Further embed open government principles in the day-to-day work of the Ontario public service through the development of a new guide and training. (ONT0003)
Action Plan: Ontario, Canada Action Plan
Action Plan Cycle: 2017
Lead Institution: Treasury Board Secretariat
Support Institution(s): Government Civil Society, Private Sector Treasury Board Secretariat Other ministries and agencies Civil society, private sector
Policy AreasCapacity Building, Subnational
Issue to be addressed: OPS staff has differing levels of understanding and capacity to embed open government principles (regarding data, info and public engagement) in their daily tasks. Primary objective: To create an Open Government literate OPS with common principles embedded into daily responsibilities that promote accountability, transparency and public participation. Short description: As open government increases in prominence it will change the way that public-sector employees engage with their responsibilities. OGP challenge: Technology and Innovation for openness and accountability- OPS staff will have a better understanding of how to open information and engage public in decision-making. Ambition: Develop an Open Government guide and training in collaboration with other levels of government that offers clear and tangible ways for public servants to align their daily work with the principles of open government.
IRM End of Term Status Summary
3. Further embed open government principles in the day-to-day work of the Ontario Public Service through the development of a new guide and training.
Status quo or problem/issue to be addressed: Staff has differing levels of understanding and capacity to embed open government principles (regarding data, info and public engagement) in their daily tasks.
Main objective: To create an Open Government literate with common principles embedded into daily responsibilities that promote accountability, transparency and public participation.
Brief description of commitment: As open government increases in prominence it will change the way that public-sector employees engage with their responsibilities.
Ambition: Develop an Open Government guide and training in collaboration with other levels of government that offers clear and tangible ways for public servants to align their daily work with the principles of open government.
1. Develop (draft) guide with input from government ministries and agencies.
2. Establish a community of practice
3. Undertake pilots
4. Training of Trainers
Overall Objective & Relevance
Commitment 3 targets a challenge identified during the Open Government Engagement Team's 2013/2014 consultations that informed the province's Open Data Directive. Specifically, the recognition that successfully implementing Open Government in Ontario will be contingent upon a culture shift and €˜leap of faith' among its politicians and public servants. Common issues raised by the approximately 100 Ontario Public Service staff whom participated in these discussions included: See, Open by Default €“ A new way forward for Ontario, https://www.ontario.ca/page/open-default-new-way-forward-ontario - section-9 [last accessed 17 September 2017].
It is these concerns that undergird Commitment 3's focus on addressing the differing levels of understanding of, and competencies for, operationalizing and embedding open government principles into the day-to-day work of Ontario's public servants and the stated objective of creating, 'an Open Government literate OPS with common principles embedded into daily responsibilities that promote accountability, transparency and public participation.'
It is unclear how this commitment, as written, aligns with any of the four OGP values, considering it is principally an internal-facing administrative initiative. As identified in the action plan, the implementation of this commitment can potentially change the ways in which public servants engage with their responsibilities, embedding open government principles in their day-to-day work. While the commitment might help to foster a culture within the public service that is more conducive to open government, none of the milestones contain a public facing element that is vital to the notion of relevance as defined by the OGP. See, Open Government Partnership, 2016. IRM Procedures Manual. https://www.opengovpartnership.org/sites/default/files/IRM-Procedures-Manual-v4_Sept2017.docx [last accessed 17 September 2017].
Specificity and Potential Impact
The commitment language is vague. For each milestone, the language used contains no measurable activity or deliverable. The IRM researcher could verify whether the guide was developed or if a training took place during the implementation period, however, the lack of specificity requires interpretation from the reader to identify how these activities are to be carried out, what their scope and reach will be, among other variables. Given this situation, the commitment is assessed as having low specificity.
Creating a guide and training for public servants clearly is a positive step toward facilitating a better understanding of how to operationalize open government across the Ontario Public Service. However, the low specificity of Commitment 3 and its associated milestones, combined with its divergence from the OGP's call for commitments to be SMART, precludes any substantive assessment of its potential impact. The transformative potential of successfully shifting public servant culture through training notwithstanding, Commitment 3, as written in Ontario's Open Government Partnership Action Plan, is assessed as having minor potential impact.
The aim of further embedding open government principles into the day-to-to operations of the Ontario Public Service by developing and implementing new and coordinated training continued apace throughout the duration of the twelve-month subnational pilot program. The open government training project plan is available at: https://www.dropbox.com/sh/d6p4z87fuzhngkx/AAA6lAEByWYYEHOlqGCQjLvKa/Project%20Plans%20-%20Plans%20des%20projets/OPS%20Training%20Program%20-%20Programme%20de%20formation%20de%20la%20FPO?amp%3Bpreview=OPS+Training+Program+project+plan.docx&dl=0&preview=OP [last accessed 10 February 2018] Support for this internal training-oriented approach to implementing open government was virtually unanimous among the government and civil society representatives with whom the IRM researcher spoke throughout the assessment exercise. For instance, when asked which of Ontario's three commitments was the most important, the response almost always was, 'one and three' precisely because these two commitments are widely seen as directly linked to successfully delivering open government over the long-term. By contrast, the importance attached to Commitment 2 was anchored in the observation that it is a shorter-term open government deliverable with the potential to directly benefit youth and to provide a technological civil engagement infrastructure that can also be easily be adapted to extend beyond youth. The stated focus of Commitment 3 for 2017 was twofold. First, to build a foundation that supports the longer-term objective of creating an open government literate Ontario Public Service 'with common principles embedded into daily responsibilities that promote accountability, transparency and participation.' See, Open Government Partnership: Create an open government training program for staff across the Ontario Public Service https://www.dropbox.com/sh/ms9hij0zzy8o7kv/AADcSFbmgYfRzazY_FH_L7nta/Training%20Program%20-%20Programme%20de%20formation/March%208%20-%208%20Mars?dl=0&preview=OG+Training+Program+Deck.pptx [last accessed 10 February 2018] Second, to support the realization of three longer-term outcomes: improved design and delivery of public polices and services; having Ontario become a global leader in open government training for staff; and establishing a proactive and dynamic culture 'supporting public sector innovation and collaboration with partners.' Ibid., These objectives were to be operationalized by 'develop[ing] an OG learning framework that maps out a phased strategy to develop OG skills across the OPS' and to 'Identify and prioritize foundational learning tools and resources that start to build capacity across open data, open dialogue, open information.' Ibid., None of the milestones is directly linked to a measurable practice per se, focusing instead on the provision of organizational infrastructure to facilitate and sustain open government practices. The individual milestones accompanying Commitment are highly instrumental in nature and have all been largely completed.
Milestone 3.1. Develop (draft) guide with input from government ministries and agencies.
The inaugural meeting of the advisory committee for Commitment 3, in March 2017, focused on how to move forward with open government training of Ontario Public service staff in the light of Ontario's OGP Action Plan. Some of the key inputs put forward by members of the committee included: liaising with the Treasury Board of Canada Secretariat about its open government training resources; for OGO to identify its existing tools and resources as well as those of the Privacy Commissioner of Ontario; recognize that different open government skills required across government; and that any curriculum would need to transcend the Ontario government's existing pillars (Data, Dialogue, Information) through a user-centric approach. By the meeting's end, it was decided that the OGO team would move to create key principles and a first draft of a learning framework in accord with this feedback. For minutes of the meeting see, https://www.dropbox.com/sh/ms9hij0zzy8o7kv/AADcSFbmgYfRzazY_FH_L7nta/Training%20Program%20-%20Programme%20de%20formation/March%208%20-%208%20Mars?dl=0 [last accessed 10 February 2018] At the May 2017 meeting of the advisory committee, members were presented with a draft learning framework that was based on four principles (i.e., timely; relevant; feasible; and user-centric) and three learning components (i.e., tools and resources; community of practice/building champions; and interactive learning), and which extends to 2020. See, DRAFT Open Government Learning Framework for the Ontario Public Service, https://www.dropbox.com/sh/ms9hij0zzy8o7kv/AACP9x1SARUsfzBMxwQY_kFda/Training%20Program%20-%20Programme%20de%20formation/May%2010%20-%2010%20mai?dl=0&preview=Learning+Framework.docx [last accessed 10 February 2018] Support for the framework was unanimous. The broad outline of the OGO's draft Open Government Guide was presented at the July meeting of the advisory committee, along with the parameters of a conversation kit to facilitate the delivery of open government sessions by open government leads. Plans for proceeding with pilot training programs involving two as of yet to be selected Ministries also were set out. See, Open Government Partnership: Advisory Committee Meeting, Open Government Training Program for OPS Staff https://www.dropbox.com/sh/ms9hij0zzy8o7kv/AABJTRsLVmWGhlDJMMKA9JS9a/Training%20Program%20-%20Programme%20de%20formation/July%2012-%20%2012%20juillet?dl=0&preview=Advisory+Committee+Meeting+July+12.pptx [last accessed 10 February 2018] The Committee members provided substantive feedback about each of these items. The November meeting provided an opportunity for the committee members to be updated and provide feedback on the latter initiatives and for the IRM researcher to speak with members about their committee experience and their views regarding next steps. The draft open government guide was completed in late 2017. It cannot be accessed by members of the public but is available to all Ministry staff via the Ontario Public Service intranet. The researcher was provided with access to not yet publicly available 2017 Guide via googledocs. See, Draft_OG_Resource Guide_Clean.docx https://drive.google.com/drive/folders/1jcEklX327hQVC7hfnGpOkKEbQor1KS6r [last accessed 10 February 2018]. Access to the Open Information training deck also available on the OPS Intranet site but is password protected.
Milestone 3.2 Establish a community of practice
This milestone involved a number of activities throughout 2017 aimed at establishing a community of practice by developing and strengthening relationships with interested parties. The formation of the Open Government Advisory Committees was one aspect of this milestone. Although this commitment, as written in the Action Plan, was deemed not relevant to civic participation, its implementation included the expansion of the government's relations with external stakeholders. The OGO actively worked to expand its relationships with government Ministries, The received requests for support on consultations and public engagement strategies from some 18 Ministries. See, https://drive.google.com/drive/folders/16fkieCEbrKfkM8NHfGupRUQVms5IQkjt [last accessed 10 February 2018]. government agencies, The OGO posted materials and shared information via the governments Agency intranet http://www.agnes.gov.on.ca. Note: This site is password protected. The IRM researcher was not able to access its contents and external stakeholders. In terms of the latter, the OGO was involved in no less than 15 events with a range of interested actors spanning civil society, education, government and private sectors. A list of 2017 stakeholder engagements is available at: https://docs.google.com/document/d/1u7WVv-B1bdpStSbKM_quOyv0swvJUnP7u0Q2yX6uYOg/edit [last accessed 10 February 2018]. As previously mentioned, there were five OpenON Forums focusing on various open government related topics. These online forums showcased examples of open government at work to the open government community and the broader public. They were advertised via social media for a few weeks prior to taking place, and provided opportunities for individuals to learn about, and get involved with, Ontario's open government initiatives. In June 2017, the OGO hosted an Open Government Pop up event targeting government stakeholders and ministry staff. The objective of this activity was threefold: (i) to assist Ministries formulating open government plans; (ii) to foster opportunities of Ministries to learn about, and collaborate on, joint-initiatives; and (iii) broaden awareness of Open Government among Ontario Public Service staff. The invitation is available at https://docs.google.com/document/d/1iMsOMocNYFQcNIHToVzEc6GI0Src0lSxZjKAzI8sdyM/edit [last accessed 10 February 2018]. Shortly after the event, a short report https://drive.google.com/drive/folders/1OfAXOxzbdtJbs0QLG7-RyyCpY1ewf7Qw [last accessed 10 February 2018] and a blog post > https://docs.google.com/document/d/1BMxWv_3S_iDefP-1OrrexJ3H-5Smi630kdKNeX3sDnE/edit> [last accessed 10 February 2018] were posted to the Ontario Public Service intranet site. In September, the OGO led an interactive workshop that brought together executive and staff leads working to implement open government. The workshop invitation email is available at: https://docs.google.com/document/d/1v3dfkSwNlC7fnhoMY54hzdeh8wf3AczVuPuKoXInQi4/edit [last accessed 10 February 2018], Based on cross-cutting themes gathered from submitted Ministry Plans, the workshop was structured into five working groups (Data Sharing, Data Prioritization, Engagement, Culture Change and Open Licence), with the participants bringing questions, experiences, and challenges to be resolved. After the workshop those who had participated in the Engagement session were invited to join A copy of the follow-up email is available at: https://docs.google.com/document/d/1Lsmu9iY_Eo6jZcx54LSNrx5ppi-cRSGZfDwe1SB1qCA/edit [last accessed 10 February 2018]. Materials from the engagement working group are available at: https://drive.google.com/drive/folders/1y-LOXZA0PLuiFMa_pIFOfv56AxxWQgZc [last accessed 10 February 2018]. a slack channel to carry on the discussion with members of the Civic Tech Toronto community. See, http://civictech.ca/ Throughout the autumn, the OGO furthered its relationship with the Civic Tech Toronto community with a series of meetings as well as face-to-face and slack channel-based conversations aimed at refreshing its Public Engagement Framework. See the email message sent to Toronto Civic Tech and OPS staff: https://docs.google.com/document/d/1R39j9L7ixECmwxgVtR6-Ln86uaoXenVzsOpvlECi7L8/edit [last accessed 10 February 2018]. For example, a November 7 session with Civic Tech Toronto focused on ways of improving the government's engagement and dialogue with the public. See, Civic Tech Public Engagement Session 2 November 7th 2017 https://drive.google.com/drive/folders/18QrQKPINFhHT30-nYhdO-jh5cNrtQtq8 [last accessed 10 February 2018] Later in the month, members of the OGO delivered a Breakout Session at the Brookfield Institute for Innovation and Entrepreneurship See, http://brookfieldinstitute.ca/ focusing on how to apply public engagement strategies in the policy process. The materials provided to the participants are available at: https://drive.google.com/drive/folders/1R0ZB7v6K88BW6mZFxrjWIO2VoadvsZ1J [last accessed 10 February 2018]. After the session participants were invited to join a slack channel to carry forward the dialogue about public engagement. See, https://docs.google.com/document/d/1rpraMWs-3kVDWWbTvIdF6ljKciOK8cKyYkR0S48HUlU/edit [last accessed 10 February 2018]. Taken together the activities pursued in working to actualize milestone 3.2 combined opportunities for building a community of practice and for members of the OGO and other government representatives to learn and share.
3. Undertake pilots
Milestone 3.3 centered on conducting pilot sessions to test the open government training materials. In October pilot training sessions were conducted with staff from the Ministries of Citizenship and Immigration, Status of Women, Seniors Affairs, and International Trade. Updates on these sessions were provided to members of the Commitment 3 advisory committee at its November 7 meeting. Training schedules with staff from four other Ministries was scheduled for early 2018. At the time of writing there is no publicly available information about these sessions, nor information about the participants' perspectives about the sessions.
Milestone 3.4. Training of Trainers
This milestone dealt with developing training materials to assist staff leads on conducting training events. In September, one training session took place with representatives from the Ministry of Tourism, Culture, and Sport. One month later, in October, sessions for conducted with participants from the Ministries of Citizenship and Immigration, International Trade, Seniors Affairs, and Status of Women. The materials used for these sessions is only available via the Ontario Public Service intranet site. Updates on these sessions were provided to members of the Commitment 3 advisory committee at its November 7 meeting. As with the pilots, there is no publicly available information about these sessions, nor information about the participants' perspectives regarding the sessions.
Early results: did it open government?
Access to information: Major
Civic Participation: Major
Openness training for members of the Ontario Public Service has been ongoing since 2015, preceding Ontario's participation in the OGP subnational pilot program. Commitment 3 marked an updating and continuation of this experience, focusing on changing the day-to-day operating culture of the Ontario Public Service and operationalizing principles of the International Open Data Charter. The aim of this commitment focuses on putting the foundations in place to create an open government literate public service. Central to this task in the short term is the development of an open government training guide that public servants can use in their daily work. Given its vague language and lack of a public facing element, Commitment 3 was initially deemed €“ in accord with the definitions set out in IRM Procedures Manual €“ as not relevant to OGP values. It was nonetheless assessed as having minor potential impact on open government insofar as creating a guide and providing training for public servants was seen by civil society and government representatives as an important step in operationalizing the implementation of open government across the Ontario Public Service. This said, the activities associated with the implementation of Commitment 3 have led to an opening of government in the areas of civic participation and in access to information. Early results suggest these activities are making a major contribution to opening government in Ontario
Although this commitment, as written in the Action Plan, was not considered to be aligned with OGP values because of its internal focus, the actualization of the Commitment 3 milestones did contribute to opening government in Ontario. The milestones are oriented toward facilitating and enhancing the disclosure and quality of government information, creating improved opportunities and capabilities for members of the public to inform decisions, and to improve opportunities to hold offices answerable for their actions. Training was developed and implemented in accord with a learning framework that was vetted and approved by civil society advisory committee members as well as their provincial and federal and government counterparts. At present, the training sessions are conducted in person and via the WebEx platform, and are assessed via post-training participant surveys. Unfortunately, no results about the pilot and the €˜train the trainer' sessions were made available to the IRM researcher. It is too soon to assess whether or how the open government training members of the Ontario Public Service receive is altering their working practices. At the time of writing, the OGO is working, as part of the OPS Internal Audit and a review of the OGO's performance measurement framework, on developing a metric for assessing measurable changes in OPS employee behaviour resulting from the training it has offered. This said, the IRM researcher's discussions with members of the Ontario Public Service and civil society interests were filled with anecdotal examples supporting the notion that the OGO's activities are contributing to change that is opening government.
A new guidebook is serving as a basis for training Ontario Public Service staff about open government principles, clear progress has been made in seeking to establish a community of practice that includes internal and external actors, pilot training of ministerial staff is ongoing, and staff leads are receiving training about how to conduct additional traditional training sessions. The focus here is on ensuring the requisite knowledge infrastructure for successfully delivering open government is in place. This is an obvious and necessary compliment to facilitating the ability of citizens to access government information.
Another noteworthy aspect of this commitment is the extent to which it has fostered external outreach and engagement with the open government community. To date, the bulk of this engagement has been concentrated in the Greater Toronto metropolitan area and its immediate surroundings. In going forward, it will be beneficial to expand the reach of engagement activities further afield across the province. In the light of the institutional and subnational context within which Ontario's OGP Action Plan has been implemented, the IRM researcher maintains that the ongoing efforts to transform the day-to-day culture of the Ontario Public Service through training marks a crucial on-going component for openness, that remains, at this time, limited in scope or scale largely because it still too soon to adequately assess the full implications of the outcomes discussed above. In accord with the definitions set out in the IRM Procedures Manual, and despite the seeming incongruence between OGP values and this Commitment as articulated in the Ontario's Action Plan, the completion of Commitment 3 is deemed to have made a major contribution toward opening government in the province.
It will be crucial in moving forward to implement ongoing monitoring and evaluation practices to assess the effectiveness of the OGO's training activities and, specifically, their outcomes. Coinciding with this, is the need to implement more effective record keeping, cataloguing, and information access practices. At present, the public mainly has access to summary accountants of OGP-related government activities, and only very limited access to incomplete documentation and evidence sources upon which the summary accountants are based.
If Commitment 3 is to remain in a future action plan, it is recommended that there be clear goals specifying the types of activities that are meant to be realized and what they are meant to accomplish. This specificity currently is lacking. The government of Ontario and the OGP are also urged to continue working together to ensure alignment between the types of initiatives implemented and the performance metrics through which they are assessed.
A final recommendation for moving forward regards catalysing citizen engagement. The OGO has made commendable efforts with a limited budget via-Ã -vis public outreach. Further work needs to be continued on developing strategies for transforming the implementation of open government from a supply-driven to demand-driven phenomenon. It is recommended that future action plans include a commitment focused on increasing levels of public engagement from across the province, including the implementation of a formal communication campaign extending beyond heavy reliance on social media tools.
Ontario, Canada's Commitments
Strengthen Ontario's commitment to making government data open by default by adopting the international open data charter.
ONT0001, 2017, Capacity Building
Give young people more opportunities to contribute to the development of government programs and services by working in partnership with youth to implement a digital engagement tool.
ONT0002, 2017, E-Government
Further embed open government principles in the day-to-day work of the Ontario public service through the development of a new guide and training.
ONT0003, 2017, Capacity Building