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Enhance public engagement skills in the public service

Overall status:
On-track

Lead implementing agency/actor

Department of Industry, Innovation and Science

Commitment 

What is the public problem that the commitment will address?

Public policy problems are increasingly complex and this complexity is occurring in an environment of declining trust in government.

Numerous reviews, senior public servants and academics have emphasised that the APS can reduce the complexity and build trust by bringing more people and expertise into its work when they are needed. Better approaches might allow the APS to translate the best technical, academic and practical advice into accessible, policy and programme relevant conclusions. 

However, awareness and practical experience of how to engage the community beyond traditional information sharing and consultation is patchy. There are good examples of more collaborative approaches, but this is not the norm. Rather, APS engagement often has an emphasis on obtaining buy-in rather than accessing expertise. And the APS still lags behind adoption of better engagement compared to local, state and international jurisdictions. In particular, the APS has a gap in its capability to undertake deliberative, open and collaborative engagements.

What is the commitment?

Develop and implement an Open Dialogue Roadmap: Australia will co-chair and take a leading role in the development of an Open Dialogue Roadmap, through OGP International’s Deliberative Processes Practice Group. The Roadmap will consist of a briefing booklet making the argument for deliberation and a how to guide. It will assist public servants to design and implement open and deliberative engagement processes.

The Establishment of an APS Engagement Hub: The Hub would be, in the first instance, a digital space. It will ensure the initiatives under the first Action Plan’s Commitment 5.2 framework are delivered. It will tie together elements of the framework and create a landing point for guidance, advice and support. It will be iterated over time and has the potential to integrate engagement efforts across the APS.

Over time the Hub could act as a platform for general interaction between civil society and the APS. User research will be undertaken to inform the design of this element of the Hub, with findings reported to the Open Government Forum.

How will the commitment contribute to solve the public problem?

The use of open dialogue and deliberative processes are proven ways to improve public sector engagement awareness and capability and foster an Open Government culture. Similarly, the development of a digital hub to provide a platform for knowledge management and retention, as well as the delivery of expertise and resources offer a proven method for building capability and raising awareness. 

Open and deliberative processes differ from traditional approaches to consultation by enabling richer communication between, across and among public sector agencies and their respective publics. Moreover, it offers a means of supporting more sustained forms of engagement rather than traditional event-driven approaches.

This is achieved through a rules-based exchange of ideas and information that focuses on responding to a question and/or resolving an issue. In doing so, this type of process provides a more effective way of solving complex and contentious policy issues that have competing interests and the negotiation of trade-offs. 

These processes have already been successfully applied to radioactive waste (Commonwealth), Sports policy (Canada), Reproductive rights (Republic of Ireland) and Dog and Cat Management (South Australia).

The development of this roadmap will boost engagement capability, both in Australia and overseas. In particular, it will raise awareness and build a shared understanding of how deliberative processes work, why they are important to modern governments, and when they can be used effectively. It will include a step by step guide on how to undertake deliberative engagements, as well as a Briefing Book that provides accessible answers to the top questions about public deliberation that are likely to be asked by political or senior public service decision makers. Implementation of the roadmap will be via the development and testing of a demonstration open dialogue capability.

Why is this commitment relevant to OGP values?

This commitment will have a broad range of impacts, and specifically advances the OGP values of:

  • civic participation and transparency 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 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.

Additional information

  • Builds on Commitment 5.2 of the first National Action Plan.
  • The Roadmap is also included in the proposed work agenda for the APS Reform Committee (Policy, Data and Innovation stream).

Current status

On track

Contact

Open Government Partnership Section, Department of Industry, Innovation and Science - ogp@industry.gov.au

Other stakeholders

State actors involved - Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet (APS Reform team). All Australian Government departments will be made aware of the work through inclusion on the working Agenda of the APS Reform Committee (Policy, Data and Innovation stream). The Information and Privacy Commission NSW.

CSOs, private sector, multilaterals, working groups -  OGP International’s Deliberative Processes Practice Group includes four other countries, and public sector and civil society representatives from each. In addition: IAP2, New Democracy, Open Australia Foundation, Open Government Partnership Network.

Steps to implementation

Implementation Step Implementation Period Status

Establish the Engagement Hub

Q3 2018 - Q4 2019 On-track

User research on design of the Hub 

Q3 2018 - Q1 2019 Not yet commenced

Publicly release Open Dialogue and Deliberation Booklet 

Q3 2018 - Q1 2019 Not yet commenced

Publicly release the Practical How To Guide

Q1 2019 - Q2 2019 Not yet commenced

Test and report back publicly on the Open Dialogue Roadmap

Q3 2019 - Q1 2020 Not yet commenced
Last updated: 21/09/2018

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