Meeting notes 12th December 2017

Scotland Open Government Network Meeting Notes, 8 November 2017

by Paul Bradley

The November meeting of Scotland’s Open Government Network – focusing on OGP Action Plan progress and network next steps – took place on Wednesday 8th November. The meeting provided an opportunity to directly interact with the Open Government Partnership’s Independent Reporting Mechanism and to shape next steps in the development of Scotland’s Open Government Network. The meeting was held at Hayweight House in Edinburgh.

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Refresh of OGP in Scotland and civil society network by Ruchir Shah

Reporting Process

Overview of the OGP Independent Reporting Mechanism and what to expect, by Andy McDevitt

Deep dive into Scotland’s Open Government Action Plan

Discussion with Andy McDevitt, the independent evaluator assigned by OGP to assess Scotland’s Action Plan, to review progress with the delivery of Scotland’s current Open Government Action Plan. The main topics which the IRM researcher wanted to discuss were: monitoring implementation of the action plan, status of completion of the action plan, early results of the action plan.

Comments from participants 

Group 1 (Paul)

Engagement on the action plan

  • How new are the commitments?
  • Impact of OGP on these commitments- what is the added value?
  • Who is doing the “engaging”?
  • OGP programme would benefit from clearer communication and more regular feedback from government on implementation of commitments
  • Challenge of developing commitments which are both specific and at the same time ambitious
  • Broader dialogue on the next action plan is needed with more actors

Feedback on commitments

  • Commitment 2: lack of clarity
  • Commitment 3: A “woolly” commitment – How has engagement happened? There has been poor communication around this commitment
  • Commitment 4: This commitment was happening anyway so it is difficult to tell what the impact of OGP has been

Group 2 (Ruchir)

Engagement on the action plan

  • Need to engage with others by linking up with existing networks
  • Action Plan and OGP movement need a stronger narrative
  • Talk about civil society, but what is “civil society”? Who are “we”? Need a clearer understanding of who we are trying to engage
  • How to involve a wider group of people – need a better framework to understand the impact of OGP. Could the SDGs be that framework for the next plan?
  • To build a movement need to involve charismatic individuals
  • Some decisions have not been made openly

Feedback on commitments

  • Commitment 1: Represents a new way of working but difficult to implement. Need to build capacity with government but also within communities to scrutinise financial information
  • Commitment 5: This commitment is undersold – potentially transformative, e.g. the work on BSL and Social security.

Group 3 (Andy)

Engagement on the action plan

  • Last OGN meeting framed as “resetting the partnership between government and civil society” – a sense that this may have reinforced perceptions of divisions
  • OGN: Website is not conducive to critical debates. Discussions are led by a few individuals. A sense that it is more about “informing” than “collaborating”

Feedback on commitments

  • The commitments are pitched at different levels (1, 4 and 5 as the means – 2 and 3 as the ultimate outcomes). New commitments should be pitched at the same level
  • Commitment 1: Not enough clarity about how more financial information can be used, who it is for. Financial transparency around Non-public bodies is an important next step.
  • Early results: A sense that government doors are more open and civil society is being invited into conversations earlier in processes. Directors are more “enlightened”. In some cases, it is a case of “pushing an open door” with regards to inputting into government proposals (e.g. housing, third sector). Culture change has to happen in civil society too, and need to break down silos.
  • Commitment 4: Lots more information is available but a question about how useful it is
  • Commitment 5: this is a critical commitment – the basis for everything else. Who is responsible and accountable for delivery? Standard guidelines for participation would be a good contribution. But also need to address the barriers to participation

The future of the OGN

Participants were asked to feedback their views on how Scotland’s Open Government Network could be developed as part of final scoping to find out what members would like to see in 2018.

  • Need for a more engaging narrative: Stronger messaging is essential, including for different sectors/audiences. Stronger messaging on how OGP links to policy landscape also needed. Many narratives, not just one.
  • Looking at creating an open steering space but people need to know what the expectations are or they wont step up
  • Suggestion to create “commitment interest groups” or small “working groups” on commitments under the umbrella network. Having CSO leads for different actions
  • But need to see this as a “movement”, should be open to everyone. Needs more stepping up from others in the network
  • More investment needed in the management of the network
  • Essential to engage with other movements and networks (not operating in isolation) – finding the points of synergy with other networks. What are others doing that OGP can advance (land, housing etc)

Next action plan

A summary of next steps in relation to a future open government action plan was provided:

  • Discussion ongoing with DemSoc on how to co-create the next plan underway
  • Jan-Aug 2018 to prepare for the next plan. Implementation from Sept onwards
  • OGP would like to expand beyond 15 pioneers but no resources at the moment. Possibility of another cohort of 15 through a mentoring process.