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Wales Open Government Action Plan
Share your ideas for Open Government in Wales
0 days left (ends 23 Jul)
Open Government makes government work better for people through three key themes; Accountability, Transparency and Participation. An important element of the Open Government agenda is that civil society and government work together to create a plan that works for each nation.
We want to hear your suggestions for the next Wales Open Government Action Plan 2018-2020 and your ideas for how government in Wales can be more accountable and transparent and work more effectively with people across the country.
Welsh Government is currently developing its fourth Action Plan as other countries around the UK do the same. Submit your idea to have it considered as part of the Action Plan process.
MOST DISCUSSED PARAGRAPHS
WWF Cymru and Welsh Government held 3 workshops in Jan / Feb 2018 to explore effective implementation of the Wellbeing of Future Generations Act. These workshops produced a number of areas for effective implementation of the Act including a) mechanism of government (i.e impact assessment; procurement) b) sustainable development principle in practice c) policy making. A key theme through these areas was the importance of involvement of third sector and civil society and transparency and accountability of the process and the outcomes. A number of challenges to current good practice where identified with suggestions of how to address these. A report on these workshops detailing the discussions and issues will be published by WG in Autumn. There are a number of specific recommendations within this report that could be used within the Open Government Action Plan.
*ideas submitted on behalf of Victoria Ford*
Communication and engagement
Government should develop an overarching communication strategy that increases awareness, engages society and builds open channels for engagement, particularly thinking around these areas:
Audience analysis and channel choice - need to focus on why and how citizens do or don’t engage with public bodies. Government needs to understand the best channel to engage and not simply rely on traditional methods of communication. Preferences are changing - young people, for example, will use Snapchat and Instagram over email or Facebook. Traditional communication channels are unlikely to reach all target audiences.
Open, transparent, two-way communication - to improve understanding of government and policy development. For example through blogging policy development and providing regular feedback on input provided through consultations, face to face engagement sessions or formal written feedback. Need to demonstrate that the citizen voice is being heard and acted on. Consider use of policy lab type approaches (e.g. https://info.vtaiwan.tw/) to encourage engagement in policy development plus products / platforms such as https://www.delib.net/ /https://www.citizenspace.com/info that can support digital consultation, test ideas and gather insight needed to help develop and implement policy whilst encouraging wider engagement.
Build on the live streaming that already takes place in some public body decision making and accountability forums and look at the use of webinar technology to open up real time questions and scrutiny.
Easily accessible information - in line with the work already ongoing with gov.wales. Simplify language and design, reduce jargon, wider use of infographics and video. Citizen facing channels should be easy to navigate, understand and engage with. How can this extend to local government, health boards and housing for example and also help demonstrate collaboration in the provision of services?
Engaging leaders and assembly members - explore opportunities for assembly members and public sector leaders to use digital channels and technology to create a more open culture and open up ‘politics’ and the workings of government to those not usually given the opportunity or access with a view to creating a base of engagement that better represents the Welsh demographic.
Leadership and accountability
Clear leadership of digital transformation across the Welsh public sector.- holding civil servants and public sector leaders to account for progress and delivery of better, transparent services that meet user needs, building trust in government and the wider public sector through open challenge and transparent reporting. Leaders have to push at the traditional organisation and culture of government, create a culture of openness and transparency that actively encourages citizen participation in a way that’s convenient for citizens and not for those behind the often perceived curtain of government.
A key challenge is understanding what citizens value and how citizens view public services initially, rather than how they should consume them, which comes later. By demonstrating an understanding that people are driven by outcomes rather than transactions, government can start to demonstrate that it understand the needs of its user base and really drive participation and engagement.
Introduce service design
Getting government working better for all means a rethink on the way in which government organises itself. Government needs to understand how it’s citizens would like to engage and more importantly demonstrate that it understands and is able to cater for these needs. This goes beyond the pure transactional services of government and there’s a real need to demonstrate a service rather than transactional approach to transformation.
User centric design - a user centric approach to design, grounded in principles, such as the Government Design Principles can help to make government more accessible. Through taking a user centric approach, driven by data, government can make it’s channels and services more accessible and transparent.
User journeys - understanding the touchpoints that citizens have with government, mapping these and developing the tools and infrastructure to increase interactions can help focus resource on opportunities for citizens to interact more seamlessly with public services. This can make government decision making and wider public services easier to navigate and easier to understand.
Improve access to data through the provision of services such as https://statswales.gov.wales/Catalogue. Publishing data in open formats at high frequency and quality will encourage wider public analysis. Adopting the principles of Government as a Platform as defined by Tim O’Reilly Service such as Democracy Club (https://democracyclub.org.uk/) can help with the creation of common citizen facing platforms that make it easy for people to find the information they’re looking for.
*ideas posted on behalf of FTWW*
Who we are: Fair Treatment for the Women of Wales (FTWW) is a patient-led voluntary organisation for women’s health and equality across Wales. We provide elements of ‘social prescribing’ in that we offer support, information, and advocacy to women affected by chronic illness in the region. We also enable their participation in the development of clinical and social policy, and lobby both nationally and locally for improved healthcare services.
Our thoughts: Participation is absolutely at the core of the principles of co-production, a concept embedded in Welsh legislation and one which is vital to ensuring policy / services are effective. However, given the number of meetings FTWW has attended, we’re not sure Gov’t – and other public bodies – fully appreciate how co-production works. It isn’t, or shouldn’t be, tokenistic and it isn’t just ‘consultation’.
Regional Partnership Boards, for example, those strategic boards responsible for overseeing the delivery and funding of integrated health and social care services, are unequal in their very design. There is only a requirement to have one service-user representative and one carer representative, seated at a table which is overwhelmingly weighted in favour of statutory services. Not only that, given that decisions have often already been made by other subsidiary Boards (where there is no obligation to have citizen representation) the question remains as to how far the public is not just involved but co-producing those services which are put in place for them.
Similarly embedded in Welsh legislation is the ability for citizens to have voice and control, and for both them and user-led groups to be able to lead the way on the development, delivery, and evaluation of policy and services. We therefore need to be able to approach Gov’t and statutory agencies with these ideas in the first instance. This is where transparency comes in.
First and foremost, citizens need to be recognised as the innovators they can be. Service users are the ones on the ground, seeing how things work – or don’t work – and they often are the ones to come up with the best solutions. Yet, so often, we don’t know where to go to make those ideas a reality. For the vast majority of the general population, statutory agencies appear impenetrable, with layers and layers of un-navigable bureaucracy.
One possible solution to this would be for ALL public bodies – government itself, health boards, councils etc, to have on the first page of their website, or on their notice-boards, a really easy-to-follow and widely accessible map of the organisation. This map should comprise a flow chart which makes clear the various roles within the organisation, what those roles do / entail / their responsibilities, in clear, comprehensible, jargon-free language, and has each person’s CONTACT details. This is how we ensure accountability.
Public-facing organisational mapping enables citizens to readily approach the right person more or less straight away, and it gives the citizen the capacity to have a name within the organisation to hold to account. After all, if things get passed from person to person, department to department, it is all too easy for organisations to ‘lose’ things, to avoid taking responsibility for jobs not done, ideas not followed-up, and for the citizen to have no recourse. Instead, recipients of ideas should have an obligation to respond and explore the ideas being presented to them with the person / group who submitted them – and the public should know, and see, this happening.
This requires a huge culture-shift. Currently, despite legislation, it seems that the feeling within public bodies is largely that they’re the decision-makers, the leaders, and that the go-to stance should be one of ‘fending off’ citizen-led concepts, or simply paying them lip-service. This needs to change.
For a start, public bodies need to stop being so risk-averse. They need to be prepared to embrace ideas brought to them by service-users, they need to look to offer funding to user-led groups to help facilitate innovation, they need to recognise that the BEST, most effective solutions to problems are those which have been co-created by those who are living with them!
The process of working together, sharing decision-making, on each individual project or policy needs to be overtly demonstrated to the public at large. Every step needs to be fully visible, described, publicised, and open so that more people can see it happening, get involved, have their voices heard at every stage. The more we see co-production REALLY happening, the more likely it is that increasing numbers of citizens will want to play a part in making society ‘work better’.
Procurement process should be more transparent to the public and organisations that offer social value for Wales. Current procurement processes may be shaped by commercial interest that do not offer social value. Welsh Government should be required to demonstrate publically how contracts meet these criteria. This could be achieved by demonstrating in a public forum how the weighting of a tender reflects social value. The public and social value organisations should have a clear role in reviewing tenders to ensure fairness, transparency and social value for Wales.
We need to change the job description of elected assembly members and local councillors (and their own perception of their job) from one of "elected to decide everything on our behalf" to one of "elected to manage the system on our behalf" An integral part of the latter job is arranging for effective public participation in the decision-making process.
The Welsh Government is due to publish comparative data on their website that will allow tenants of housing associations in Wales to compare the performance of their landlord with others operating in their area. This is a positive step, which will increase transparency within the sector, making social landlords and the Welsh Government more accountable to social housing tenants. Similar information is already available on the website of the Scottish housing regulator and has proven very effective in improving tenant and resident engagement and participation. Unlike the Scottish model, however, data on the performance of local authority landlords will not be published in Wales. This means that thousands of social housing tenants who live in local authority housing will not have the same ability to hold their landlord to account as those who are tenants of housing association.
Not only would do we wish to see consistency between social housing tenures but, as noted by Jess Blair in point 8 below, we think there is scope to improve the accessibility of information that is published on the Welsh Government’s website. Not only is there scope to explore different visual and audio formats, but, we think more could be done to promote information when it becomes available online to ensure that as wide a range of people as possible have an opportunity to engage with the Welsh Government and with other public bodies.
In order to avoid the variants of euthanasia that we've seen at a hospital in England and previously with a GP in Manchester, which went on for years, undetected. It would be better to release data on trends in complaints about, and deaths in, all health institutions as citizens would be able to spot issues that a currently ineffective, and otherwise costly oversight system, doesn't. If benchmarked against other hospitals, GP practices etc, the conditions and procedures involved, any outliers would become very clear and it is hoped, prompt earlier interventions.
Making information on the Welsh Government website more accessible should be a key priority. While there are already good examples, for example some of the consultations that have been produced for young people, on the whole more visual and audio information should be produced alongside clear language explaining information in the simplest of terms.
Injustices occur when local authorities refuse to investigate allegations of wrong doing, for example planning abuses, because the law does not explicitly require them to do so. (See e.g. https://westwalesnewsreview.wordpress.com/2018/02/07/regulations-flouted-you-think-planning-authorities-must-act-wrong/). Victims can suffer considerably as a result. The law should change to require local authorities to act on evidence of wrong-doing which has been suplied to them.
Commercial confidentiality rules applied to competitive tendering should be removed when public money is being spent. The present rules mean that it is impossible for the public to scrutinise the effectiveness of spending decisions made on behalf of the public.
Ensure that when the words consultation are thrown around that is what is meant and that the decisions are not already made before the consultation period begins making it lol service. All too often while consultation is starting the "ideas" are already being implemented
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Use the avenues available to the people to engage with them, the younger audience are more likely to see information on the likes of Twitter or Facebook than they are in a newsletter while the older generation would be better by post. Consideration should also be given to the language used....government employees often find the language difficult to understand let alone members of the public so simplified language with less jargon would aid in the engagement across the public.
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What is the problem or issue you want to be addressed?
Increase in communities understanding of and participation in PB projects. For example Cadw is the historic environment service of the Welsh Government. It runs a Civic Initiative (Heritage) Grants Scheme which provides a grant of up to £5k (match funded) for local heritage projects The scheme is aimed at small-scale projects of particular relevance to civic societies or other local, voluntary groups.
How would you like this to be changed?
Cadw to provide a % of its funding for interested groups to bid into. Decisions on allocation funding to be decided by a PB event (or a series of them) where the interested groups present their ideas
How will this help to make government more open?
Transparency on where funding is allocated, participation by communities in Wales
To help you put your idea together we have produced the following template for each idea.
What is the problem or issue you want to be addressed?
How would you like this to be changed?
How will this help to make government more open?
How will this change things for you?