Published on August 23, 2012

New principles – but how were they received?

By Edward Andersson

Edward Andersson is European Associate for Involve and an established expert on methods of participatory decision making. He set up Participationcompass.org – one of Europe’s leading public engagement sites, and has advised a number of organisations on public engagement strategies, including the Home Office, the European Commission, the OECD, WHO Europe, UNDP Turkey and numerous Local Authorities and Health Trusts.

PaperIn the first of a series of three Blog posts about the new UK Government Consultation Principles Edward Andersson looks at the initial reactions from the engagement community.

The Cabinet Office launched their new Consultation Principles on the 17 of July (Which replaced the old Code of Conduct for Consultation) while I was on holiday and it has taken a few weeks for me to find the time to write about the changes. In this first blog post about the principles I’ll look at stakeholder reactions. A second blog post will provide some Involve commentary and a final post will provide links to further guidance to support civil servants.

The Principles received a mixed reception. They were welcomed by The Consultation Institute who said it would help make consultation “fit for purpose and not unnecessarily onerous”.

Online Engagement expert Steph Gray was cautiously optimistic but worried that civil servants might choose a simplistic interpretation that minimized their interaction with the public and stakeholders. He also said “‘digital by default’ is at risk of becoming a weasel phrase akin to ‘evidence based policymaking’ or ‘social marketing’ which can be met with a nod to a SurveyMonkey response form or a tweeted launch.” He also mentioned the excellent Participation Principles written by Participation Cymru for the Welsh Government.

Compact Voice” was critical of the new principles and felt they might prevent organisations from responding or engaging with policy decisions which affect them and Chris Whitehouse characterized the new principles as “an incredibly arbitrary system that will result in too little time being given to consultations on key policies and will severely limit the opportunities charities have to engage in public policy development”.

In our next blog post I will provide some Involve commentary on the new Principles.

Image by: Featheredtar

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