Getting started with Open Policy Making

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The Civil Service Reform White Paper published the other week contained a commitment to Open Policy Making. It said:

Open policy making will become the default. Whitehall does not have a monopoly on policy making expertise. We will establish a clear model of open policy making.

As those with any experience of open government know, there are different degrees and definitions of “open”. However, it’s certainly welcome that the Government is putting openness as the default position in its policy making, and it’s a high standard for it to meet.

The open way of working creates great opportunities for increasing public discussion of and contribution to policy making, some of which I wrote about in a post on consultation a couple of months ago. We’ve since had new Government principles of consultation – more on those in a future blog post – and a report from the Institute for Government which looked at the National Planning Policy Framework as a particular Open Policy Making example.

Despite the formal announcement, there’s still a lot of detail to be filled in on what Open Policy Making will really mean, and so we’re delighted to be kicking off a new six-month project on how public involvement and new forms of consultation might work in an Open Policy future.

We want to answer three basic questions:

  • what does the best consultation and open policy making look like today, and what tools are available that government can use to meet its goals?
  • what will the best consultation and open policy making look like in five years’ time?
  • what does government need to do today, in terms of technology or organisational change, to make that five-year vision happen?

Over the next few months, we will be working to:

  • Identify a range of ways of engaging and making policy openly and examine the benefits and disadvantages of different approaches.
  • Talk to policy makers and many others, about the principles of open policy making and what is needed to develop the approach.
  • Develop a vision for where open policy making could be in five years.
  • Bring in experts from the technology sector to support the vision and develop the digital context for consultation.

This is a big area of work, and we will be working alongside other partners. We have had support for our thinking from within Whitehall, particularly within the Government Digital Service, who have given us insights into their thinking, and encouraged us to consider the technological as well as political requirements for next-generation public involvement.

We have already started working with Guerilla Policy (who have a great blog), and we’ll be bringing in a range of other people and organisations, both as project partners and discussion participants. We aim to run the discussion largely online, with a workshop in the late Autumn to consider a vision for the five-year future.

We will also be involving a range of Whitehall and local government officials to get the view from inside, and we’re grateful for support that we have already been offered on logistics.

We’ll be opening up the conversation online in September, but in the mean time, keep an eye on the blog for updates, or get in touch if you’d like to help out

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Published by Anthony Zacharzewski

Anthony Zacharzewski was one of the founders of Demsoc in 2006. Before starting work for Demsoc in 2010, he was a Whitehall civil servant and a local government officer.

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