Open Government Partnership – Australia

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: particularly 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; and

  • Technology and innovation for openness and accountability: particularly 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

We are applying a design thinking approach to implement the Commitment. For more information on the methodology, see the appendix.

Discover phase - Problem identification stage

We released our report for the project’s problem identification phase publicly and to our reference group in April 2017.  It summarises how public participation can help the APS deliver better policy and programmes; and identifies what problems stop us from doing it more often and more effectively. It draws on findings and analysis from initial stakeholder engagement with 20 practitioners, thought leaders and academics; and our literature review of 60 publications.

Discover phase – Empathise stage (ongoing)

This stage aims to understand why the problems occur – further exploring 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.

To date we have interviewed 40 APS staff from 13 agencies to better understand their experience of participation in the APS.

We have also met with people outside the APS. In other public services, 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, we have met Bang The Table, a leading digital engagement company (who provide the platform for the ATOs engagement site) and the Business Council of Australia.

Next steps

This week we are speaking with a number of NGOs, businesses and engagement companies in South Australia and New South Wales. 

We have commenced the data synthesis from the APS interviews and some themes are beginning to surface. The synthesis will provide us with the themes that will underpin the design questions for the create phase.

Stocktake of best practice: On top of our own research, our stocktake survey has gone out to Departments seeking examples of public participation in the APS, with our Secretary writing to her colleagues seeking a contact and support for the project. We will see responses later in July.  Importantly, it gives us senior contacts in each department to help us advance the project.

Demonstration Pieces: We are looking at initiating some demonstration pieces earlier than the original plan for the project. From a design perspective, we would prototype in the Create phase, the project’s second phase, but we will take opportunities as they arise.  It is looking like the first demonstration piece will be around work that is underway at our Department on the digital economy.  

Workshops: The Create phase will include workshops to generate ideas from the platforms developed in the Discover phase. We have commenced discussions with the Australian Futures Project to assist in the workshops and will look to give people ample notice to be involved.

Evidence of public impact

Anecdotally, the people we have spoken to are pleased that this Commitment is going ahead and are pleased to be engaged. There will be more opportunities to obtain public input in the Create and Deliver phases, particularly in responding to our design questions.

We have worked hard to make our work transparent to the public, including by releasing initial findings prior to final deadlines. Demonstrating that we are willing to be open and invite public participation has added legitimacy to our work.


Department of Industry, Innovation and Science


Other stakeholders

Government: Whole of government initiative

Non-Government: None formally involved, but we have a reference group 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 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 - Jul 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. (Jul - Dec 2017)


Deliver phase

Undertake pilot public participation initiatives, including working with the Digital Transformation Agency to more effectively use digital channels for engagement.

Review processes and iterate as necessary. (Mid 2018 - ongoing)

Not yet commenced
Last updated: 24/07/2017

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