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Toolkit to Open Government shines a light on how government works

Nuala Haughey|

Open government is often referred to as a two way street, providing citizens access to a flow of government information, as well as a voice in decisions that affect them.

But even those people who want to be part of a drive for more open and accountable government are often unsure about where to start and how they can contribute.

They may lack sufficient knowledge of how ‘the system’ of government and public administration works. Or they may not be fully aware of the opportunities that already exist for them get involved in our democratic decision-making processes.

With this in mind, we at the Irish think tank TASC have produced a new Toolkit to Open Government, a set of practical plain English guides that shine a light on how government works.

The idea of these online resources is to encourage groups and individual citizens alike to more effectively use open government tools to seek information, ask questions, query public policy decisions and promote alternatives.

For this reason, the ten guides are clustered around three core key themes that resonate with the principles of the Open Government Partnership itself.

The themes of the Toolkit guides are:

  • Public Decision-Making AZ – setting out how policies and laws are shaped at national and European level; how public spending priorities are determined, and how individuals and organisations can play their part.
  • Putting Knowledge to Work – showing how we can use our ‘right to know’ to seek official information and public sector data and to understand, analyse and challenge public decisions and policies.
  • Engaging as Citizens – highlighting opportunities for citizens to engage with local government, understand how key watchdog agencies work, get involved in environmental decision-making and monitor standards in public life and services.

The guides include explanatory graphics, hints and tips, a range of ‘do it yourself’ activities, and inspiring stories from others who have used open government tools to drive positive change.

While naturally the guides focus on Irish institutions, structures and systems, much of the information and guidance about government processes could equally apply in many different countries.

The guides were produced with input from a range of experts, and the idea is that they will be ‘ever-green’ resources that we can keep refreshed and updated, with plans to add video clips in due course.

The structure of the Toolkit means we can also add further guides to the Toolkit in the future, based on feedback from users.  TASC is also delivering training sessions on some of the Toolkit themes to citizens groups and civil society members.

Ultimately, we hope the Toolkit will encourage and inspire more people to engage in a realistic and informed way with the institutions and people who take decisions that affect us. 

TASC’s Toolkit to Open Government

All feedback welcome to nhaughey@tasc.ie

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