Andreas reflects on the discussions around promoting civic engagement at the Open Government Partnership Global Summit in Ottawa, Canada, as well as the new global campaign to promote gender equality in open government.

ottawa skyline

From 28-30 May, Canadian civil society and the Canadian Government hosted the Open Government Partnership Global Summit in Ottawa. This year’s Summit had a particular focus on participation, inclusion and impact - some of the emerging themes being tackled in the latest round of national action plans.

Over 2,000 delegates, over 100 sessions, and 130 countries (including all the UK nations) came together to learn and share their knowledge, experiences and projects working on these and other open government topics.

The Global Summit also saw the launch of the Break the Roles campaign.

It asks for commitments to strengthen gender perspectives and increase women’s voices across open government. OGP’s goal is to encourage at least 30% of members to take meaningful action on gender and inclusion in 2019.

At the Summit, people highlighted numerous successful examples of deliberation to engage with the public in policy making. The session on citizens’ assemblies was insightful in highlighting the positive work being carried out in Ireland and Canada. While the Irish Citizens’ Assembly is well-known, Canadians have integrated mini-publics into numerous decision-making processes. Now in Canada, organisations are advocating for 80-or-so deliberative exercises across the country, and the establishment of a centre of excellence.

This experience and knowledge sharing from across the globe is hugely important for the UK, as we have seen a surge in interest for citizens’ assemblies to solve all kinds of issues including climate change, urban planning and Brexit.

In the past year, Involve has successfully run a citizens’ assembly on social care funding in England, and another on social care provision in Northern Ireland.

Yet, as expressed at the Summit - running a citizens’ assembly will not solve every decision-making question. Decision-makers must be mindful of what method is appropriate for the task. Undergoing an ill-prepared or unfocused public participation exercise is not going to help with decision making. In fact, it will make it much harder to engage citizens later on.

This is one of the reasons we are excited about the Innovation in Democracy Programme that we are helping to deliver. The programme - which is one of the commitments in the UK National Action Plan for Open Government 2019-21 - will help put citizen deliberation at the heart of local decision making, and share learning with other local authorities who are interested in new forms of citizen participation and practical uses of deliberative democracy.

Check out the National Action Plan for Open Government 2019-12 which also contains other commitments relating to public engagement and open policy making.