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New Zealand

Ongoing Engagement for OGP (NZ0009)

Overview

At-a-Glance

Action Plan: Not Attached

Action Plan Cycle: 2016

Status: Inactive

Institutions

Lead Institution: State Services Commission

Support Institution(s): NA

Policy Areas

Capacity Building, OGP, Public Participation

IRM Review

IRM Report: New Zealand End-of-Term Report 2016-2018, New Zealand Mid-Term Report 2016-2018

Starred: No

Early Results: Marginal

Design i

Verifiable: Yes

Relevant to OGP Values: Civic Participation Technology

Potential Impact:

Implementation i

Completion:

Description

Ongoing engagement for OGP We will build a flexible and enduring platform for engagement between the New Zealand government and New Zealand communities around the Open Government Partnership. Objective: To ensure that government and communities are able to engage on open government topics using a variety of stable methods – including online platforms and face-toface meetings and other forums – as part of a wider engagement plan. Status quo: In facilitating the development of New Zealand’s National Action Plan for the OGP, the State Services Commission (SSC) has built an online platform to engage with New Zealand communities, using both government tools and software provided by an independent vendor. The SSC wants to build on this to improve engagement over the life of the next action plan. It is also supported in its work by an independent Expert Advisory Panel and a government officials group. The SSC intends to expand the ways people can get involved over the duration of the plan. Ambition: The SSC is committed to building a stable, fit-for-purpose platform for New Zealanders to engage with their government, using the technology and channels that people expect to use in a modern society. It will work toward ways of managing New Zealand’s participation in OGP that will reflect a spirit of co-creation with communities.

IRM Midterm Status Summary

5. Ongoing engagement for OGP

Milestones:

Work with the Department of Internal Affairs to improve government’s access to, and use of, digital public engagement tools

Work with the Expert Advisory Panel to decide how best to report on progress against OGP milestones

Engage with New Zealanders to develop the approach to the next plan.

Responsible institution: State Services Commission

Supporting institution(s): Department of Internal Affairs

Start date: October 2016

End date: June 2018

Context and Objectives

The government offers ‘a range of guidance materials to help the public sector engage effectively with the public to increase transparency and support participatory government’.[Note142: ‘Engagement and consultation guidance,’ New Zealand Government: Department of Internal Affairs, accessed17 January 2018, https://www.dia.govt.nz/Engagement-and-consultation. ] Its online engagement guidance, released in September 2015,[Note143: ‘Online engagement,’ New Zealand Government Web ToolKit, 24 July 2017, https://webtoolkit.govt.nz/guidance/online-engagement/.%5D is the starting point for agencies. Govt.nz provides a consultation listing for central and local government agencies and the public.[Note144: ‘Engaging with government,’ New Zealand Government, 27 April 2017, https://www.govt.nz/browse/engaging-with-government/.%5D The pilot Government Online Engagement Service (GOES) is the survey software tool built on government’s common web platform. Other agencies have their own tools, platforms or processes for engagement with the public.

When developing this action plan, the SSC used two platforms: GOES and the tool used by Engage2. While government used these two existing platforms to broaden the scope of engagement, some stakeholders felt that this approach complicated their ability to engage in the development of the action plan, and others were frustrated by the process for entering multiple submissions and wished to present formal off-line submissions that they had prioritised.[Note145: HuiE!, 5 July 2017, interview with IRM researcher.] There was also a question as to why an external contractor’s site was used.[Note146: Jan Rivers, 11 July 2017, Laurence Millar, 7 September 2017, interviews with IRM researcher.] All stakeholders wanted ongoing engagement for OGP over a long period, using a variety of mechanisms, two-way communication and feedback—all premised on partnership and co-creation values.

This commitment seeks to reflect ‘a spirit of co-creation with communities’ when developing and implementing future OGP action plans. The stated ambition is the creation of a stable and enduring platform for New Zealanders to engage with government, ‘using the technology and channels that people expect to use in a modern society’. It is led by the influential State Services Commission (SSC) with assistance from the Department of Internal Affairs (DIA). It will also need to work with the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet (DPMC) to align government’s participation advice with Commitment 7’s activities.

The commitment meets the OGP values of civic participation, and technology and innovation. Government is improving opportunities and capabilities for the public to influence decisions and to co-create the next action plan. Technological innovation is planned to advance transparency and accountability, by opening up an interactive information suite of tools for engaging with the public and jointly developing the next OGP commitments.

The specificity of the commitment is medium. While the commitment text is fairly clear regarding the online platform to promote engagement between New Zealand government and communities, the reader must interpret how the listed activities are relevant to the overall objective. For example, the objective lists certain methods for engagement (e.g. online platforms, face-to-face meetings) but the listed activities do not ensure that these methods for engagement will occur. Furthermore, measuring the completion of such deliverables is not straightforward.

If fully implemented, this commitment would have moderate potential impact. A key goal for OGP is hearing from the public. As the data would reflect information about the public, it could be a starting point for wider feedback. It is hoped that a better-informed public can more accurately convey its views. While this commitment could significantly and positively enable co-creation with stakeholders when creating OGP action plans, the commitment text does not indicate whether this platform will be used for other policy areas. While participation and engagement in the OGP process is important, this commitment does not transform government and civil society decision making on big policy issues.

Completion

At the end of the first year of implementation, the SSC has begun the work with DIA to improve government’s access to, and use of, digital public engagement tools. DIA has reviewed and analysed government’s current engagement process. Their draft review, provided to the IRM researcher on 26 September 2017, but not published in the period of this review, concludes that there is a broader demand for tools that cover a variety of engagement methods e.g. co-design and participatory design. These user-centric methods support better decision-making, more successful policy implementation, social engagement and trust in government. The draft review also pointed out that agencies would value a single source for advice and guidance about consultations and engagement.[Note147: . ‘Review: Government Online Engagement Service (GOES) Pilot,’ NZ Department of Internal Affairs, September 2017. Unpublished.]

The next steps proposed by DIA in the draft review are ‘a discovery piece to identify and define options to extend the digital engagement service beyond the present online engagement service (GOES) pilot; and phasing out the GOES software tool in order to ‘support 2-way citizen conversation and deliberative participation’.[Note148: Id.] Interviews with the public are planned.

The government has completed work with the Expert Advisory Panel (EAP) to decide how to best report progress of OGP milestones. Officials now report to the EAP using a commonly agreed template, and these reports are published on the OGPNZ website following approval at the preceding EAP meeting.[Note149: ‘Our Progress,’ Open Government: New Zealand, accessed 17 January 2018, http://www.ogp.org.nz/our-progress/.%5D

The activity to engage with New Zealanders to develop the approach for the next action plan was started ahead of its formal start date of October 2017. This was done to enable progress ahead of the 23 September 2017 general election. Government’s mid-term self-assessment report states that the SSC has been laying the ground work for developing the next plan by ‘gathering insights from key stakeholder groups, building a more dynamic stream of information for NZers’, and ‘working to secure use of a digital platform for co-production, and neutral consultancy services to facilitate co-production’ of the next action plan’.[Note150: National Action Plan 2016-18 Mid-term self-assessment, Open Government Partnership: New Zealand, 2 October 2017, http://www.ogp.org.nz/assets/publications/New-Zealand-Mid-term-self-assessment-2016-18.pdf.%5D It states that commitment lead officials and the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment are meeting regularly and assessing international initiatives such as engagement work by the UK foundation, NESTA. They are looking at how to ‘draw in voices beyond the easier to reach ‘usual suspects’.

Several stakeholder organisations (HuiE!, CommVoices, Public Service Association, Combined Trade Unions, VolunteeringNZ) have advised the IRM researcher that they are meeting regularly with the SSC ahead of the formal start in October 2017.

The work with DIA on digital tools for better engagement with New Zealanders and the engagement with New Zealanders to develop the approach to the next plan will be further reported on in the end-of-term report.

Early Results

Government’s draft review of its current engagement process looks ahead to achieving system-wide transformative change through two-way citizen conversation and deliberative participation. The IRM researcher considers planned interviews ‘to ensure that government engagement is genuinely people-centred and it is easier to participate’ [Note151: . ‘Review: Government Online Engagement Service (GOES) Pilot,’ NZ Department of Internal Affairs. ] to be a welcome step.

Some stakeholders interviewed by the IRM researcher find the OGPNZ website difficult to navigate, they want OGP work and progress on the commitments actively publicised through other social media outlets, noting there was little evidence of activities beyond Wellington since the action plan was announced in October 2016. Some seek the ability for a wider group of the public to co-create the next action plan.[Note152: Cath Wallace and Jan Rivers, ECO, 11 July 2017, interview with IRM researcher.] Others seek inclusion of commitment activities outside of Wellington.[Note153: Fuimaono Tuiasau 20 July 2017, interview with IRM researcher.] They endorse the commitment’s activities to use a variety of stable methods and an OGP action plan process based on partnership between government and the public. Some seek a stronger social infrastructure to allow for open communication for civil society groups and for tracking OGP action plan progress,[Note154: Associate Professor Michael Macaulay, Victoria University of Wellington 12 July 2017; John Hall, Fortress Social Services Charitable Trust Board, 7 July 2017, interviews with IRM researcher.] a good, simple and clear platform, not just a holding place for discussion, ‘using more bespoke technology designed to support deliberation’ and report back to all who deliberated on what was done and why ideas were rejected,[Note155: Max Rashbrooke, 16 August 2017, interview with IRM researcher.] and an appreciation of ‘co-ownership with the public’.[Note156: Miriam Lips, Professor of Digital Government, Victoria University of Wellington, 25 August 2017, interview with IRM researcher.] Internet New Zealand advocated for only one platform and asked ‘Why build it ourselves?’[Note157: Jordan Carter, Jay Daley and Debbie Monahan, Internet NZ, 6 September, 2017, interview with IRM researcher.] Some stakeholders are sceptical about government’s commitment to co-create the next action plan.

Given the delay in publishing the review, the IRM researcher questions whether the intention to have improved digital public engagement tools by the start date of developing the next action plan (January 2018) is achievable. The SSC has subsequently advised that preparation for the public engagement process to develop the next National Action Plan is underway. It will utilize digital tools and feed insights developed in the course of this milestone into the planning for the engagement. Milestone one’s finish date is June 2018. The SSC has also said that this work isn’t tied to the next National Action Plan.[Note158: Comment from SSC during pre-publication review, 22 December 2017.]

One set of progress reports against OGP milestones has been published at the What’s Happening section of New Zealand’s OGP website using the format agreed with the Expert Advisory Panel.[Note159: ‘Our Progress,’ Open Government: New Zealand.]

Many stakeholders interviewed by the IRM researcher discussed how OGP participation can address the seeming tension between representative democracy and participatory (or deliberative) democracy. They noted that New Zealand’s representative system of government requires public participation in decision making and politics and gave examples of requirements for consultation in many New Zealand laws (e.g. Local Government Act, Resource Management Act, Conservation Act) and institutions (e.g. select committees, petitions, freedom of the press). They described deliberative democracy as an approach to particularly difficult issues that complements existing institutions between elections, not as a replacement for representative democracy, and they looked forward to using it to develop the next plan. They sought a two-way OGP communications strategy which includes listening to each group’s views so that all gain trust and confidence.[Note160: Max Rashbrooke, 16 August 2017; Sir Geoffrey Palmer, 25 August 2017; Simon Wright, 31 August; Laurence Millar, 7 September 2017, interviews with IRM researcher.]

Next Steps

The IRM researcher recommends that this commitment be completed in the remaining period of the action plan and that commitment activities one and three are updated to ensure effective development of the next action plan. These recommendations build on the feedback from stakeholder interviews. For commitment activity one, the SSC should bolster work with the Department of Internal Affairs by selecting a suite of tools and procedures to be used for public engagement across central and local government. For commitment activity three, engaging with New Zealanders should be modified to encompass ‘co-creating’. Action plan development should include greater participatory involvement. As for the second and completed commitment activity, the IRM researcher recommends that reporting of each milestone against its end-date is added to the template, to assist with OGP progress reporting.

The IRM researcher also notes that activities foreseen by this commitment are essential for a country to participate in OGP. Therefore, it is advisable for the government to successfully develop an enduring platform as an OGP mechanism to create and implement an effective action plan, and to do this as a regular OGP operational activity rather than including it as an action plan commitment. The IRM assesses the consultation mechanism during development and implementation of the action plan in a separate chapter of the IRM report (see 3.3 Civil society engagement).

IRM End of Term Status Summary

5. Ongoing engagement for OGP

Commitment Aim:

The government aimed to create a more sophisticated level of engagement with the public around the Open Government Partnership. In particular, the government sought to improve its access to and use of digital public engagement tools. It also planned to decide how best to report to the Expert Advisory Panel on OGP milestone progress and engage with the public on the approach for the next action plan.

Status

Midterm: Limited

In the midterm, Milestones 1 and 3 commenced, and Milestone 2 was completed. The Department of Internal Affairs (DIA) completed its draft review of the government’s current engagement process, which used a pilot survey tool. But the department did not publish the review then (Milestone 1). The State Services Commission (SSC) and the Expert Advisory Panel (EAP) agreed that officials’ OGP milestone progress reports would be published in a standard format on the OGP New Zealand website. The reports would be published following approval by the EAP (Milestone 2). [Note80: “Open Government Partnership Expert Advisory Panel Meeting Minutes,” State Services Commission, 5 December 2016, http://www.ssc.govt.nz/sites/all/files/Expert%20Advisory%20Panel%20-%20minutes%205%20December.pdf. ] Also in the midterm, the SCC started to engage with New Zealanders on the approach for the next action plan (Milestone 3). For more information, see the 2016–2018 IRM midterm report. [Note81: “Independent Reporting Mechanism (IRM): New Zealand Progress Report 2016–2018,” Open Government Partnership, https://www.opengovpartnership.org/sites/default/files/New-Zealand_MidTerm_2016-2018.pdf. ]

End of term: Complete

The SSC and DIA completed work on Milestones 1 and 3. Milestone 1 included three activities. The first was DIA’s review of the government’s pilot survey tool, which was published. The review found that government agencies needed all of government guidance, better access to digital tools, and training on the available tools and facilitation methods. [Note82: “Review: Government Online Engagement Services (GOES) Pilot,” Department of Internal Affairs, September 2017, https://www.digital.govt.nz/assets/Uploads/GOES-review-and-recommendations-v6-1.pdf. ] Feedback from members of the public fell outside of this review’s scope.

DIA then undertook a six-week discovery project to understand how digital technologies can best support public participation in government. DIA talked to 195 citizens, nine nongovernmental organisations, and 20 government agencies. [Note83: “Open Government Partnership New Zealand: National Action Plan 2016–18 End-Term Self-Assessment,” Open Government Partnership New Zealand, November 2018, 26, http://www.ogp.org.nz/assets/Publications/52cf8fb192/National-Action-Plan-2016-18-End-term-Self-assessment.pdf.%5D Its report concluded that “we want to be moving beyond informing and consulting to a more sophisticated level of engagement, including public participation in co-creation of policy, co-design of public services and products, and citizen-led initiatives.” [Note84: https://www.digital.govt.nz/standards-and-guidance/engagement/online-engagement/research-how-digital-can-support-participation-in-government/research-project-overview/ ]

Finally, DIA tested public engagement tools and published engagement advice and principles. [Note85: “Risk Assessments Completed by Agencies,” Guidance and Resources, ICT.govt.nz, https://www.ict.govt.nz/guidance-and-resources/using-cloud-services/assess-the-risks-of-cloud-services/risk-assessments-completed-by-agencies/; “Participation Principles—Draft,” Research: How Digital Can Support Participation in Government, Digital.govt.nz, last updated 20 June 2018, https://www.digital.govt.nz/standards-and-guidance/engagement/online-engagement/research-how-digital-can-support-participation-in-government/participation-principles-draft/, accessed 8 August 2018.] It added New Zealand’s Loomio decision-making product and the Delib Citizen Space consultation tool [Note86: Loomio, https://loomio.org; Delib, https://www.citizenspace.com/info, accessed 8 August 2018.] to its new online procurement service, Marketplace. (Marketplace launched in October 2018. [Note87: Marketplace, https://marketplace.govt.nz/, accessed 9 October 2018.])

The government notes that these activities completed Milestone 1. It envisages no further work. DIA states that the discovery project report findings will inform any future programme moving toward co-creation of policy, co-design of public services and products, citizen-led initiatives, or change measurement. [Note88: SSC email to OGP responding to the draft OGP IRM end-of-term report, 20 December 2018.] DIA officials informed the IRM researcher of an unsuccessful funding bid to continue this public engagement work. They stated that their work is now focused on New Zealand’s Digital Inclusion Blueprint [Note89: https://www.digital.govt.nz/blog/building-a-blueprint-for-digital-inclusion/%5D and the Service Innovation Lab. [Note90: “Posts Tagged as Service Innovation Lab,” Digital.govt.nz, https://www.digital.govt.nz/blog/tag/service-innovation-lab, accessed 21 August 2018.] The officials also noted that they are preparing another public engagement funding bid for the next financial year. [Note91: Karl McDiarmid and Christine Bennett (Department of Internal Affairs), interview with IRM researcher, 20 August 2018.]

SSC completed Milestone 3. The external provider contracted by the SSC to lead the engagement with New Zealanders on the approach for the next action plan used several channels. These included an online pre-engagement survey to almost 800 respondents, interviews with representatives from community organisations, and the Expert Advisory Panel. The then associate minister launched formal engagement on the next action plan on 4 April 2018. [Note92: “How a Plan Is Developed,” Open Government Partnership New Zealand, http://www.ogp.org.nz/new-zealands-plan/how-a-plan-is-developed/. ] The new Minister, the Minister of State Services continued this approach. The third national action plan was released in December 2018 and will be assessed by the IRM in 2019.

Technically, the government completed this commitment’s milestones. However, DIA has not realised its own stated ambition to advance public participation in co-creation of policy, co-design of public services and products, and citizen-led initiatives. Given the Coalition government’s commitment to open government and civic participation, the IRM researcher recommends that the government prioritise and fund further public engagement work.

Did It Open Government?

Civic Participation: Marginal

All civil society stakeholders interviewed by the IRM researcher, including Expert Advisory Panel (EAP) members, observed improved commitment to open government and public engagement following the change of government in October 2017. The EAP chair stated that the approach to developing the 2018–2020 action plan is “a step change in the right direction.” [Note93: Interview with the IRM researcher, 5 July 2018.] EAP members noted that the government’s OGP officials were friendly and receptive. They also noted that the development process for the 2018–2020 action plan was better than in past years, despite no increased funding or resources for this work. EAP members reported that 449 public submissions were made on the new action plan, though mostly at the public workshops. For the 2016–2018 action plan, 87 public submissions were made. [Note94: See IRM’s midterm report, https://www.opengovpartnership.org/report/new-zealand-mid-term-report-2016-2018-year-1, page 21.] The EAP states in the 2018–2020 action plan that “we are aspirational for the engagement approach to be developed further” and seek “as many voices from our communities as possible.” [Note95: “Third National Action Plan,” Open Government Partnership New Zealand, http://www.ogp.org.nz/new-zealands-plan/third-national-action-plan-2018-2020/. ]

The EAP chair told the IRM researcher that EAP members are now prepared to actively promote OGP in their communities. This is because “the new government is authentic and genuine to hear what their communities say.” [Note96: At a meeting with the EAP and SSC officials on 8 August 2018.] Another EAP member saw progress toward addressing the “seeming tension between representative and participatory (or deliberative) democracy” raised in the IRM midterm report. [Note97: See IRM midterm report on New Zealand’s OGP national action plan 2016–2018, page 52, http://www.ogp.org.nz/new-zealands-plan/second-national-action-plan/. ]

Online publication of officials’ quarterly OGP progress reports to the EAP has improved access to information. Stakeholders are pleased that New Zealand’s OGP website design has improved.

With respect to civic participation, the Coalition government is consulting with the public. Desk research by the IRM researcher indicates increased use of survey platforms such as Delib and Survey Monkey. The government has also increased use of social media and video. Examples of such use include the Future of Tax consultation [Note98: “Future of Tax,” Tax Working Group, https://taxworkinggroup.govt.nz/have-your-say-future-tax, accessed 10 October 2018.] and the Ministry of Education’s use of social media engagement during its Education Conversation. [Note99: “Education Conversation,” Korero Matauranga, https://consultation.education.govt.nz/education/korero-matauranga/, accessed 8 August 2018.] These examples suggest the occurrence of more government engagement than in September 2017.

These engagement activities appear to be a feature of the Coalition government’s open government approach. That is, they do not appear to be a result of this commitment’s ambition to move New Zealand toward participatory democracy and genuine co-creation and co-design. When this report was written, the IRM researcher had not found evidence that directly links the increased central government consultation activities with the intent and activities of this commitment. This supports the feedback from the Council of Trade Unions. The council stated that it:

“would attribute these developments to a shift in policy and governance style of the incoming government from 2017. Aspects of the 2016-18 OGP Action Plan are consistent with these developments, but have had no more than a marginal impact in driving change.” [Note100: Email to the IRM researcher from the Council of Trade Unions, 12 October 2018.]

The lack of funding for future work supports this conclusion.

The IRM researcher notes that this commitment complements this 2016-2018 action plan’s Commitment 7’s work on improving knowledge of tools and techniques policy makers can use to create more open and user-led policy. The IRM researcher also acknowledges the 2018–2020 action plan statement that “across government, responsibilities related to public participation have evolved separately and are somewhat ad hoc.” [Note101: “Third National Action Plan,” Open Government Partnership New Zealand, 24, http://www.ogp.org.nz/new-zealands-plan/third-national-action-plan-2018-2020/.%5D

Carried Forward?

The government has accepted the IRM researcher’s midterm report recommendation. The report had recommended the government provide, as a regular OGP operational activity, an enduring OGP platform to engage with New Zealanders in developing the next plan. This will require the State Services Commission to continue to prioritise and allocate adequate funds to allow the government to fully fulfil its OGP responsibilities.


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