Change at the Council: Independent Review of Governance for the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea

Today, The Democratic Society (Demsoc) and the Centre for Public Scrutiny (CfPS) published a report titled Change at the Council: Independent Review of Governance for the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea. Funded by the Local Government Association (LGA), this report is the result of months of research conducted by talking to residents, councillors, council officers and partners about the good and bad aspects of the current system, and how it can be improved. We have looked at the way that the Council makes decisions and who is involved in making those decisions.…Read more

Empowering the Citizens’ Health Assembly

The starting conditions for a Citizens’ Health Assembly will largely decide how it develops. Get these right and the Assembly could make a constructive contribution. Get them wrong and it could be irrelevant or even damaging. This article suggests three starting conditions which could make it develop effectively, through a direct relationship with Parliament; by giving it a specific task such as the NHS Mandate and Call to Action; and by starting with local and regional forums. To test these or any other options it is worth running simulations and pilots to test…Read more

BIS Digital Engagement Case Study Series: Updating and simplifying consumer rights | digital@BIS

A great write-up of an interesting open policymaking collaboration between teams at the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills, opening up a policy consultation about consumer rights to a wider audience through clear language, active outreach and straightforward methods to respond: We knew that the core stakeholders – those with a specific interest such as consumer rights groups and large retailers – would respond to the consultation, but we wanted to go wider. What about individual consumers? What about small retail businesses?Read more

Here today, gone tomorrow?

Regular readers of this blog probably need little convincing about the importance of open policymaking and better consultation. This blog is itself a great example of learning-by-doing. And the resources being developed – in particular the frameworks for ideal policy team behaviours and the fledgling matrix should provide a practical toolkit for teams wanting to do open policymaking well. This post is a reflection on one of the big challenges that strikes me when I think about how open policymaking works in practice. It's one that I have experienced first-hand, both as someone…Read more

Whatever happened to open government and open policy? A scorecard

After being elected Prime Minister in 2010 David Cameron committed the UK to having “the most open and transparent government in the world.” Alongside this, the Government’s civil service reform plan published last year promised to “make open policymaking the default”, recognising that Whitehall itself does not have a monopoly on expertise. Here’s a brief – inevitably partial and contestable – ‘scorecard’ on the Government’s progress on open government and open policy. A couple of weeks ago we discussed some of the main initiatives under open policy. This week, we put forward a simple scorecard to measure the…Read more

Will the Government rethink its approach to consultation?

This project led by the Democratic Society on open policy making has been focusing on how to improve the mechanisms we use for consultation. While it might not have made (m)any headlines, a recent House of Lords report strongly challenged the Government's new guidance on consultations and has confirmed the concerns of many organisations which have been following these developments closely. Consultation might not be sexy at the best of times, and has certainly been much maligned, but this debate matters for a (hopefully) functioning democracy. On 1oth January 2013 the House of Lords Secondary Legislation Scrutiny Committee issued a report which…Read more

The Doctor is Out

This post originally appeared on Emma's personal blog. I have been following this discussion with interest. Probably because I have worked in policy (in the voluntary sector for 15 years) and I am not put off by the title. Could ‘real’ people be interested in the blog posts? I am not sure they would be. Unless we involve ‘real people’ however, we are going to be a bunch of policy and democracy geeks navel gazing (albeit in an interesting manner). What does Open Policy mean to me? It means getting citizens involved in shaping…Read more

Through Users’ Eyes

Last week GDS met with colleagues from Department for Transport (DfT) and two of its agencies to talk about their - and their users’ - needs of a consultation platform. As we often get requests from departments for advice on picking user platforms or running engagement exercises, we thought it’d be useful to share with you the process we went through in order to determine these needs of a consultation platform or tool. Actually, we use this process on our other projects too. Bit of background DfT and its agencies (such as VOSA…Read more

Plain speaking

This project led by the Democratic Society has been focusing on how to improve the mechanisms we use for consultation. But if we are going to involve and engage more people, we also need to change the words we use to talk about policy. Plain English is mandatory on the new GOV.UK website. The Government Digital Service has created a useful list of 'words to avoid' as part of its Content principles. These include: agenda collaborate deliver dialogue empower facilitate focusing key transforming utilise. I've regularly used all of these words in my own work as a (sort-of) policy wonk, and…Read more

Throwing off the cloak of anonymity

It's a rainy Friday evening and I'm waiting for a train. I absent-mindedly take out my phone to check Twitter. My heart stops. I'm reading about myself. A blog has been published that talks about me, hints at a conspiracy and suggests I'm behaving pretty poorly. What followed was unpleasant, with tweets and blog comments fuelling speculation,  coupled with my growing anger and a feeling of powerlessness.  I wasn't prepared for this. I had set out to run a public consultation that was truly open. I'd put in place an online platform for…Read more