Enhance Public Engagement Skills in the Public Service (AU0021)
Action Plan: Australia Action Plan 2018-2020
Action Plan Cycle: 2018
Lead Institution: Department of Industry, Innovation and Science
Support Institution(s): Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet (APS Reform team). All Australian Government departments will be made aware of the work through inclusion on the working Agenda of the APS Reform Committee (Policy, Data and Innovation stream) Information and Privacy Commission NSW OGP International’s Deliberative Processes Practice Group includes four other countries and public sector and civil society representatives from each. In addition: IAP2, New Democracy, Ope Australia Foundation, Open Government Partnership Network
Policy AreasCapacity Building, E-Government, Public Participation
Enhance public engagement skills in the public service
Commitment Start and End Date
September 2078-August 2020
Lead implementing agency/actor
Department of Industry, Innovation and Science
What is the public problem that the commitment will address?
Public policy problems are increasingly complex and this complexity is occurring in an environment of declining trust in government.
Numerous reviews. senior public servants and academics have emphasised that the APS can reduce the complexity and build trust by bringing more people and expertise into its work when they are needed. Better approaches might allow the APS to translate the best technical. academic and practical advice into accessible. policy and programme relevant conclusions.
However. awareness and practical experience of how to engage the community beyond traditional information sharing and consultation is patchy. There are good examples of more collaborative approaches. but this is not the norm. Rather. APS engagement often has an emphasis on obtaining buy-in rather than accessing expertise. And the APS still lags behind adoption of better engagement compared to local. state and international jurisdictions. In particular. the APS has a gap in its capability to undertake deliberative. open and collaborative engagements.
What is the commitment?
Develop and implement an Open Dialogue Roadmap: Australia will co-chair and take a leading role in the development of an Open Dialogue Roadmap, through OGP lnternational's Deliberative Processes Practice Group. The Roadmap will consist of a briefing booklet making the argument for deliberation and a how to guide. It will assist public servants to design and implement open and deliberative engagement processes.
The Establishment of an APS Engagement Hub: The Hub would be. in the first instance. a digital space. It will ensure the initiatives under the first Action Plan's Commitment 5.2 framework are delivered. It will tie together elements of the framework and create a landing point for guidance. advice and support. It will be iterated over time and has the potential to integrate engagement efforts across the APS.
Over time the Hub could act as a platform for general interaction between civil society and the APS. User research will be undertaken to inform the design of this element of the Hub. with findings reported to the Open Government Forum.
How will the commitment contribute to solve the public problem?
The use of open dialogue and deliberative processes are proven ways to improve public sector engagement awareness and capability and foster an Open Government culture. Similarly, the development of a digital hub to provide a platform for knowledge management and retention. as well as the delivery of expertise and resources offer a proven method for building capability and raising awareness.
Open and deliberative processes differ from traditional approaches to consultation by enabling richer communication between. across and among public sector agencies and their respective publics. Moreover. it offers a means of supporting more sustained forms of engagement rather than traditional event driven approaches.
This is achieved through a rules-based exchange of ideas and information that focuses on responding to a question and/or resolving an issue. In doing so. this type of process provides a more effective way of solving complex and contentious policy issues that have competing interests and the negotiation of trade-offs.
These processes have already been successfully applied to radioactive waste (Commonwealth). Sports policy (Canada). Reproductive rights (Republic of Ireland) and Dog and Cat Management (South Australia).
The development of this roadmap will boost engagement capability, both in Australia and overseas. In particular. it will raise awareness and build a shared understanding of how deliberative processes work. why they are important to modern governments. and when they can be used effectively. It will include a step by step guide on how to undertake deliberative engagements. as well as a Briefing Book that provides accessible answers to the top questions about public deliberation that are likely to be asked by political or senior public service decision makers.
Implementation of the roadmap will be via the development and testing of a demonstration open dialogue capability.
Why is this commitment relevant to OGP values?
This commitment will have a broad range of impacts. and specifically advances the OGP values of:
• civic participation and transparency by allowing further access to information to ensure meaningful input from interested members of the public into decisions; citizens· right to have their voices heard: and opening up decision making to more interested members of the public: and
technology and innovation for openness and accountability by promoting new technologies that offer opportunities for information sharing, public participation and collaboration; and making more information public in ways that enable people to both understand what their governments do and to influence decisions.
Builds on Commitment 5.2 of the first National Action Plan
The Roadmap is also include in the proposed work agenda for the APS Reform Committee (Policy, Data and Innovation stream).
Milestone activity with verifiable deliverable
Establish the Engagement Hub
7/1/2018 – 12/31/2019
User research on design of the hub
7/1/2018 – 3/31/2019
Publicly release Open Dialogue and Deliberation Booklet
7/31/2018 – 3/31/2019
Publicly release the Practical How To Guide
1/1/2019 – 3/31/2020
Open Government Partnership Section, Department of Industry, Innovation and Science
Email and Phone
Other Actors Involved
Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet (APS Reform team). All Australian Government departments will be made aware of the work through inclusion on the working Agenda of the APS Reform Committee (Policy, Data and Innovation stream)
Information and Privacy Commission NSW
OGP International’s Deliberative Processes Practice Group includes four other countries and public sector and civil society representatives from each.
In addition: IAP2, New Democracy, Ope Australia Foundation, Open Government Partnership Network
IRM Midterm Status Summary
6. Enhance public engagement skills in the public service
Develop and implement an Open Dialogue Roadmap: Australia will co-chair and take a leading role in the development of an Open Dialogue Roadmap, through OGP International’s Deliberative Processes Practice Group. The Roadmap will consist of a briefing booklet making the argument for deliberation and a how to guide. It will assist public servants to design and implement open and deliberative engagement processes.
The Establishment of an APS Engagement Hub: The Hub would be, in the first instance, a digital space. It will ensure the initiatives under the first Action Plan’s Commitment 15.2 framework are delivered. It will tie together elements of the framework and create a landing point for guidance, advice and support. It will be iterated over time and has the potential to integrate engagement efforts across the APS.
Over time the Hub could act as a platform for general interaction between civil society and the APS. User research will be undertaken to inform the design of this element of the Hub, with findings reported to the Open Government Forum.
- Establish the Engagement Hub
- User research on design of the Hub
- Publicly release Open Dialogue and Deliberation Booklet
- Publicly release the Practical How to Guide
- Test and report back publicly on the Open Dialogue Roadmap
Start Date: September 2018 End Date: August 2020
Editorial Note: This is a partial version of the commitment text. For the full commitment text, see the Australia National Action Plan available at https://www.opengovpartnership.org/wp-content/uploads/2018/09/Australia_Action-Plan_2018-2020.pdf.
Context and Objectives
Commitment 15 of NAP1 examined and improved public participation across the federal government as there was no existing consistent approach to public consultations among federal agencies. In implementing the commitment, the Department of Industry, Innovation and Science designed a virtual hub for federal government officers to access resources on public participation, and act as a platform between the Australian Public Service (APS) and civil society. Establishing that hub is the subject of this current commitment.
A description of the APS Engagement Hub is provided in the Department of Industry, Innovation and Science’s 2018 Prototype Report: Unlocking community expertise to improve policy, programme and service delivery.  It describes the hub as a team of people from across member agencies who would provide general guidance to agencies on community engagement and technical support. The hub would involve a digital platform connecting members within the APS, as well as the APS with civil society. The hub would maintain virtual resources like a toolkit and case studies and promote APS metrics on engagement efforts. Federal public servants could share information on engagement projects, and citizen juries may also be established.  However, this commitment refers specifically to establishing a digital space to tie together elements of the framework for improving public participation and for providing a channel for guidance, advice and support. This commitment has the potential to integrate future engagement efforts across the federal public service.
This commitment also seeks to position Australia as a leader in developing an Open Dialogue Roadmap as part of OGP’s International Deliberative Process Practice Group. This roadmap will complement the work done on public participation generally by seeking to produce a practical how-to guide to raise awareness and capability within the federal public service on using open dialogue and deliberative processes. In particular, it seeks to raise awareness on using a purposeful and systematic exchange of ideas and information, focusing on responding to particular questions or issues.
Overall, this commitment is verifiable. A publicly available, digital hub can be accessed and assessed. The public release of information on user research, booklets, guides, and testing reports is also verifiable.
As the hub will publish government information on public engagement, practices, and projects, this commitment is relevant to the OGP value of access to information. Publishing the Roadmap and publicly reporting any testing that is done on the Open Dialogue Roadmap, will also provide citizens access to government information. Using user-research to design the hub enables citizen involvement, thus making this commitment relevant to the OGP value of civic participation. Finally, as the hub is a digital platform enabling interaction between federal public servants and potentially civil society, the commitment is relevant to the value of technology and innovation for transparency.
The potential impact of this commitment on enhancing public engagement in the public service and facilitating access to information is moderate. The Open Dialogue Roadmap and the APS Engagement Hub can overcome current limitations on using open dialogue and deliberative processes within the Commonwealth public sector, and facilitate public engagement in policy development and service delivery. However, the commitment is limited in scope as it lacks an enforcement mechanism, or processes of monitoring, and evaluation to ensure that the full potential of the roadmap and hub are realised.
This commitment continues the work of Commitment 15 of NAP1 to increase the awareness and the capacity of federal public servants to engage with the public. The frameworks, if sufficiently resourced and incorporated into government practices, could significantly enhance public engagement. Using extensive involvement of civil society organisations, this commitment can be a model for future participatory practices within government, especially for other OGP commitments.
It is therefore recommended that future commitments in this area evaluate the commitment’s impact on changing government practice and develop proposals to better ensure the federal public service’s adoption of public engagement. The government could also consider how the hub might facilitate the role of the Open Government Forum and support the coordination and evaluation of open government proposals.
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