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Co-Creation in the UK

Cocreación en el Reino Unido

Ben Worthy|

The UK made a big effort to be as open and co-operative as possible in its second and third National Action Plan (NAP) process and, based on what I saw and heard, both government and civil society worked hard to create a process that came quite close to OGP’s new standards.

What did this mean in practical terms? For the government, this involved promoting the OGP values, publicising them through speeches and messages, and ensuring regular meetings and a transparent approach, with minutes and agendas regularly published (see this meeting and write up here).

From the viewpoint of UK civil society organizations, led by Involve, making co-creation work also meant reaching out beyond the normal range of groups. For NAP 3, this led to crowd-sourcing of possible ideas, which generated 79 suggestions that were then whittled down to 28. Involve also arranged a series of public meetings up and down the country, as well as pushing for greater involvement of local government and the four nations of the UK. It also helped, as a useful by-product, to create an online tool for reviewing NAP progress. In terms of process itself, governments and CSOs working together took different forms. Both sides took turns chairing meetings and held them in different locations.

There are, however, limits to how this can work. In the second NAP, some felt that government attention waned once ideas were generated, and some departments were more open than others. This was in part because there is a natural ‘attention cycle’ to any issue, but a trickier problem was that staff being moved around government cut off relationship-building that can be integral to co-creation work. All CSOs, looking from the other side, also face the restrictions of limited time and resources.

Perhaps one of the most uncontrollable factors was that the OGP process in the UK from 2011-2016 had political will behind it from on high, with Prime Minister David Cameron enthusiastic about openness and also about OGP. The process was given lots of publicity, energy and resources. The great unknown for the future is how Brexit and a new leader may influence what happens. It is likely that time, energy, and interest may be in much shorter supply over the coming months and years, and this could have a large impact on how co-creation works.

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