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5.2 - Enhancing public participation

Overall status:

This commitment focusses on improving participation and engagement to enhance policy and service delivery outcomes.

It has a broad range of impacts, and specifically advances OGP values of:

  • Civic participation: by allowing further access to information to ensure meaningful input from interested members of the public into decisions; citizens’ right to have their voices heard; and opening up decision making to more interested members of the public.

  • Technology and innovation for openness and accountability: by promoting new technologies that offer opportunities for information sharing, public participation and collaboration; and making more information public in ways that enable people to both understand what their governments do and to influence decisions.

Current status

A design thinking approach is being applied to implement the Commitment. For more information on the methodology, see the appendix.

Discover phase - Problem identification stage
The report for the project’s problem identification phase was released publicly and to the project reference group in April 2017. It summarises how public participation can help the Australian Public Service (APS) deliver better policy and programmes; and identifies what potential problems stop public servants from engaging the community more often and more effectively. It draws on findings and analysis from initial stakeholder engagement with 20 practitioners, thought leaders and academics, and a literature review of 60 publications.

Discover phase – Empathise stage (ongoing)
This stage aims to better understand current APS engagement practices and explore potential barriers to using a broader range of engagement activities and the conditions that would see the APS better utilise the full range of public participation approaches.

APS and Non-APS interviews
To date, 38 APS staff from 13 organisations have been interviewed to better understand their experience of public participation in the APS.

Outside the APS, we have met the South Australian Engagement team (Your SAy) in the South Australian Department of Premier and Cabinet, the Victorian Department of Premier and Cabinet (DPC), the Victorian Auditor General, and the NSW Department of Premier and Cabinet. 

Outside Government, 36 people across 34 organisations have been interviewed, in five different states and territories. These organisations included digital engagement companies, industry associations/peak bodies, non-government organisations, businesses, engagement consultants, academics, environmental activists, and others in the private sector.

Stocktake of best practice
13 Australian Government departments responded to the stocktake survey on engagement approaches, potential improvements and barriers to co-design. The responses are currently being analysed to understand trends, motivations and limitations within the APS.

Business Research and Innovation Initiative (BRII)
The design of the framework will inform the BRII challenge to develop a platform that digitally enables community engagement in policy, programme and service design. BRII is a National Innovation and Science Agenda initiative that is designed to ensure that a greater share of government procurement fosters innovation. The implementing team has participated in the assessment of the BRII finalists. The challengers who will progress have attributes that will assist in addressing some of the barriers found in the research. Additionally, the challengers’ proof of concept prototypes will be tested as demonstration projects for this Open Government commitment.

Next steps
The data synthesis from the APS and non-APS interviews is being finalised, including developing personas to better understand the motivations and intentions of both the APS and non-APS. The synthesis will provide the themes that will underpin the design questions for the create phase.

Demonstration Engagement
A number of demonstration engagements are underway to better inform the development of the framework. The first initiative is supporting the design of engagement with the community and other stakeholders in the development of a digital economy strategy. The first step in this has been completed in the delivery of an internal workshop with the senior executive to further the development of the strategy.

The Create phase will include workshops to generate ideas from the platforms developed in the Discover phase. 

Evidence of public impact
Anecdotally, the people that have been engaged to date welcome this Commitment and are pleased to be engaged. There will be more opportunities to obtain public input and to loop back to those who have already been engaged, including the reference group, in the Create and Deliver phases, particularly in responding to design questions.

A key attribute of the project is to ensure the project is transparent to the public, including the release of initial findings prior to final deadlines, and the literature review undertaken in developing the report. The feedback from people engaged has been consistent: that people would appreciate public servants publishing the data they rely on in their work more often. This is the spirit in which the draft report and literature review was published.

This transparency has resulted in only a few concrete contributions of expertise to the project thus far. However, the initial findings and literature review topics are already well understood in civil society. It is likely that there will be more contributions in response to future work that will include more novel ideas, such as demonstration pieces, themes from user interviews, and the personas.

Appendix: Design thinking methodology being applied to implement the project

The design thinking methodology, mapped to this Open Government commitment, is set out below. This methodology is used by Bizlab, the Department of Industry, Innovation and Science’s Innovation Lab. As well as including processes and tools that boost innovation, design thinking ensures that users (i.e. the public) are at the centre of the work through the Open Government commitment’s implementation. This boosts both the quality of work and its legitimacy in the eyes of the public.

Bizlab’s design thinking project methodology: Discover, Create and Deliver


Other stakeholders

Government: All Australian Government departments and agencies.

Non-Government: None formally involved, but a reference group has been established comprising experts and practitioners from academia, engagement consultancies and think tanks. The Create phase will involve further co-design with the public, and the workshop will involve the Australian Futures Project, an NGO.

Steps to implementation

Implementation Step Implementation Period Status

Discover phase
Undertake and publicly release a stocktake of current approaches to public participation to determine best practice activities (including international and domestic examples, user experience research, methodologies to encourage adoption, and relevant standards, such as IAP2 values). (Jan - Aug 2017)


Create phase
Work with government agencies, the public and organisations outside of government to develop and implement a whole-of-government framework (with guidance / principles and potential public participation initiatives) for improving public participation and engagement across the Commonwealth. (Sep 2017-Dec 2017)


Deliver phase
Undertake pilot public participation initiatives, including working with the BRII challengers to more effectively use digital channels for engagement.

Review processes and iterate as necessary. (Mid 2018)

Not yet commenced

Status updates for commitments are provided approximately every two months. With each update, agencies are encouraged to provide further and better particulars of the commitment and its steps to implementation, which may result in changes to timelines outlined in Australia’s first Open Government National Action Plan 2016-18.

Last updated: 22/09/2017

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