Published on March 24, 2015

How about an appraisal objective on open government?

Open government Sciencewise

By Amy Pollard

Dr Amy Pollard is Deputy Director at Involve. She has over 10 years experience working on accountability, policy and power, and a passion for using effective public engagement to drive positive change.

2884431258_49d6abb67e_mAre you aiming at the right target?

It’s appraisal season in the civil service, and reciprocal 360 reviews are crossing in and out of Whitehall.  We’ve been encouraged to see several requests for these cross our desks at Involve. It’s easy to talk in vague terms about partnerships between government and civil society, but incorporating perspectives from outside into staff appraisals feels like an approach to relationship building that is going beyond lip-service.

For those who are considering what personal development objectives to set themselves and their team members for next year, there’s plenty of inspiration in the Open Government Guide, particularly in the section on establishing citizen engagement as a core competency of government officials.  You could set yourself the objective of mapping what role citizens might play in a policy issue you are involved in; or reviewing the skills and competencies you might need to engage them effectively.  There are a range of training and development options available – not least through the capacity building programme we lead at Sciencewise.  As government embeds the Civil Service Reform plan and takes forward a more open, collaborative and iterative approach to policy making, it’s critical for individual civil servants to develop the skills that will enable them to work in a different way.

I heard about a really inspiring piece of good practice at the Open Government and Participation workshop a couple of weeks ago.  Finland have made a formal commitment in their Open Government Action Plan to emphasise the competencies to enhance open government.  The importance of dialogue skills are to be highlighted in job descriptions, recruitment criteria and appraisals.  Embedding these skills as part of the nuts and bolts of being an effective public servant – rather than an optional ‘bolt on’ – is crucial to making more open approaches the default.

This definitely seems like an example to learn from:  If government is serious about pursuing a more open and collaborative way of working, there can be few more powerful means than to set up the incentives that make this core to the job of policy making.

Photo credit:  Hans Splinter

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