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Ireland

Enhance Citizen Engagement in Policy Making: General (IE0036)

Overview

At-a-Glance

Action Plan: Ireland National Action Plan 2016-2018

Action Plan Cycle: 2016

Status: Inactive

Institutions

Lead Institution: Department of Public Expenditure and Reform, Department of Children and Youth Affairs

Support Institution(s): All government departments and public bodies

Policy Areas

Capacity Building, E-Government, Public Participation

IRM Review

IRM Report: Ireland End-of-Term Report 2016-2018, Ireland Mid-Term Report 2016-2018

Starred: No

Early Results: Did Not Change

Design i

Verifiable: Yes

Relevant to OGP Values: Access to Information Civic Participation

Potential Impact:

Implementation i

Completion:

Description

Commitment Text:
Objective: To build capacity and help to create a culture of openness and
responsiveness to the citizen in policy making across the public sector.
Status quo: Ireland’s first Open Government Partnership National Action Plan,
2014-2016, acknowledged that citizen participation requires accessible and timely
information about policy and service development proposals, clear ways to engage
with policy makers, and a culture of openness on the part of the public service.
Updated guidance on consulting the public was prepared under the National Action
Plan. In addition, one of the aims of the Civil Service Renewal Plan is to ‘promote a
culture of innovation and openness by involving greater external participation and
consultation in policy development’. A series of Open Policy Debates has been
established for a range of policy areas. It promotes regular open discussion, early on
in the policy development process. It allows a wide range of academics and
practitioners to hear informed, expert, opposing and challenging views.
Many helpful suggestions were made in the submissions received as part of the
process to draft this Action Plan. The milestones set out below to fulfil this
commitment aim to address the shortcomings identified in those submissions and
advance the ideas for improvements.
Ambition: To promote meaningful citizen engagement in policy making and in turn to
increase the legitimacy of decision-making, improve the public’s knowledge and
awareness of complex policy challenges, help decision-makers to make better
decisions, and lead to better policies and improvements in the quality of service
provision.
Milestones:
4.A1. Create a Consultation Portal. This will act as a central repository for public
consultations. It will make consultations easier to engage with and promote best
practice in how they are run. It will contribute to the evaluation and monitoring of
citizen engagement efforts.
4.A2. The Civil Service Learning and Development Project Team will ensure that an
awareness of best practice in external engagement and consultation is embedded in
relevant training modules of the new curriculum, including Policy Making,
Communications, Change Management and Project Management.
4.A3. Create a practitioners network to support citizen engagement. This will be used
to gather and share best practice and innovations in citizen engagement, including
the provision of accessible information on key policy issues and ‘legislative footprints’
on current legislative initiatives.
Responsible institution: Department of Public Expenditure and Reform
Supporting institution: Department of Children and Youth Affairs (DCYA)
Start date: January 2017
End date: June 2018

IRM Midterm Status Summary

4A. Enhance Citizen Engagement in Policy Making: General

Commitment Text:

Objective: To build capacity and help to create a culture of openness and

responsiveness to the citizen in policy making across the public sector.

Status quo: Ireland’s first Open Government Partnership National Action Plan, 2014-2016, acknowledged that citizen participation requires accessible and timely information about policy and service development proposals, clear ways to engage with policy makers, and a culture of openness on the part of the public service. Updated guidance on consulting the public was prepared under the National Action Plan. In addition, one of the aims of the Civil Service Renewal Plan is to ‘promote a culture of innovation and openness by involving greater external participation and consultation in policy development’. A series of Open Policy Debates has been established for a range of policy areas. It promotes regular open discussion, early on in the policy development process. It allows a wide range of academics and practitioners to hear informed, expert, opposing and challenging views.

Many helpful suggestions were made in the submissions received as part of the process to draft this Action Plan. The milestones set out below to fulfil this commitment aim to address the shortcomings identified in those submissions and advance the ideas for improvements.

Ambition: To promote meaningful citizen engagement in policy making and in turn to increase the legitimacy of decision-making, improve the public’s knowledge and awareness of complex policy challenges, help decision-makers to make better decisions, and lead to better policies and improvements in the quality of service provision.

Milestones:

4.A1. Create a Consultation Portal. This will act as a central repository for public consultations. It will make consultations easier to engage with and promote best practice in how they are run. It will contribute to the evaluation and monitoring of citizen engagement efforts.

4.A2. The Civil Service Learning and Development Project Team will ensure that an awareness of best practice in external engagement and consultation is embedded in relevant training modules of the new curriculum, including Policy Making, Communications, Change Management and Project Management.

4.A3. Create a practitioners network to support citizen engagement. This will be used to gather and share best practice and innovations in citizen engagement, including the provision of accessible information on key policy issues and ‘legislative footprints’ on current legislative initiatives.

Responsible institution: Department of Public Expenditure and Reform

Supporting institution: Department of Children and Youth Affairs (DCYA)

Start date: January 2017

End date: June 2018

Context and Objectives

One key problem in democratic societies is the lack of citizen input into the policy making process, resulting in several authors seeking to better understand how to increase citizen participation in decision making.[Note: For example, see RA Irvin and J Stansbury, ‘Citizen participation in decision making: Is it worth the effort?’, Public Administration Review, Volume 64.1, February 2004, 55–65.] In the case of Ireland, there was a general public disconnect during the opaque policy-making process that led to the financial and economic crisis, with more calls to increase participation, as seen in its first action plan (Action 2.2 and 2.3).[Note: See, for example, Chari and Bernhagen, R. Chari and P. Bernhagen. 2011. ‘Financial and Economic Crisis: Explaining the Sunset over the Celtic Tiger,’ Irish Political Studies, Vol. 26/4, December, 473-488.] Building on previous commitments in the first action plan, the main objective of this commitment is to develop means to enhance citizen’s engagement through 1) the creation of a Consultation Portal to act as a repository for public consultations, 2) providing training modules for civil servants through the Civil Service Learning and Development Project Team, tasked to ensure best practice when engaging with publics, and 3) creating practitioner networks to support citizen engagement to gather and share best practice and innovations in engagement, including ‘legislative footprints’ on current legislative initiatives.

As the commitment seeks to better facilitate consultation with citizens, it is relevant to the OGP value of civic participation. Further, because 4.A3 calls for providing accessible information on ‘legislative footprints,’ thus making it is relevant to ‘access to information.’ While the milestones include verifiable activities, such as the creation of the Consultation Portal, their measurability require a degree of interpretation. For example, it is unclear how the Civil Service Learning and Development Project Team will ensure the embedding of ‘best practices’ of external engagement and consultation into relevant training modules of the new curriculum. Therefore, the specificity is marked as medium. If fully implemented, the commitment could improve the ability of citizens to engage in consultations and educate public officials on how to reach out to citizens in consultation processes. The potential is moderate, and not transformative, because it is unclear from the commitment the extent to which engagement processes will actually be taken into consideration when the details of the policy are then formulated in a bill eventually tabled by the cabinet. In other words, it is not clear how opinion collected through consultation will actually influence bills or policy.

Completion

Overall, the completion level is limited and some of the milestones (4.A1and 4.A2) are on schedule, while 4.A3 is behind schedule. The government states in its progress report on the commitment that the Consultation Portal (Milestone 4.A1) has been developed, with data on consultations in various departments inputted, and it will be launched at the end of Q4 2017. The government also states that it established a framework to provide training for the Civil Service (Milestone 4.A2) in Q2 2017, as also verified by desk research, with guidelines to be embedded into training on Project Management, Communications, Change Management, and Policy Formation during the second year of the action plan.[Note: Other evidence to verify the progress on this milestone based on desk research include: 19 December 2016: launch of the Project Managers' Network and the Project Management Handbook for the Irish Civil Service, here: http://www.projectmanagement.ie/userfiles/Project_Management_Handbook_for_the_Civil_Service.pdf. See more information on the Institute Project Management Ireland website here: http://www.projectmanagement.ie/blog/international-recognition-for-project-management-in-public-sector, and the publication in June 2017 by the Civil Service Management Board of the Third Progress Report of the Civil Service Renewal Plan. On this, see: action 9 (‘Establish a new shared model for delivering Learning and Development’), action 10 (‘Introduce Talent Management Programmes’), action 11 (‘Strengthen the performance management process’) and action 17 (‘Improve project management capacity’).] Milestone 4.A3, however, has yet to be started and is therefore behind schedule.

A civil society leader who contributed to developing this commitment during the development of the action plan expressed concern that s/he has not been involved in the implementation of the policy in the first year and was, in fact, surprised to hear that the Consultation Portal had actually been developed.[Note: Interview held October 2017.] Social Justice Ireland, while welcoming the portal, highlighted that its relevance to those without access to computers is limited and that the state should not forget about the importance of more traditional, deliberative reflection, using this also as a basis to shape policy.[Note: See the submission on the topic issued by Social Justice Ireland on the consultation portal for OGP Ireland in July 2017, here: https://consult.ogpireland.ie/en/user/login?destination=node/260.%5D

Next Steps

If fully implemented, the IRM researcher recommends that this commitment should not be carried forward into the next action plan. However, given that the Consultation Portal can serve a means to engage citizen participation in politics, a modified commitment may be developed which will constructively see how the Portal can be used when the details of public policy are formulated.

IRM End of Term Status Summary


Ireland's Commitments

  1. Promote Transparent Climate Policy Development

    IE0031, 2016, Environment and Climate

  2. Support Public Participation Networks

    IE0032, 2016, Capacity Building

  3. Improve Access to Justice: Reducing Costs

    IE0033, 2016, Judiciary

  4. Improve Access to Justice: Framework to Assist Vulnerable Persons

    IE0034, 2016, Judiciary

  5. Improve Access to Justice: Oversight of Legal Practitioners

    IE0035, 2016, Justice

  6. Enhance Citizen Engagement in Policy Making: General

    IE0036, 2016, Capacity Building

  7. Enhance Citizen Engagement in Policy Making: Youth

    IE0037, 2016, Marginalized Communities

  8. Enhance Customer Engagement

    IE0038, 2016, Capacity Building

  9. Improve Access To Government Services Through Technology

    IE0039, 2016, Capacity Building

  10. Participatory Budgeting

    IE0040, 2016, Participation in Budget Processes

  11. Improve Transparency of Government Service Providers

    IE0041, 2016, Fiscal Transparency

  12. Enhance Fiscal Transparency

    IE0042, 2016, Fiscal Transparency

  13. Introduce Modern Document Management Procedures

    IE0043, 2016, Legislation & Regulation

  14. Develop an Open Data Strategy 2017-2020

    IE0044, 2016, E-Government

  15. Invest in Data Infrastructure that will result in better Open Data

    IE0045, 2016, Legislation & Regulation

  16. Starred commitment Develop a Code of Practice for the Governance of Charities

    IE0046, 2016,

  17. Starred commitment Public Sector Standards Bill

    IE0047, 2016, Anti-Corruption Institutions

  18. Establish a Register of Beneficial Ownership

    IE0048, 2016, Asset Disclosure

  19. Establishment of best practice standards for Open Data

    IE0001, 2014, Capacity Building

  20. Establishment of Ireland’s Open Data Platform

    IE0002, 2014, E-Government

  21. Undertake an audit of key datasets for publication

    IE0003, 2014, Open Data

  22. Establish a roadmap for the Open Data and an evaluation framework to provide assessment of the ongoing Open Data

    IE0004, 2014, Open Data

  23. Establishment of an Open Data Ireland Governance Board (ODIGB) and Steering and Implementation Group (SIG) for Open Data Ireland

    IE0005, 2014, Open Data

  24. Signing up to the G8 Open Data Charter

    IE0006, 2014, Open Data

  25. Implementing Open Data

    IE0007, 2014, Open Data

  26. Improve computer literacy through implementation of proposed new Digital Strategy for Schools

    IE0008, 2014, Capacity Building

  27. Review national and international practice to develop revised principles / code for public engagement/consultation with citizens, civil society and others by public bodies.

    IE0009, 2014, Public Participation

  28. Starred commitment Hold referenda arising from the recommendations of the Constitutional Convention

    IE0010, 2014, Gender

  29. Starred commitment Ethics Reform

    IE0011, 2014, Conflicts of Interest

  30. Strengthening Freedom of Information - Implement the Code of Practice for Freedom of Information (FOI).

    IE0012, 2014, Legislation & Regulation

  31. Reform of FOI

    IE0013, 2014, Capacity Building

  32. Starred commitment Regulation of Lobbying

    IE0014, 2014, Legislation & Regulation

  33. Starred commitment Encourage, Protect and Raise Awareness of Whistleblower Duties and Protections

    IE0015, 2014, Whistleblower Protections

  34. MEASURES TO INCREASE CITIZEN PARTICIPATION IN DECISION MAKING ON POLICY AND LEGISLATIVE PROPOSALS. Systemic pre-legislative scrutiny of draft bills

    IE0016, 2014, Legislation & Regulation

  35. Develop and deliver access to environmental information (AIE) training module for public officials

    IE0017, 2014, Capacity Building

  36. INCREASE CITIZEN PARTICIPATION AT LOCAL LEVEL. Pilot approach to implementation of Public Participation Networks

    IE0018, 2014, Private Sector

  37. Provide legal base for public participation framework in local government

    IE0019, 2014, Capacity Building

  38. Undertake a feasibility study on possible means of enabling further citizen engagement in local authority budgetary processes

    IE0020, 2014, Participation in Budget Processes

  39. SUPPORT CHILDREN AND YOUNG PEOPLE AS CITIZENS. Develop, finalise and publish the first Government Strategy on children and young people's participation in decision-making.

    IE0021, 2014, Capacity Building

  40. Maximise participation and understanding of young people in civic life

    IE0022, 2014, Capacity Building

  41. Development of an ICT Strategy

    IE0023, 2014, Public Service Delivery

  42. Data sharing and governance bill

    IE0024, 2014, E-Government

  43. Public Services Card

    IE0025, 2014, E-Government

  44. Single Customer View

    IE0026, 2014, E-Government

  45. Local Government Portal

    IE0027, 2014, E-Government

  46. New Local Enterprise Offices

    IE0028, 2014, Public Service Delivery

  47. Review and enhancement of complaints procedures and using feedback to improve services across the public service; A review of citizen complaints procedures will be undertaken.

    IE0029, 2014, Public Participation

  48. Enhance customer engagement

    IE0030, 2014, Public Participation