Training civil servants on public participation (NL0025)
Action Plan: Netherlands 2016-2018 National Action Plan
Action Plan Cycle: 2016
Lead Institution: Ministry of Infrastructure and the Environment
Support Institution(s): Ministry of BZK and the civil society
Policy AreasCapacity Building, Infrastructure & Transport, Public Participation
If there is to be good and effective dialogue, it is essential that the government is open to civil society initiatives. It must actively involve citizens in the development and implementation of policy, and must work alongside the social partners. After all, the government is part of today’s networking society. It is no longer ‘in charge’ but a partner in the performance of the public tasks. The government is expected to ‘work and learn alongside the people’. The civil society partners have called for greater investment in the public sector staff, and specifically in the development of the skills they need to interact effectively with today’s network society. It is a question of further professionalisation.
The Ministry of Infrastructure and the Environment has already done much to promote public consultation and participation. It continues to pursue the ambitions set out in the former action plan and is devoting considerable attention to developing the skills of staff and managers. All activities focus on the attitudes and behaviour needed to perform effectively within today’s network society. The Ministry of I&M serves as an inspiring role model for other government departments in that it is demonstrating a highly effective form of interaction and cooperation.
IRM Midterm Status Summary
Title: The public officer as professional within the civil society
The government is expected to ‘work and learn alongside the people’. The civil society partners have called for greater investment in the public sector staff, and specifically in the development of the skills they need to interact effectively with today’s network society. The Ministry of Infrastructure and the Environment continues to pursue the ambitions set out in the former action plan and is devoting considerable attention to developing the skills of staff and managers. All activities focus on the attitudes and behavior needed to perform effectively within today’s network society.
1. Professionalisation course 'The Art of Connecting': in 2018, all policy staff within the Ministry of Infrastructure and the Environment will have attended a professionalisation course
2. Work processes: By the end of 2017, all work processes will have been adapted.
3. Approach Strengthening Professional Skills: in 2017 the Approach Strengthening Professional Skills will start.
4. Communities of Practice: staff who have followed the professionalisation course 'The Art of Connecting', will come together in a peer review setting and, based on actual case studies, exchange experiences of acting in the different roles.
5. Management professionalisation: by the end of 2017, all managers within Ministry of Infrastructure and the Environment will have received training in interaction with their networking staff.
6. Providing input for formulating ambitions for the public sector as a whole.
Responsible institution: Ministry of Infrastructure and the Environment
Supporting institution(s): The Ministry of Interior and Kingdom relations, the civil society
Start date: 1 January 2016 End date: 30 June 2018
Editorial Note: This is a truncated version of the milestone text. For the full commitment text, please see The Netherlands National Action Plan (https://www.opengovpartnership.org/sites/default/files/Netherlands_NAP-Appendix_2016-2018_EN_revised-with-changes.pdf)
Context and Objectives
The action plan states that the government must actively involve citizens and work alongside social partners in the development and implementation of policy. XX[Note97: National action plan, https://www.opengovpartnership.org/documents/netherlands-2016-2018-national-action-plan.%5DXX This is not always the case in policymaking. The civil society partners have called for greater investment in public sector staff, and specifically in the development of the skills they need to interact effectively with today’s networked society. The main objective of this commitment is professionalizing public officers to interact with civil society. The six milestones outline the specific course, activities, community of practice and general training of staff. This commitment’s overall specificity is low, because the commitment text does not clearly identify what type of training will be included in the professionalization courses listed, nor does it explain how these courses will open up dialogue between government and civil society.
Although vaguely formulated, this commitment is relevant to civic participation since it aims to improve the skills and management of government staff that could enable participation. The commitment's scope is limited, since it covers the training of staff within the Ministry of Infrastructure and the Environment. A more transformative commitment would clearly describe the goal of stated training sessions and cover staff in all relevant public sectors that work with civil society.
According to the government self-assessment report XX[Note98: Midterm self- assessment report, opengovpartnership.org/sites/default/files/Netherlands_Mid-term_Self-Assessment-Report_2016-2018_EN.pdf.]XX, six out of 11 tranches (groups) of civil servants participated in the course 'The Art of Connecting' (milestone 1) by June 2017. Though the project manager said that an attendance list was made, there are no clear numbers or percentages to verify the completion as stated by the government. The self-assessment report states that in the second half of 2017, the work process (milestone 2) in some 10-15 policy files will be adapted. There is no information on the progress on the third milestone. In 2016 and 2017, two Communities of Practice (milestone 4) were held. The report on milestones five is unclear. As for milestone six, an 'Energetic Civil Servant' workshop was held during the ‘How Open! Festival’ on 12 December 2016. XX[Note99: How Open Festival workshop, open-overheid.nl/programma-hoe-open-festival/#rdv-calendar.]XX The project leader told the IRM researcher that there are no (publicly available) records on any of the milestones.
If taken forward into the next action plan, the government needs to reformulate the commitment to clearly communicate the topics and goals of the training sessions and describe how these activities would enable greater civic participation. Additionally, as one CSO pointed out in the focus group, the commitment should also address the risk that informal and confidential decision making may lead to less public accountability.
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