Published on June 10, 2013

A guide to opening government: Stretching citizen engagement

Open Government Partnership

By Tim Hughes

Tim is Involve's incoming director, taking over from 21st January 2017. Tim has led campaigns and advocacy on open government; advised national, devolved and local governments, civil society organisations and multilateral institutions; and researched and written on topics including public participation, open government, democratic reform, civil society advocacy and public administration.

Stretch your mind, PensieroWhat would be an innovative citizen engagement commitment?

Last week I posted about a citizen engagement section for a Guide to Opening Government that we’re developing – inviting you to help by adding to, commenting on and editing the current draft.

There is still time to contribute to any part of the draft over the next couple of weeks, but this week I wanted to focus your attention on one specific aspect of the section.

As I set out in last week’s post, the section will include illustrative commitments at different levels of openness, including:

  • Initial steps for countries starting from a relatively low baseline;
  • More substantial steps for countries that have already made moderate progress;
  • Most ambitious steps for countries that are ready to put in place a really solid basis for open government.
  • Innovative steps which are being trialed by one or more countries.

The first three of these are, to a certain extent, relatively easy to identify commitments for by considering what some of the most important elements of citizen engagement are in the countries already doing it well – or at least not badly. (That said, I’d still really welcome your thoughts on whether those we’ve selected are the rights ones).

The last step, however, requires us to think beyond that to stretching commitments and actions that very few (if any) governments are yet to adopt.

The difficulty at this “innovative” level of openness, is that citizen engagement is much more about behaviour, culture and values than specific legislation, requirements, processes or programmes. While the latter are relatively easy to form commitments around, the former are much harder to develop SMART objectives for.

So here’re my questions: What would be an innovative citizen engagement commitment, that you’d like to see governments adopt? What would be your justification, and what recommendations would you give for how it should be adopted?

Leave your thoughts in the comments below – or email me via: tim@involve.org.uk

Image credit: Stefano Corso

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