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5.2 - Enhancing public participation in government decision making

Overall status:
On-track

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, with three phases (Discover, Create, Deliver) is being applied to implement the Commitment. For more information on the methodology, see the Commitment’s webpage (https://www.industry.gov.au/community-activities/open-government).

Milestone 1 - Discover phase
The Commitment’s Discover Phase Report was published in December 2017. The Report provides an inspiring and comprehensive business case to improve public participation in the APS. Details on this phase are on our webpage.

The Discover Report is the culmination of 75 interviews with 38 public servants from 13 different agencies; and 42 members of the public from 29 organisations, including business, engagement practitioners, academia, the community sector and peak bodies. It also draws on consultations with experts and a literature review. The project team has presented on the Report to over 400 public servants, to spread awareness of public participation and to brief public servants on its findings.

Stocktake: The Report is also supported by a stocktake of current engagement practices in the APS. The stocktake is a deliverable for this Commitment.

Create phase, Ideate stage

The project team lead Ideation workshops to share the findings from the Discover phase; and draw on these findings to generate, prototype and test ideas that could improve public participation in the APS. Both public servants and civil society were represented at the workshops, with nearly 100 public servants and members of the public attending four workshops. In all, 272 ideas were brainstormed.

Create phase, Prototype stage

The project team synthesised the 272 preliminary ideas into 17 concepts – detailed initiatives and plans to improve public participation in the APS. They were shared with users (public servants and the public), and tested and refined in workshops to ensure they were robust enough to warrant further scrutiny, and improve their chances of implementation. In total, the concepts were tested by 70 APS staff and members of the public in eight workshops. They were also tested on our Department’s online deliberation platform, Dialogue, where they received 88 comments and 131 ratings (see: https://engage.industry.gov.au/getting-the-public-more-involved-in-the-public-service2019s-work).

The result of this testing and refinement is the Prototype Framework (reproduced in the Appendix below).

The Prototype includes a number of components:  guiding principles, a standard that establishes a common expectation, an articulation of the ways to engage, initiatives that support meeting this expectation, a capability and resourcing backbone to drive the framework, digital solutions and feedback loops.

The prototype is not perfect, rather it presents a possibility that is to be tested and iterated with APS and civil society members. Indeed, the next steps for us is to further test the components of the prototype framework with public servants and civil society. To this end we held workshops in Canberra and Sydney. The prototype was also on Dialogue, the Department’s online deliberation platform, to raise awareness and for further testing and refinement of the prototype.

The project team is going to publish the raw feedback on the DIIS OGP webpage (now located at: https://www.industry.gov.au/data-and-publications/open-government-national-action-plan-2016-18-commitment-52). This is partly for transparency. It also provides useful stimulus that helps carry on the conversation about how we deliver a practical framework. If anyone is interested in sharing their feedback or ideas, they can email ogp@industry.gov.au.

Current phase – Deliver

The Deliver phase of the project has commenced. The approach being adopted has three distinct stages akin to the agile methodology steps of alpha, beta and live.

We are currently drafting the alpha version by drawing on feedback from the workshops to iterate a revised version of the prototype framework. This version will be shared across the APS departments to seek formal comments. We will be seeking the endorsement of the Open Government Forum.  The Secretaries’ APS Reform Committee has agreed to look at endorsing the framework.

In the second stage we will release across the APS a beta version of the framework that consists of the guiding principles, ways of engaging and the standard.

The final stage (live) will see all components of the framework released and working across the whole APS.

Demonstration Engagement - Business Research and Innovation Initiative (BRII)
The design of the framework is informing 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 participated in the assessment of the BRII finalists. The challengers who have progressed 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.

One of the BRII Challengers, Converlens, has successfully tendered to be the engagement platform for the Independent Review of the APS, announced by the Prime Minister on 4 May 2018.  This is a major achievement for Converlens, particularly since participation and engagement have been highlighted as important for the Review.  While the Review is in its early stages, initial feedback from the team indicates they are happy with Converlens.  It would be helpful to hear from Civil Society about their experience using the platform.  Open Government Forum members may have feedback; and otherwise we will ask the Review team if they’ve had any feedback from civil society users.

Evidence of public impact
Anecdotally, the people that have been engaged to date welcome this Commitment and are pleased to be engaged. The Project’s Create and Deliver phases also include opportunities to obtain public input and to loop back to those who have already been engaged, including our reference group. We will continue to publish and share our work to increase public impact.

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; the literature review undertaken in developing the report; and the presentations and publishing of findings from the Discover and Create phases. The feedback from people engaged has been consistent: that they would appreciate public servants publishing the data they rely on in their work more often, and are they are glad we are raising awareness of our work.

This transparency has resulted in only a few concrete contributions of expertise to the project in its Discover phase. However, the initial findings and literature review topics are already well understood in civil society. During the Create phase, we have received a lot of feedback, ideas and valuable input to the Concepts.

We will continue to publish and share our work to increase public impact.

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 involves further co-design with the public.

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 2017-Aug 2017 Completed but delayed

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 Completed

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 On-track

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: 17/10/2018

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M Peters

One thing is "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."
BUT....another is to LISTEN and TAKE STEPS TO RESPECT AND INCORPORATE the input of civil society! This is something that must be clear in the final revised plan. To date, this is not taking place, particularly with regard to the NSW Planning Department and the Sydney North Shore communities of North Sydney, Crows Nest, St. Leonards, Greenwich and Lane Cove.

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