News 4th April 2019

How to make Feminist Open Government tangible – civil society reflections from the UK’s first FOGO workshop

by Guest

In 2019, the Open Government Partnership (OGP) is focusing on gender and inclusion as key priorities. During Open Government Week, DCMS and Open Heroines gathered a group of civil society members, government officials, and private sector representatives to share ideas and discuss how to make the Feminist Open Government Initiative (FOGO) more specific and tangible.

This article was written by Mor Rubenstein of 360Giving / Open Heroines and Natalia Domagala of DCMS / Open Heroines.

What is Feminist Open Government? Many people struggle with the term “open government”. Add the term “feminist” to it and you got a even a bigger challenge! According to the Open Government Partnership who coined the term, FOGO aims to bring research and action to encourage governments and civil society to champion initiatives leading to gender advancements in open government. Another key element of the FOGO approach is establishing an international coalition of partners to drive and maintain this focus on gender and inclusion.

The overarching goal of FOGO by the end of 2019 is for at least 30% of OGP countries and civil society partners to take concrete gender actions, such as more ambitious gender commitments in their national action plans or more inclusive co-creation processes. This could be achieved through deepening evidence around a gender-centric approach to open government and its impact on public service delivery, addressing corruption, and opening up civic space. Simultaneously, governments should be encouraged to design and implement gender-aware OGP commitments by developing model commitments, collecting best practices, and offering direct technical support.

However, this broad definition makes it challenging to conceptualise what FOGO really is. Where and how can governments commit to doing more to advance women? How can we create those commitments using open government and national action plans as levers? It’s easy to use data as one of the main action points for FOGO, since gender data is lacking everywhere. While gender data is needed in the UK to support gender policies, we wanted to think beyond data collection and publication. This is why for Open Government Week 2019 we designed a workshop aiming to unpack what FOGO means on the ground in the UK and translate this agenda into a set of practical actions.

First, we asked the participants what FOGO means to them. We got ideas such as:

  • The intersection of open government and gender issues;
  • Adding feminist lens on anything, e.g. open contracting;
  • Creating spaces for women in the community and women who work in the organisations;
  • (Tackling) Societal inequalities stemming from centuries of gender pay gap, e.g. pension, property
  • Ensuring a feminist voice and perspective is present in discussions and research about seemingly unrelated topics, e.g. corruption, healthcare
  • Ensuring that feminist data and conversation is integrated into how we build our governments and their policies and services
  • Getting people into the open government space

We then moved to brainstorm on the actions that we could take in order to introduce the FOGO approach in our everyday working lives. The first set of actions could be implemented by governments and employers from other sectors; the second set of actions looks at the policymaking sphere specifically.

In governments/workplaces:

  • Including women’s groups to make governments dynamic more equal
  • Ensuring more equal representation in parliament and government
  • When recruiting, having a framework for roles that exemplify what ‘good’ looks like in a gender-neutral manner
  • Encouraging political participation at all levels
  • Creating skills pathways for female leadership
  • Providing equal-duration paternity leave paid by the state
  • Offering flexible, part-time work schedules
  • Providing access to legal aid provision for discrimination cases

In the policymaking sphere FOGO could be advanced by the following actions:

  • Having a legal obligation for new policies to:
    1) Be evidence-based;
    2) Have a review protocol;
    3) Have an impact assessment with the emphasis on gender/intersectional analysis on all policies
  • Adding gender lens to all OGP commitments
  • Being transparent about who participates in policy consultation
  • Encouraging participation in local governance processes when developing policy
  • Creating policies that protect the idea of FOGO and people in this space
  • Stressing the importance of policy around gender across all sectors and parties
  • Creating legislation against unfair employment practices for all genders and ensuring that flexible hours and paternity leave are available for men as well
  • Design policies with gender thinking in mind.

Overall, for FOGO to be successful we need to:

  • Address all social and workplace-based aspects of gender-based discrimination
  • Have a system of values coupled to the FOGO movement and exemplify the benefits of the movement
  • Thinking of how to make FOGO commitments sustainable beyond the hype or peak work.
  • Identify skills and experience gaps so we can mitigate them
  • Capabilities and avoiding gender washing as a key challenge on a conceptual level.
  • Avoid “Gender washing” – Saying that there is a commitment about gender when it is actually not useful for dealing with real gender issues.

With FOGO deriving from the open government movement that is based on open data, it is instrumental to ask what kind of data do we need to support FOGO?

The proposed datasets are as follows:

Some of this data, due to its sensitivity, can not be open, yet it is important and sensitive data collection which we need to do in order to create better policies.

All of this is just the beginning. What became clear during the workshop is that we still have a lot to do. Nevertheless, this brainstorming session has provided us with a set of actionable points that we could now start to lobby for. We will continue to feed into this research with a perspective of building a FOGO roadmap that could be implemented by other governments to fully utilise open government as a tool for enhancing gender equality. If you know any women’s groups or gender activists who would be interested in this work, forward this blog to them! We need to open our door to different groups to make FOGO in the UK a real success!