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United Kingdom

Open Policy-Making and Public Engagement (UK0077)

Overview

At-a-Glance

Action Plan: United Kingdom – Third National Action Plan 2016-18

Action Plan Cycle: 2016

Status: Inactive

Institutions

Lead Institution: Department of Finance

Support Institution(s): Other Executive departments, Policy Champions Network, Open Government Network, Cabinet Office

Policy Areas

Capacity Building, E-Government, Fiscal Openness, Local Commitments, Public Participation, Public Participation in Budget/Fiscal Policy

IRM Review

IRM Report: United Kingdom End-of-Term Report 2016-2018, United Kingdom Mid-Term Report 2016-2018

Starred: No

Early Results: Marginal

Design i

Verifiable: Yes

Relevant to OGP Values: Access to Information , Civic Participation , Technology

Potential Impact:

Implementation i

Completion:

Description

Commitment Text: to explore, develop and trial creative and effective open policy-making
and public engagement methods and share the learning across government.
Objective: To embed a culture of proactive and meaningful engagement with the public across
government departments to ensure that the public's’ input contributes in a meaningful way to policy
formulation.
Status quo: The Northern Ireland Civil Service (NICS) faces a challenging agenda over the next
few years. The delivery of priorities, more than ever, depends on the development and
implementation of sound, effective and innovative policies. Key to our future in the public service is
improving how we engage with the public. Despite the growing awareness of the benefits of effective
engagement, there appears to be room for improvement, particularly in engaging stakeholders more
openly in the very early scoping and initiation stages of policy development. Consequently, it is
important for government to continue to explore and develop innovative approaches for engaging
the public in formulation of policies that affect their lives
Ambition: To make public participation in government policy making more effective and
meaningful.
Milestones:
1. Government and civil society to co-design a pilot project to test open policy making
methodology locally, ensuring that the lessons learned from the pilot are documented and
shared across government.
2. Support research and experimentation to create new tools or utilise existing tools and
platforms that empower users to be fully active in the government policy making process.
3. Complete the on boarding process to encourage greater levels of uptake from all Executive
departments and NDPBs to the NI Direct consultation portal
4. Showcase best practice and innovative examples of public engagement in policy
development across Executive departments.

IRM End of Term Status Summary

1. Develop & trial effective open policy-making and public engagement methods (Northern Ireland)

Commitment Text:to explore, develop and trial creative and effective open policy-making and public engagement methods and share the learning across government.

Objective:To embed a culture of proactive and meaningful engagement with the public across government departments to ensure that the public's' input contributes in a meaningful way to policy formulation.

Status quo:The Northern Ireland Civil Service (NICS) faces a challenging agenda over the next few years. The delivery of priorities, more than ever, depends on the development and implementation of sound, effective and innovative policies. Key to our future in the public service is improving how we engage with the public. Despite the growing awareness of the benefits of effective engagement, there appears to be room for improvement, particularly in engaging stakeholders more openly in the very early scoping and initiation stages of policy development. Consequently, it is important for government to continue to explore and develop innovative approaches for engaging the public in formulation of policies that affect their lives

Ambition:To make public participation in government policy making more effective and meaningful.

Milestones:

1. Government and civil society to co-design a pilot project to test open policy making methodology locally, ensuring that the lessons learned from the pilot are documented and shared across government.

2. Support research and experimentation to create new tools or utilise existing tools and platforms that empower users to be fully active in the government policy making process.

3. Complete the on boarding process to encourage greater levels of uptake from all Executive departments and NDPBs to the NI Direct consultation portal

4. Showcase best practice and innovative examples of public engagement in policy development across Executive departments.

Responsible institution: Department of Finance

Supporting institutions: Policy Champions Network, Open Government Network, Cabinet Office

Start date: December 2016

End date: May 2018

Commitment Aim:

This commitment aimed to create more open ways of policy making through trials and experiments based around either one case study or a series of pilots that will then be showcased across the government. Together, the milestones will promote alternative approaches to policy making that use different means (or ‘methodologies') and, most importantly, involve the public in the process to a greater extent.

Status
Midterm: Limited

According to the government and CSOs, the government prioritised the first two milestones, notably the choice of the case study policy and other experiments with opening policy-making methodologies. After the first year of implementation, the commitment was behind schedule. Both government and CSOs felt that the final case study or pilot would fall outside of the third action plan's timeline.[Note 150: Nick Cochrane, Department of Finance and Dr Kelly Wilson, Head of Public Sector Reform Division, Dept. of Finance, 15 August 2017: Colm Burns and David McBurney, Northern Ireland Open Government Network, 11 August 2017. ] Several ideas were developed for different policy laboratories and methodologies with a service designer in place and a behavioural insights unit. Some of these are outside of the OGP process but linked to the ongoing work.[Note 151: The UK Behavioural Insights Team, ‘The Behavioural Insights Team', http://www.behaviouralinsights.co.uk/; and Sunstein, Cass R., Nudging: A Very Short Guide 37 J. Consumer Policy 583 (2014), https://ssrn.com/abstract=2499658 ]

CSOs were concerned that not much movement had taken place and were awaiting the choice of the case study/example.[Note 152: Colm Burns and David McBurney, Northern Ireland Open Government Network, 11 August 2017.] They too pointed out that delivery may not fall within the OGP timeframe.[Note 153: Colm Burns and David McBurney, Northern Ireland Open Government Network, 11 August 2017.] CSOs thought that the experiments with policy could be conducted through a policy laboratory, perhaps similar to the UK government's policy lab where new ideas and approaches were tested and this is, indeed, what is now being done.[Note 154: Gov.uk, ‘Blog: Open Policy Blog', Policy Lab, https://openpolicy.blog.gov.uk/category/policy-lab/ ] They felt there was a sense that parts of the executive were not wholly open to ideas of experimenting and testing.

End of Term: Limited

The final update was not available at the time of writing. The commitment remains limited due to the lack of a central case study where, according to the government, the work was ongoing to secure agreement.[Note 155: Northern Ireland (2017), Narrative for inclusion in UK Open Government, National Action Plan Self-Assessment Report. NI, https://assets.publishing.service.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/669433/Northern_Ireland_Input_to_3rd_UK_Open_Gov_National_Action_Plan_-_Self_As..._-_Copy__2_.pdf ] According to the latest update of December 2017 ‘there has been some significant progress in most areas of the commitment' with the ‘NI Innovation Lab leading the way in developing and utilising innovative approaches and methodologies to address difficult issues and problems across the public sector'. The Lab has continued to work on a ‘number of difficult areas utilising a range of innovative tools and methodologies including service design and behavioural innovation'. It also published the results of studies and experiments on, for example, nutrition and promoting healthier eating in canteens.[Note 156: Ibid.;

Innovation Department of Finance (2018), ‘Innovation' Lab', https://www.finance-ni.gov.uk/topics/public-sector-reform-division/innovation-lab; and Department of Finance (2018), ‘Using behavioural Science to Encourage Healthier Eating', https://www.finance-ni.gov.uk/articles/using-behavioural-science-encourage-healthier-eating-health-and-social-care-canteens ]

In addition, it launched an ‘online consultation tool' that is ‘now in use across the NICS Departments and beyond'.[Note 157: Northern Ireland (2017), Narrative for inclusion in UK Open Government, National Action Plan Self-Assessment Report. NI, https://assets.publishing.service.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/669433/Northern_Ireland_Input_to_3rd_UK_Open_Gov_National_Action_Plan_-_Self_As..._-_Copy__2_.pdf

The new ‘citizen space' consultation tool, https://consultations.nidirect.gov.uk/ and https://consultations.nidirect.gov.uk/dfe/future-of-the-ni-ndrhi/ ] The December 2017 update detailed how there had been 300 users and more than 25,000 responses through the platform. Eight of the nine departments are using it, as well as numerous agencies and Non-departmental Public Bodies (NDPBs), including the Boundary Commission, Northern Ireland Office (NIO), and the Health and Social Care Network (HSCN).[Note 158: Northern Ireland (2017), Narrative for inclusion in UK Open Government, National Action Plan Self-Assessment Report. NI, https://assets.publishing.service.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/669433/Northern_Ireland_Input_to_3rd_UK_Open_Gov_National_Action_Plan_-_Self_As..._-_Copy__2_.pdf] There have also been a series of showcases at public events in 2017 as well as informal seminars.

Did It Open Government?

Access to Information: Marginal

Civic participation: Marginal

This commitment created a marginal change in government practice. The series of experiments and results from the NI Lab opened some new information on a number of areas through reports on important issues, such as healthy eating. The consultation tool led to greater public participation in significant numbers who would (presumably) not have responded in the same way if done on paper. It also represented a new way of communicating and involving the public, with innovation further boosted by the showcase examples.

Carried Forward?

This commitment was not carried forward. As the plan was not available at the time of writing, the midterm report recommended setting a date for the selection and completion of the case study choice and that there should be some way of keeping the policy within future action plans.


Commitments

Open Government Partnership