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Estonia

Inclusive Policy-Making (EE0049)

Overview

At-a-Glance

Action Plan: Estonia Action Plan 2018-2020

Action Plan Cycle: 2018

Status: Active

Institutions

Lead Institution: The Government Office

Support Institution(s): The Ministry of Finance, State Shared Service Centre, all ministries/ Praxis, Centar, Velvet, Network of Estonian Nonprofit Organizations

Policy Areas

Capacity Building, Public Service Delivery

IRM Review

IRM Report: Estonia Design Report 2018-2020

Starred: Pending IRM Review

Early Results: Pending IRM Review

Design i

Verifiable: Yes

Relevant to OGP Values: Civic Participation

Potential Impact:

Implementation i

Completion:

Description

Shaping a policy-making process that is inclusive, knowledge-based, and citizen-centred, and developing skills
Commitment Start and End Date
April 2018 – December 2019
Lead implementing agency/actor The Government Office
Other Actors Involved State actors involved The Ministry of Finance, State Shared Service Centre, all ministries
CSOs, private sector, multilaterals, working groups Praxis, Centar, Velvet, Network of Estonian Nonprofit Organizations
Commitment description
What is the public problem that the commitment will address? The independent reporting mechanism’s national researcher (OGP 2016–2018), the Coordinating Council, and the task force of the public sector and social innovation have all emphasised the need to improve leadership and provide more training courses related to engagement.
The network of engagement coordinators of the ministries was created in the fall of 2007 when each ministry appointed one or several engagement coordinator who would be responsible for the dissemination of information and counselling regarding engagement practices in the ministry. The goal of the network is exchanging information related to engagement and harmonising the inclusion practices of the ministries. The coordinators require development and empowerment to enhance engagement practices and resolve the problems related to it.
Senior managers of civil services play an important role in supporting inclusive policy-making, as their attitudes and skills have an impact on the engagement practice of state agencies.
Prior to 2013, central training courses on inclusion were organised for 268 officials, and in 2011–2017, roughly the same number of representatives from non-governmental organisations and agencies attended the inclusion spring school. However, no additional training courses have been organised in the previous years. Some of the policy-making skills that that need promoting are evidence-based methods and data processing, storytelling, and visualisation.
What is the commitment? Improve the work of the network of engagement coordinators, strengthen the role of coordinators in ministries, and develop their leadership skills.
Improve the attitudes and skills of top civil servants in leading inclusive, citizen-centred, and knowledge-based policy-making.
Develop the skills of central governments and local officials and non-governmental organisations in engagement, negotiation, and impact assessment.
How will the commitment contribute to solve the public problem? Coordinators help to disseminate and introduce good engagement practices and increase the use of participation channels in the ministries.
Training senior manages of civil services would shape the attitudes of the managers and develop skills to lead inclusive and citizen-centred policy-making.
Training officials and non-governmental organisations improves their skills in engagement and participation.
Which OGP values is this commitment relevant to? Civic participation
Additional information The activity is funded from the administrative capacity priority axis measures.
Milestone Activity Start Date: End Date:
The organisation of work of the network of involvement coordinators has been revised and the network is actively operating.
A procurement has been published for carrying out the policy-making training programme for senior managers of civil services.
100 state or local government officials and representatives of non-governmental organisations have been trained. The programme has been reviewed and updated based on feedback from the first training groups. April 2018 December 2018
The network of involvement coordinators is actively operating.
40 top civil servants have been trained.
600 state or local government officials and representatives of non-governmental organisations have been trained. April 2018 December 2019
The network of involvement coordinators is actively operating.
40 top civil servants have been trained.
At least 700 state or local government officials and representatives of non-governmental organisations have been trained. April 2018 June 2020

IRM Midterm Status Summary

2. Shaping a policy-making process that is inclusive, knowledge-based, and citizen-centred, and developing skills

Language of the commitment as it appears in the action plan [23]:

“Improve the work of the network of engagement coordinators, strengthen the role of coordinators in ministries, and develop their leadership skills.

Improve the attitudes and skills of top civil servants in leading inclusive, citizen-centred, and knowledge-based policy-making.

Develop the skills of central governments and local officials and non-governmental organisations in engagement, negotiation, and impact assessment.

Milestones:

2.1 (April 2018—December 2018):

  • The organisation of work of the network of involvement coordinators has been revised and the network is actively operating.
  • A procurement has been published for carrying out the policy-making training programme for senior managers of civil services.
  • 100 state or local government officials and representatives of non-governmental organisations have been trained. The programme has been reviewed and updated based on feedback.

2.2 (April 2018—December 2019):

  • The network of involvement coordinators is actively operating.
  • 40 top civil servants have been trained.
  • 600 state or local government officials and representatives of non-governmental organisations have been trained.

2.3 (April 2018—June 2020):

  • The network of involvement coordinators is actively operating.
  • 40 top civil servants have been trained.
  • At least 700 state or local government officials and representatives of non-governmental organisations have been trained.”

Start Date: April 2018

End Date: December 2019

Context and Objectives

This commitment aims to raise policymakers’ awareness of public engagement methods and improve their skills to coordinate civic participation in policy-making processes. According to the problem statement in the action plan, there has been a gap of several years in public service training on engagement skills. Although the Network of Estonian Nonprofit Organizations (NENO) holds yearly civic participation schools where officials can participate, the government has not organized training courses on engagement and participation for public officials since 2013. [24] The action plan also states the need to foster supportive attitudes to citizen engagement among top civil servants due to their importance in shaping their organizations’ engagement culture. The commitment follows the recommendation of the IRM 2016-2018 progress report, which suggested improving civil servants’ skills and attitudes towards citizen involvement.

This commitment also aims to build the capacity of ministries’ engagement coordinators. In 2007, all ministries appointed “public engagement coordinators,” tasking one or more officials with the responsibility of supporting the ministry’s public engagement processes. In the same year, the government created a network of engagement coordinators to assist the coordinators’ work and harmonize engagement practices across the government. However, the action plan states that the activity of the network has stalled, and engagement coordinators’ roles and leadership skills should be strengthened. The IRM researcher’s survey among engagement coordinators [25] found that coordinators indeed feel a need for more collaboration with their colleagues and improving their knowledge on issues such as co-creation and moderation methods or ICT solutions for engagement. One coordinator also expressed the need to define the role of engagement coordinators more clearly.

In order to address these needs, the government plans capacity-building and networking activities for three target groups: 1) 700 civil servants and CSO stakeholders, 2) 40 top civil servants, and 3) the engagement coordinators of ministries. The commitment’s objectives and activities are clearly relevant to civic participation and address the stated needs. The government lists verifiable milestones and provides a timeline for their completion. While the milestones related to civil servants’ trainings are specific and easy to measure, the milestones related to the network of engagement coordinators are rather vague. For example, the commitment does not specify what is meant by an ‘actively operating’ network. According to the network coordinator Ivar Hendla, the Government Office aims to set up meetings of the network three to four times per year to provide a regular collaboration platform and conduct trainings on an as-needed basis. [26]

Although the three streams of activity are relevant and mutually supportive, their overall potential impact taken together will likely be moderate. The scale and scope of the training plans for the 700 civil servants (and their civil society partners) promise substantial improvements in civic engagement skills in the public sector, provided that sufficient time is allocated to civic participation in the program and the trainings are followed up by activities that help to sustain the results.

Moreover, when designing the training in 2017, the State Shared Service Center required at least 30 percent of participants to be recruited from local municipalities and CSOs. [27] The inclusion of diverse stakeholders in the training group will likely increase the impact, giving participants the opportunity to learn from each other and foster a common understanding of good civic engagement practices among governmental and non-governmental stakeholders.

Similarly, offering tailor-made trainings to public engagement coordinators and building a network for collaboration and sharing [28] could have a substantial impact on improving engagement practices in public sector organizations. According to the IRM researcher’s survey [29], engagement coordinators see the network as a highly beneficial platform for learning, capacity building, collaboration, discussing solutions to common problems and creating motivation to do their job well.

On the other hand, the third stream of activity (trainings for 40 top civil servants) will likely slightly less impact on open government compared to the other activities. The IRM researcher’s communication with Külli Toomet-Björck from the Government Office’s Top Civil Service Excellence Center revealed that some of the trainings conducted in the action plan period do include topics related to civic participation – for example, innovation leadership training also relates to collaboration with external stakeholders. [30] However, their content is based on already existing training plans which is no different from the usual practice of training top officials.

In the long-term, this commitment could be more impactful. The number of civil servants whose job entails policy-making is below 10,000 in Estonia, so at least 5% of them will have been trained as part of this commitment. Since these officials are leaders in their respective offices, a regular follow-up peer-to-peer training is expected, which could change practices of central and local government officials.

Next steps

As written, the commitment is relevant and moderately ambitious, with the three elements of the commitment reinforcing each other. However, the government could increase its impact by considering the following:

  • To add value to the usual training, the module targeting top public officials could give citizen engagement a more prominent place on the agenda.
  • Plan additional and follow-up activities to help sustain the positive outcomes of the training program for public officials and CSOs. Synergies could be created with the Government Office’s funding scheme for engagement projects [31] by encouraging training participants to initiate and apply for funding for new collaboration projects. This would help transform the theoretical knowledge acquired during the training into practical experience of involvement and participation.
  • Analyze what further support ministries’ engagement coordinators would need to steer their organizations towards better civic engagement practices. The engagement coordinators that participated in the survey suggested that the role and tasks of engagement coordinators should be discussed and defined more clearly across ministries as not all ministries consider this a priority. The coordinators also proposed to work out a common methodology to evaluate the quality of civic engagement practices in ministries, and develop joint goals and activities based on the gaps identified.

This commitment addresses issues that will likely require continuous attention from the government beyond the action plan period. The IRM researcher therefore recommends the government plans follow-up activities in the next action plan to continue building the participation and engagement skills of both governmental and non-governmental stakeholders.

[25] The IRM researcher conducted a small online survey among engagement coordinators from 19 to 29 March 2019. See Section VI (Methodology and Sources) for more information.
[26] IRM researcher’s interview, 21 March 2019.
[27] IRM researcher’s interview with Cherlin Agu (State Shared Service Center), 26 March 2019.
[28] IRM researcher’s interview with Ivar Hendla (Government Office), 21 March 2019.
[29] See Section VI (Methodology and Sources) for more information on the survey.
[30] IRM researcher’s email communication with Külli Toomet-Björck (Government Office), 28 March 2019.

Commitments

  1. Transparent and Inclusive Policy Making

    EE0048, 2018, E-Government

  2. Inclusive Policy-Making

    EE0049, 2018, Capacity Building

  3. Riigikogu Transparency

    EE0050, 2018, E-Government

  4. National and Local Government Action Plans

    EE0051, 2018, Public Service Delivery

  5. Presentation of Local Public Services

    EE0052, 2018, E-Government

  6. Participatiory Democracy Capacity-Building

    EE0053, 2018, Capacity Building

  7. e-Tax and Customs Board 2020

    EE0039, 2016, E-Government

  8. Reducing Bureaucracy and a Simpler State – the Zero Bureaucracy Project

    EE0040, 2016, Capacity Building

  9. Implementation of the Principles of Open Governance at Local Level as a Result of the Administrative Reform

    EE0041, 2016, Capacity Building

  10. More Inclusive Policy-Making on a Central Government Level

    EE0042, 2016, E-Government

  11. More Open and Transparent Law-Making

    EE0043, 2016, Anti-Corruption Institutions

  12. Increase of the Engagement Capacity of State Authorities and Participation Capacity of Nongovernmental Organisations in Policy-Making

    EE0044, 2016, Capacity Building

  13. Intensify Participatory Budgeting on a Local Level

    EE0045, 2016, E-Government

  14. Increasing the Transparency of the Funding of Non-Governmental Organisations

    EE0046, 2016, Anti-Corruption Institutions

  15. Defining Participatory Democracy and Development of Digital Competence in School Education

    EE0047, 2016, Capacity Building

  16. Visualisation of the Policy Making Process

    EE0016, 2014, Public Participation

  17. Upgrading Participation Channels

    EE0017, 2014, E-Government

  18. Improving Government Website

    EE0018, 2014, E-Government

  19. Standard for Information Requests

    EE0019, 2014, E-Government

  20. Early Notice on Policy-Making Processes

    EE0020, 2014, Public Participation

  21. Participation in Early Stage Policy-Making

    EE0021, 2014, Public Participation

  22. Early Access to Tax Policy Decisions

    EE0022, 2014, Public Participation

  23. Better Feedback Mechanism

    EE0023, 2014, Public Participation

  24. Selecting and Funding Participation Projects

    EE0024, 2014, Civic Space

  25. Web Tool

    EE0025, 2014, E-Government

  26. Civil Servant Guidelines for Participation

    EE0026, 2014, Capacity Building

  27. Training Civil Society Organizations (CSOs)

    EE0027, 2014, Capacity Building

  28. Central Government Transactions

    EE0028, 2014, E-Government

  29. Local Authorities' Transactions with Private Entities

    EE0029, 2014, Civic Space

  30. Public Spending for Non-Profits

    EE0030, 2014, Civic Space

  31. Guidelines for Citizen Budgeting

    EE0031, 2014, Capacity Building

  32. Guidelines for Redesigning Public Services

    EE0032, 2014, E-Government

  33. Registry of Public Services

    EE0033, 2014, Open Data

  34. User-Centric Public Services

    EE0034, 2014, E-Government

  35. Access to e-Services for Non-Residents

    EE0035, 2014, Citizenship and Immigration

  36. Open Data Portal

    EE0036, 2014, E-Government

  37. Opening Data

    EE0037, 2014, Capacity Building

  38. Supporting Nongovernmental Open Data Use

    EE0038, 2014, Capacity Building

  39. Drawing up a Green Paper on Organisation of Public Services

    EE0001, 2012, Public Service Delivery

  40. Implementation of the Eesti.Ee Action Plan

    EE0002, 2012, E-Government

  41. Drawing up a Green Paper on Making Public Data Available in a Machine-Readable Form

    EE0003, 2012, E-Government

  42. Creating a Repository of Public Data

    EE0004, 2012, E-Government

  43. Launching Pilot Projects of Public Data Services Based on the Cloud Technology

    EE0005, 2012, E-Government

  44. Interactive Guidelines and Training in Implementation of the Good Practice of Public Engagement

    EE0006, 2012, Open Contracting and Procurement

  45. Launch of the Impact Assessment System

    EE0007, 2012, Legislation & Regulation

  46. Overview of Ministries’ Work Processes

    EE0008, 2012, Capacity Building

  47. Integration of Impact Assessment Into the Process of Public Engagement

    EE0009, 2012, Legislation & Regulation

  48. Creation of a Database of Declarations of Economic Interests

    EE0010, 2012, Conflicts of Interest

  49. Adjustment of the System of Funding Non-Profit Associations and Establishment of a Disclosure System

    EE0011, 2012, Private Sector

  50. Starred commitment Drawing up a Proposal for Drawing up an Anti-Corruption Strategy

    EE0012, 2012, Anti-Corruption Institutions

  51. Draft Anti-Corruption Act

    EE0013, 2012, Anti-Corruption Institutions

  52. Establishment of the Public Ethics Council

    EE0014, 2012, Conflicts of Interest

  53. Organisation of Ethics Training for Employees of Various Public Sector Organisations (Incl. Public Servants)

    EE0015, 2012, Capacity Building