Meeting notes 14th June 2012

Visions for a UK OGP Forum

by TimDavies

As part of the OGP process, countries have to consult on their national action plans, and to “identify  a forum to enable regular multi-stakeholder consultation on OGP implementation—this can be an existing entity or a new one”. 

The UK has not yet identified or established such a forum, but will need to do so over the coming months. At the last gathering of the UK Civil Society Organisations OGP network (details of meetings and minutes on the mailing list) we started the discussion about different ways a forum could work. A few members have sent in their thoughts on a forum, summarised below, and I would encourage other network members (or any interested parties) to share any ideas, templates or thoughts on a forum either by e-mail around the mailing list, in a blog post, or in a comment below.

(These inputs are shared by contributors as part of a exploration of ideas, and do not necessarily represent organisational policies, or the position of the UK CSOs OGP network).

Dinesh Venkateswaran of Techsoup Global sets out a model that envisions the forum as a National Steering Committee, drawing on the template of the international OGP Steering Committee, and directly involved in setting priorities for the National Action Plan.

A forum should work with the 6 levers of change identified in the National Action Plan (right to data, standards, responsibility, publishing, maximising opening up and stimulating markets), but should develop a deeper ‘theory of change’ for open government, articulating desired outcomes, how change can happen, and what can be achieved through existing initiatives. 

A forum should be based on a repeatable, scaleable model of partnership. It should look to have an overarching governance mechanism at the national level, mirroring the OGP Steering Committee (call it the National Steering Committee for ease), with representation of both government and civil society leaders. 

The forum should be involved in prioritising commitments and setting milestones and metrics. There should be clear operating models and processes for consultation, and ‘branch off’ points for new initiatives that get spawned by the initiative. 

Since Corporate Accountability is an integral part of the asks in the Civil Society perspectives document, the National OGP Steering Committee could have representation from corporates or organisations that represent British business. 

Civil society leaders could play an effective role in discharging UK’s responsibilities as co-chair of the OGP, as recognised in the Civil Society perspectives document. We could create mechanisms for International NGOs in the UK with presence in other OGP partner countries to take the lead in engaging with their local ‘national action plans’ learning from our experience.

Alex Stobart outlines the importance of considering devolved administrations in any UK OGP forum.
A CSO forum should be representative of all the UK, including the devolved administrations.

It should be an independent, member-led organisation with effective governance and clear outcomes.

It should be recognised by other parties e.g. Governments, Business Sector as having parity, and equal voting powers in decision makingDecisions reached by the forum will need to be translated into action, policy or outcomes otherwise it will quickly lose credibility

The different UK Governments will need to be aware that different administrations within the UK may move their individual Open Government agenda at different speeds

The whole-of-UK for reserved matters Open Government agenda will have to interact with the devolved administrations.

Tim Davies of Practical Participation has blogged the case for using open space principles to run the forum through participative, open access events across the UK.

At the heart of the UK OGP forum should be a series of regular open space events, taking place across the UK, with a focus on getting out of London. Events should be open to anyone to take part – from active citizens and community groups, to social entrepreneurs, private sector firms, national and local government representatives and  local and international CSOs.

Simple principles of inclusion should  be established to ensure the events provide a welcoming environment for all, including for children and young people, and older people .

Read more on Tim’s blog.

Inspiration from elsewhere
The OGP process is about international learning too, so members of the network have been reaching out to international partners to find out how other national forums are developing. Here’s a few bits I’ve tracked down so far:
  • Israel’s National Action Plan includes a commitment to establish a forum involving “senior representatives of the Government, the academic world and third sector organizations” that will hold at least four yearly meetings on open government topics, that will review the Action Plan, and will initiate a national seminar on open government.
  • Brazil’s OGP website profile explains the re-use of an existing forum: “Development of the Action Plan was based on consultations held with multiple public agencies of the Brazilian Federal Executive Branch as well as the Public Transparency and Anticorruption Council, an advisory committee within the Office of the Comptroller General of Brazil. An Inter-Ministerial Committee on Open Government (CIGA) has just been established by President Dilma Rousseff1. The Committee will serve as the forum for discussions on the implementation and update of Brazil’s Action Plans within the Open Government Partnership.”  
Where are the other forum examples from across the OGP community we should be looking at?
What’s your vision
The ideas above set out just some of the possibilities. Share your visions for a UK OGP forum below…