Published on February 7, 2014

Developing an open government action plan in the open

Open Government Partnership UK Open Government Network

By Tim Hughes

Tim is director of Involve. He took over leadership of the organisation in January 2017, having previously led Involve’s open government programme and the UK Open Government Network (OGN).

This article was originally posted on the Open Government Partnership blog: http://www.opengovpartnership.org/blog/tim-hughes/2014/02/07/developing-open-government-plan-open 

Read about how the UK’s 2013-15 National Action Plan was developed, the benefits, and what we learnt: http://www.opengovernment.org.uk/national-action-plan/story-of-the-uk-national-action-plan-2013-15/

UK OGP NAP Launch

New laws, standards, policies, processes and technologies are critical for opening up government, but arguably just as (if not more) important are new cultures, behaviours and ways of working within government and civil society.

The development of an OGP National Action Plan, therefore, presents a twofold opportunity for opening up government: On the one hand it should be used to deliver a set of robust and ambitious commitments to greater transparency, participation and accountability. But just as importantly, the process of developing a NAP should also be used to model new forms of open and collaborative working within government and civil society. These two purposes of a NAP should be mutually reinforcing. An open and collaborative process can – as was the case in the UK – help to deliver a more robust and ambitious action plan, which in turn can demonstrate the efficacy of working in the open.

You could even go one step further to say that the development of an National Action Plan should present an (almost) “ideal” vision of what open government in a country could look like. If governments aren’t being open as they’re developing an open government action plan, then there’s arguably little hope that they’ll be open elsewhere.

As coordinators of the UK OGP civil society network, this was on our mind at the beginning and throughout the development of the UK’s 2013-15 National Action Plan. Crucially, it was also on the minds of our counterparts in the UK Government. From the start, therefore, the process was developed with the intention that it should itself model the principles of open government. Members of the UK OGP civil society network met with policy officials from the UK Government on a regular basis to scope out and develop the action plan, and we published regular updates of our discussions and progress for others to follow and engage with. The process wasn’t without its challenges – and there’s still much more we can do to open it up further in the future – but it was successful in moving far beyond the typical model of government deciding, announcing and defending its intentions and in delivering an action plan with some strong and ambitious commitments.

One of the benefits of working in an open and collaborative way is that it enabled us to conduct and publish a full – warts and all – review of what went well and what didn’t. So, consider this is an invitation to delve into our successes and failures, a challenge to do it better and a request to help us to do so too. Head over to the UK OGP civil society network blog to read about what we did, and tell us what you think: http://www.opengovernment.org.uk/national-action-plan/story-of-the-uk-national-action-plan-2013-15/

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