Open Government Partnership
We’re going back to basics on the blog today. Let’s revisit what do we mean when we talk about Open Government, and what has been achieved so far in Scotland?
Open Government basics
When we talk about ‘Open Government’, what we mean by that is making the work of government and decision makers more accessible, transparent, and inclusive by involving the public, or the people the government serves.
And what we mean by ‘the people the government serves’ is everyone, regardless of age, race, colour, sex, language, religion, political or other opinion, national, ethnic or social origin, birth, disability, nationality or other status. Open government functions for everyone.
An open government is about:
- giving the public information about the decisions it makes
- supporting people to understand and influence those decisions
- valuing and encouraging accountability (responsibility for those decisions)
Participating (or taking part) in public and political life is a basic human right. It is a way to empower people and groups, and is important in eliminating marginalisation and discrimination. This is why open government advocates for public involvement in governmental processes.
What happens when governments do these things, and people are supported to help shape decisions?
This is not an exhaustive list, but by being an open government benefits can be:
- The relationship between people and their government improves, as decisions the government takes will be more effective for everyone as people outside government have been involved in what decisions are chosen, and how they have been chosen.
- The costs of carrying out governmental work are reduced as policies are better developed, and by tapping into wider networks this can open up space for innovation, or to do things differently, in policy-making and service delivery.
- Trust in government has been seen to increase, as people have a sense of ownership over what happens to them, and their opinions and the knowledge they have is listened to and applied. Everyone knows they have the opportunity to have a say in what’s happening around them, or in their life.
Still not too sure what we mean? Watch the video here to find out more What is Open Government in Scotland? – YouTube
How has Scotland been an open government?
Scotland is part of an international ‘family’ of countries and places where the values of transparency, inclusiveness and accountability are being applied. We have been a member of the Open Government Partnership (OGP) since 2015, which is a group of like- minded reformers from around the world. The partnership is a place where countries and places can share learning and experiences with one another. Currently, 77 countries and 106 local governments are members of the partnership, and together these represent more than two billion people – and thousands of civil society organisations!
Scotland, like other governments who are OGP members, has to create an action plan. Each member can choose to either create an action plan every two years or every four years to show how they are working towards making their government an open one. Scotland’s current action plan is four years long, running from 2021-2025.
An action plan is a collection of all the different ideas that we and our partners from civil society (or people outside government) are going to put into practice over the next two to four years. It is a roadmap or plan of how we put the principles of open government into action. It includes:
- The improvements and changes we want to make to the way that government works
- Why these are important
- How they will change the status quo
- Who we will work with to deliver them, and
- When we will do them
Scotland’s open government action plans are structured around commitments relating to specific areas, such as participation, health and social care or climate change.
This work is led by the Open Government team at Scottish Government, but also stretches across lots of different departments and teams. It is the responsibility of everyone who works on areas identified in the action plan to uphold open government principles, involve the public, and make the changes outlined in the action plan.
We also encourage other teams who are not signed up to our action plan to work in the spirit of open government and its principles. If someone in government has a question on how to be more transparent, accountable or inclusive, we are on hand to help advise, provide guidance or simply point them in the right direction.
What has been achieved so far?
Scotland’s first action plan (2016 – 2018)
Scotland has delivered three action plans since 2015. The first action plan helped the major advancement in the roll-out of participatory budgeting (PB) in Scotland, including agreement to the target of at least 1% of local authority budgets being decided through PB. Participatory budgeting is a process in which people decide directly how to spend part of a budget. This came under the theme of ‘financial transparency’, which aims to help people understand where, and how, money is spent, alongside having a direct say in where this money goes.
Children and young people across Scotland have been involved in making decisions about what happens in their schools using PB. Watch this video created by PB Scotland to hear from pupils about their experience and the impact it has had on them.
Scotland’s second action plan (2018 – 2020)
- Publishing Scottish Government contract documentation and procurement-related spend (money we have spent to hire people or organisations to deliver services or goods for the government),
- Embedding Open Government principles in the new National Investment Bank, and
- Making the budget easier to understand.
This action plan also delivered improved access to information, through publishing all datasets behind the National Performance Framework in open data format and increasing the number of datasets available for small areas. During the pandemic, coronavirus (COVID-19) management information has been published regularly online, supporting the development of interactive data dashboards.
What else has been done?
Scotland has also tested different ways to involve the public in decision making, including two Citizens’ Assemblies in 2019 and 2021. Scotland’s Climate Assembly in 2021 used a world first approach by involving children and young people. Scotland has also developed an online platform to support participatory budgeting, alongside a crowdsourcing platform, and the development of the Scottish Approach to Service Design. The learning gained through these activities was fed into the development of a Participation Framework. This was designed to guide good practice across government in open policy making, and is now being rolled out and will be improved as we learn.
You can check out Scotland’s Climate Assembly journey on its dedicated YouTube channel here
Now, you may be thinking, how are we getting on with our current action plan? What have we achieved so far? And how are we kept accountable? We will be covering these topics in a future blog, so keep an eye out on our twitter for updates!