News 11th April 2018

Catching up with developing the UK’s 2018-20 Open Government Action Plan

by Andreas Pavlou

As a member of the international Open Government Partnership since 2011, the UK Government and civil society work together to develop and implement commitments as part of a 2-year national action plan.

This year, the UK is developing a new plan – our fourth one – which will be ready to launch in the summer!

What has been done so far?

For the first three months of this year the UK Open Government Civil Society Network (OGN) has travelled up and down the UK holding workshops to crowdsource ideas and proposals for reforms that the UK Government should commit to on transparency, citizen participation and accountability (the three themes that underpin open government). These workshops were designed to ensure the proposals generated for each thematic area are relevant, and as-representative-as-possible, of the ideas coming from the public and civil society groups.

The sister Networks in Northern Ireland, Wales and Scotland have also been engaging with their members and beyond to gather ideas and proposals for devolved commitments, in coordination with the UK-wide plan. (In Scotland they are also developing their own Open Government Partnership action plan that runs in parallel to the UK-wide plan.)

All of these ideas and proposals have been uploaded onto our online consultation platform, and we have also witnessed a flurry of new open government ideas and proposals being made there too.

Some of the ideas and proposals have included:

  •  Expanding the use of the 360Giving Standard to all central (and local) government departments;
  • Increasing transparency over assets frozen, seized or confiscated from grand corruption;
  • Introducing a standard template for local government budgets to facilitate transparency, clarity and comparability;
  • More comprehensive and detailed collection and publication of election candidates’ data;
  • Ensuring that more court data, including court documents and lists, are available to the public online.

So what’s next?

How will any of these ideas become part of the next UK Open Government National Action Plan?

Each time we have approached the process of developing the action plan slightly differently – building on what we learnt worked well before (and what didn’t), as well as adapting to the different contexts of the time, the outcomes of the action plan implementation and IRM reports.

This year has been particularly challenging – it’s the first plan that is post-Cameron and post-Brexit referendum, and it follows months without clear leadership on Open Government within government, after the January reshuffle and last week’s transfer of responsibility to DCMS from the Cabinet Office.

But those are not excuses – instead, they provide opportunities as well for new ways of doing things and for new open government champions to come through.

The things to look out for

(1) On 17th April, members of the OGN will gather to discuss the various ideas and thematic areas raised in the crowdsourcing phase.

This meeting will then decide which overarching themes are taken forward and developed into commitments by meetings between government and civil society leads. Commitments will be filtered according to the likelihood and level of impact they are deemed to have.

(2) From this meeting, the OGN will produce its manifesto of key themes and potential commitments for the action plan.

(3) Then, a series of ‘brown bag’’ meetings – themed discussions over lunch – will take place every week through the rest of April and May, wherein ‘relevant’ government and civil society organisations will discuss in depth the topics and commitment ideas, (hopefully) developing them into realistic commitments.

By the end of May, assuming all has gone to plan, the text of the draft Action Plan will be brought together, ready to go through a phase of government and civil society ‘sign off’.

(4) When a text has been agreed then the final National Action Plan will be ready for launch at the OGP Global Summit in Georgia in July 2018.

Better get our skates on … we’ve got a lot to do!