward and why. Needless to say, if hundreds or thousands of contributions were received through the process, these can be clustered based on common themes, sectors, suggestions while closing the feedback loop. This is considered a ‘reasoned response’ in the OGP Participation and Co-Creation Standards.
Online methods for identifying problems and priorities
Identifying problems, priorities or solutions can be done through one or more of the following online (and in-person) engagement methods: crowdsourcing, prototyping, meetings and workshops, prioritization, as well as deliberative processes that combine these methods to allow groups to weigh evidence, make trade-offs and decide priorities in going from a broad set of problems, priorities and possible solutions to a narrower set of ideas or potential commitments.
Crowdsourcing is a popular approach for identifying the initial long list of problems and solutions an OGP action plan can address and typically involves engaging large, relatively open groups of people at the start of co-creation. Crowdsourcing can entail a uniform approach for engaging all target audiences or customizing it for specific groups and needs. It can start with a broad scope and be narrowed down through iterative phases of crowdsourcing.
Many OGP countries use online tools for crowdsourcing to generate an initial long list of ideas and proposals at the start of the OGP co-creation process. For example, Armenia ran a crowdsourcing process to collect ideas for commitments from CSOs, experts, citizens, and public officials via an online tool for its third Action Plan. Lithuania is holding online consultations for the 2020 OGP action plan through this portal, and so is New Zealand through this portal. The UK Government’s Open Policy Making toolkit offers a set of guidelines on how to think about online crowdsourcing. Some adapted excerpts are presented below.
When to use crowdsourcing
- To understand what the general public or specific groups would like to see reflected in the OGP action plan.
- To seek expertise from a range of stakeholders on possible policy solutions to problems or priority areas identified.
- To improve on a set of initial ideas for potential commitments by consulting the general public, or specific stakeholder groups.
Online tools for crowdsourcing
- Email: easy and cheap, but only allows you to engage primarily with those who are already part of your network
- Social media: good for polling, getting pulse checks or setting up private or public forums for discussion, such as Twitter, LinkedIn or Facebook
- Online surveys: helps reach wider audiences and provide structured data on survey responses and respondents.
- Discussion forums, bespoke platforms, dedicated or third-party websites: More sophisticated platforms like CitizenOS or Consul offer multiple features. Third-party sites like Reddit offer discussion forums.
- Options in low-tech or low bandwidth environments: telephone/mobile surveys, teleconferencing or sending questionnaire forms on MS-Word or similar programs that can be filled out without needing uninterrupted connection to the internet.
A combination of the above crowdsourcing tools can be used to generate ideas and proposals. These can be used in tandem with other approaches including online or in-person consultation meetings or workshops, prioritization process, and deliberation to narrow down a broad range of contributions to a set of potential ideas for commitments that can be further developed through subsequent stages of the co-creation process.