Published on June 19, 2013

Participating in Open Government

By Simon Burall

Simon Burall is a Senior Associate of Involve. He has extensive experience in the fields of democratic reform, governance, public participation, stakeholder engagement, and accountability and transparency.

Open-Close_mag3737This post is adapted from Involve’s newsletter. You can sign up to the newsletter on the homepage.

Does a movement demonstrate it has got legs when it starts to produce videos? If so then this well produced and inspirational video about Open Government suggests it’s going somewhere fast. The video highlights different aspects of open government: open budgets; open funding of political campaigns; open data; and open policy making, for example. It then connects these to the sometimes profound and direct impacts that they can have on citizens’ daily lives.

Beyond the slick PR, there is something of more substance going on (and don’t get me wrong, the slick PR is important too). To date, 58 countries have signed up to the Open Government Partnership (OGP) which is an international organisation with significant civil society involvement and real bite. Involve has been helping to coordinate the UK civil society network which is working on these issues.

The OGP has four key areas where member governments are expected to make significant commitments to work more openly: access to information and data; participation; public integrity (aka anti-corruption); and access to new technologies for all citizens. We have increasingly found this a useful frame within which to have productive conversations about how government can and must open up to citizens.

We are developing three pieces of work which are all tied together by their focus on open government, and I’m writing to you to see if you might be able to help us.

A guide to opening government: Help us to develop a citizen engagement chapter

We are working with the Transparency and Accountability Initiative with a number to update and expand an existing guide on opening government into a richer online resource, which will include new topic areas and more lessons and updates from on-going experience. We need your help to ensure that the commitments and recommendations we have drafted are relevant and significantly stretching.  We are also looking for your thoughts on what innovative commitments governments should be making around citizen engagement. Or email for more information.

Open government and climate change: Help us identify case studies

We are currently developing a thought piece exploring how local authorities are engaging with citizens on climate change issues, energy futures and sustainable living. We will look at this through the lens of Open Government: exploring what the evidence says about when and how engaging citizens in a more open, deliberative and on-going way can contribute to improved outcomes. We would welcome your suggestions for case studies in which local authorities in the UK are engaging citizens with climate change issues in innovative ways, which has demonstrably led to improved outcomes. Please contact:

Open data, participation and democracy – a call for case studies

We are looking at the relationship between open data, participation and democracy. Specifically, we are looking to understand the extent to which government (at any level) is engaging with citizens and community groups using open data, and to develop some recommendations for how this relationship could be improved. A link to more information on this can be found here, or you can email

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