Post-Bar Camp reflections on engagement
On Saturday I attended the second UKgov web barcamp #ukgc09, met lots of great people and heard lots of interesting stuff. Steph Gray (from DIUS) and I ran a session on consultation/engagement which was interesting although in one hour we only scratched the surface. Anyway below are some of the ideas the discussions suggested for me:
1) my idea for the X (internal) (the department/council etc) - a site open to all staff (and possibly partners?) where people can make suggestions about anything they would like to see changed at the organisation from the snacks available at the coffee bar to whether social media are blocked to a new policy idea or a new idea about how the dept works. Other people would then be able to vote on the suggestions and the department would commit each month to investigate and respond on the top X ideas.
2) my idea for the X (external) - same sort of thing but aimed at the outside world.
3) Consultation Aggregator: a simple summary feedback template that would potentially be used as part of all or most consultations. This aim would be to try to develop a very simple template that could be used for most government consultations and would help aggregate feedback. So it might look something like this:
a) What's the problem? the 3-5 aspects of the status quo that worry ministers most
b) What are the key policy tools to change the situation? the 3-5 policy actions that ministers hope will most impact the situation
c) what are the key things to get right in implementation? the 3-5 things the government will do to ensure policy actions will have the right impact
d) what are the key measures of success? the 3-5 key ways government will measure whether the policy package is working
In each of these four areas citizens would be able to vote to support or reject a particular item. Citizens would also be able to add suggestions in any of these areas and those would also get voted on. So in each of the areas you would probably have the current leading 10 on one page plus the 5 most recent new suggestions plus a link to a full page of all suggestions. Hopefully the government items in each area would stay in the top ten permanently, but may be not (or perhaps it could be the top 20 to increase the chances that the government input will always be on the top page under each heading). At the end of the consultation in addition to the textual comments in response to the conventional consultation questions that will have been asked, ministers will also have some aggregated feedback, telling them the extent to which people agree with their analysis/proposals plus which bits people are less convinced about plus which other things people would rate higher.
4) An open-policy making experiment: take a "new" policy area (i.e. an issue that is at the start of the policy cycle - new minister or not an area govt has focused on much to date or area where govt wants to do a radical reassessment) and get the minister to commit to treat it as an experiment in transparent government, i.e. the dept would seek to innovatively transparent in that policy area from the start to the finish as a trailblaser for generally more transparent government. The sort of thing this might involve could be: a commitment to make transparent all mtgs ministers/senior officials have on this new policy including as far as possible information on all the inputs the dept received; a continual blogging platform with posts by ministers/officials on what's happening in this area; a range of engagement opportunities from informal instant polls to more formal consultations but with an expectation that there would be multiple public opportunities to feed in over a 12 month period rather than simply one (or two) large formal 12-week consultations.
Interested in views or anyone who can get a public organisation to try one of these (I recognise that certainly in relation to 1) and 2) there are very likely to be some public sector organisations so where already doing this).