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United Kingdom

Open Policy Making (UK0092)

Overview

At-a-Glance

Action Plan: United Kingdom Action Plan 2019-2021

Action Plan Cycle: 2019

Status: Active

Institutions

Lead Institution: Cabinet Office

Support Institution(s): Other actors involved - government Policy Lab, Cabinet Office What works team, Cabinet Office GDS Other actors involved - CSOs, private sector, working groups, multilaterals, etc Children’s Rights Alliance for England, Sense about Science

Policy Areas

Public Participation, Regulatory Governance

IRM Review

IRM Report: United Kingdom Design Report 2019-2021

Starred: Pending IRM Review

Early Results: Pending IRM Review

Design i

Verifiable: Yes

Relevant to OGP Values: Civic Participation

Potential Impact:

Implementation i

Completion: Pending IRM Review

Description

Objective
To work with the UK government’s Policy Lab in continuing to develop
resources to support Open Policy Making (OPM) for more informed and better
designed policies with the human experience in mind.
Policy Lab will deliver at least four ‘demonstrator’ projects commissioned by
departments which put citizens at the centre of policymaking and reach groups
whose voices may otherwise not be heard. Learnings from the projects will be
shared through the OPM toolkit, blogs, and reflective sessions with Civil
Society groups.
Together, we will share ideas on integrating best practices into policymaking;
consider the processes governments go through to consult people on policy;
and codesign materials that are tailored to different types of open
policymaking engagements. Policy Lab will continue working with departments
to increase the transparency and accessibility of evidence and to make policy
resources publicly available. GOV.UK team will work with the Civil Society and
Policy Lab to improve using and sharing their data as openly as possible.

What is the public problem that the commitment will address?
Open Policy Making (OPM) is a way for the government to create and deliver
policy that meets the demands of a fast-paced and increasingly digital world. It
means that policy is more informed and better designed for both, the
government and the people who use, or are impacted by, services. Open
policymakers design around the human experience, enable co-design
supported by evidence, and test policies as they develop them.
A core element of OPM is ensuring that evidence is used in a transparent and
open manner. This enables policymakers to have a common understanding of
people’s needs; for Civil Society, it helps understand the evidence base that
has informed decision making. It also provides opportunity to see if there are
gaps in the knowledge base and where further research might be
commissioned.
However, understanding the OPM theory differs from delivering it in practice.
OPM is not fully embedded across the government yet, and we have not fully
realised its potential.
It is vital that Open Policy Making is not an ‘add on’ to policymakers day to day
work. It should be embedded across Government organisations - at all levels
and at all points in the policymaking process. Policymakers need to be
supported to develop, trial, and understand a range of different approaches.
Further, citizen and end-user engagement is a continuously developing field,
with different tools and techniques advancing on an ongoing basis. The
Government has great expertise to draw on. Meeting people’s needs has
always been at the heart of GOV.UK’s mission. HMG can learn a lot about
citizens’ needs and behaviours from their interactions with government online.
This can help us to be more responsive to people, develop better services, and
inform more effective policymaking.

How will the commitment contribute to solve the public problem?
Open policymaking is a means of civic participation. Citizen engagement, as
part of that process, is a continuously developing field, with new evidence of
benefits and limitations of different techniques in different settings emerging
on an ongoing basis. There is no single correct model that should be adopted in
any given scenario, but instead a range of possible approaches, the design of
which needs to be adapted to the specific context of implementation as well as
the user groups you are designing for.
It is, therefore, important that governments and civil society continue to
explore the efficacy of different approaches to inclusive citizen engagement in
different scenarios, but do so in an agile way that enables continued
development of approaches, and encourages the sharing of best practice
across both Whitehall and local government.

Lead implementing organisation
Cabinet Office

Timeline
March 2019 - Autumn 2021

OGP values
Civic participation, Access to information.

Other actors involved - government
Policy Lab, Cabinet Office What works team, Cabinet Office GDS
Other actors involved - CSOs, private sector, working groups, multilaterals, etc
Children’s Rights Alliance for England, Sense about Science

Verifiable and measurable milestones to fulfil the commitment

Update the Open Policy Making Toolkit in collaboration
with delivery partners and stakeholders

Deliver at least 4 Open Policy Making demonstrator
projects (share learnings from 2018/19 in April and May
of 2019/20, feeding into NAP governance)

Identify stakeholders and proactively engage to verify
and publish outcomes of Open Policy Making impacts

Convene stakeholders to co-create new, and update
existing, standards for Open Policy Making approaches
based on mutually agreed best practice

Showcase Open Policy Making approaches and projects
back to stakeholders through existing channels (blogs,
toolkit, in-person presentations etc)

IRM Midterm Status Summary

3. Open policy making

Main Objective

“To work with the UK government’s Policy Lab in continuing to develop resources to support Open Policy Making (OPM) for more informed and better designed policies with the human experience in mind.

Policy Lab will deliver at least four ‘demonstrator’ projects commissioned by departments which put citizens at the centre of policymaking and reach groups whose voices may otherwise not be heard. Learnings from the projects will be shared through the OPM toolkit, blogs, and reflective sessions with Civil Society groups.

Together, we will share ideas on integrating best practices into policymaking; consider the processes governments go through to consult people on policy; and codesign materials that are tailored to different types of open policymaking engagements. Policy Lab will continue working with departments to increase the transparency and accessibility of evidence and to make policy resources publicly available. GOV.UK team will work with the Civil Society and Policy Lab to improve using and sharing their data as openly as possible.”

Milestones

  1. Update the Open Policy Making Toolkit in collaboration with delivery partners and stakeholders.
  2. Deliver at least 4 Open Policy Making demonstrator projects (share learnings from 2018/19 in April and May of 2019/20, feeding into NAP governance).
  3. Identify stakeholders and proactively engage to verify and publish outcomes of Open Policy Making impacts.
  4. Convene stakeholders to co-create new, and update existing, standards for Open Policy Making approaches based on mutually agreed best practice.
  5. Showcase Open Policy Making approaches and projects back to stakeholders through existing channels (blogs, toolkit, in-person presentations etc).

Editorial Note: For the complete text of this commitment, please see the United Kingdom’s action plan at https://bit.ly/2YPqNoV.

IRM Design Report Assessment

Verifiable:

Yes

Relevant:

Civic Participation

Potential impact:

Minor

Commitment Analysis

This commitment seeks to broaden transparency and inclusivity of the policy-making processes, to ensure that policy is fit for purpose and appropriate for the target beneficiaries. The action plan does not identify a specific problem in the current method of policy making that would require a more robust, open approach. However, the government recognises that policy making could be conducted with the assistance of better guidelines for policy-making actors, and that involvement of stakeholders could be standardised. [8]

The proposed activities include updating the Open Policy Making Toolkit, involving more stakeholders in developing open policy-making practices, and popularising this process within government. The UK’s existing Open Policy Making Toolkit (initially published February 2016) builds on the work of the UK Policy Lab, a civil service team dedicated to improving policy making within central government. Updates to the toolkit are needed to bring it more in line with current participatory norms of including diverse stakeholders and voices of end-users of services. Policy Lab will deliver at least four ‘demonstrator’ projects and learnings from the projects will be shared through the Open Policy Making Toolkit, blogs and reflective sessions with civil society. This commitment is relevant to the OGP value of civic participation, as the toolkit seeks to make policy making more participatory and the updates will be carried out in collaboration with civil society. The planned activities are verifiable, but few specific outcomes are envisioned, and it is unclear whether these stakeholders are external to the government or currently excluded from the process.

The inclusion of this commitment in the action plan represents the first time that open policy making has been addressed by the UK government at the national level. The fact that open policy making was an ongoing programme within government demonstrates a commitment to the practice. If implemented fully, the updates to the Open Policy Making Toolkit could help standardise the policy-making process and draw into the process a wider range of stakeholders. In principle, providing updated guidance, toolkits and training/workshops, ensuring it is informed by its users and beneficiaries, and integrating a wider range of stakeholders, could improve open policy-making practices. However, it is not clear that the planned activities in this commitment represent a departure from, or significant additional investment in, open policy making, beyond what the government already had planned. Given the significant room for the interpretation of success, it is difficult to assess the potential impact as higher than minor.

The IRM recommends that the UK government implement a more formal and structured process, supported financially and executed within well-defined parameters. This process could help ensure that meaningful participation opportunities exist beyond relatively easy to access organisations and individuals. This is even more important in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic and developing online forms of participation to facilitate this could make the process more meaningful, and the outcomes of higher quality.

[8] Vasant Chari, Open Policy Lab/Cabinet Office (UK Government), interview 23 July 2020.

Commitments

Open Government Partnership