He waka eke noa – a canoe we are all in, with no exception

Being part of the Open Government Partnership is to recognise that government and citizens are all in the same waka – the Māori term for canoe.

 

The engagement approach developed for New Zealand’s National Action Plan: 2016-18 was catalysed by a call for a more inclusive approach by civil society, reinforced through the Independent Review Mechanism. There was a desire to increase the scope and span of engagement in three key areas to:

  • broaden engagement, so more civil society voices could be heard
  • partner with civil society more effectively, so new commitments could be designed together
  • dedicate more time to consultation.

 

The engagement that facilitated this plan represents an increase in the scope of consultation and the partnership used to develop commitments. However, we acknowledge that this plan would have benefitted from more time, specifically to:

  • enable wider awareness-building activities – encouraging greater involvement
  • leverage complementary events, like conferences and community meetings
  • allow more time for comment from, and commitment-building with, New Zealand communities.

 

Given the short timeframe, we are especially grateful to our partners in civil society and government who were able to engage, at pace, in the complexities of designing commitments, which will further enhance the openness of government in New Zealand.

 

Developing this plan

Schedule and submissions

The change in publishing date of New Zealand’s action plan, from June to October, was posted on SSC's website in April 2016. It invited comment and four submissions were received. The responses covered these topics:

  • two expressed concern in the delay and criticised the approach taken to engagement in our previous action plan, with one suggesting that an online wiki approach, supported by workshops and public meetings, would deliver better collaboration with civil society 
  • one suggested creating a commitment around organic food and public transportation
  • one suggested public consultation in connection with universities and town events.

 

Start Local conference

As part of developing an engagement plan and exploring possible commitments with civil society, SSC developed a workshop as part of the Start Local. Let it happen, make it work conference in June 2016. The conference was sponsored by Inspiring Communities, Victoria University’s Institute for Governance and Policy Studies, and Local Government New Zealand. Four key themes were discussed between government and civil society:

  • the need to strengthen relationships, communication, and accountability between government (central and local), iwi and civil society 
  • for the national action plan to emphasise outcomes, not outputs 
  • the need for definitions and language used in and around the action plan to encourage New Zealanders to play a part in shaping open government 
  • open data being seen as a critical enabler of open government, including open information about government.

 

Independent facilitators

In July 2016 SSC commissioned engage2 to raise awareness about the OGP and to invite New Zealanders to participate in the development of the national action plan.

 

Engage2 designed an engagement programme to encourage people to comment on the proposed background and vision sections of the draft action plan, to suggest actions and to work with government officials to jointly draft recommendations for government to consider for inclusion.

 

In July 2016 SSC released the timeline (PDF, 52KB). It was also on engage2’s website in July 2016.

 

Civil society contributions

The civil society groups Hui E! and the Environment and Conservation Organisations of Aotearoa New Zealand (ECO) surveyed their networks to facilitate and support community engagement. Hui E! provided a selection of prioritised submissions on behalf of its civil society membership through engage2’s wiki site.

Hui E!’s submissions communicated the need for:

  • increased connections between government and civil society
  • affirmations of the right of civil society and citizens to speak freely
  • increased openness, transparency and accountability within the www.legislation.govt.nz website.

 

A member of its leadership team joined with SSC in September 2016 to further shape commitments aimed at advancing community engagement.

Stage 2

Stage 2 of the engagement ran from 25 July to 5 August 2016. During this stage 28 people provided 29 inputs on the background and vision of the draft action plan.

Numbers of submissions by stakeholder type
Stakeholder type Number of submissions
Business 1
Citizen 18
Community group 2
Local Government 1
Other 6
Number of submissions by theme
Theme Number of submissions
Public Integrity 17
Public Resources 6
Public Service 5

 

Summary of online feedback

Feedback about the draft strongly emphasised the need for more engagement by government with New Zealand communities. There were also themes around improving agency practices around the Official Information Act, anti-corruption measures, and fiscal transparency.

 

There were clear differences across submitters’ opinions, with statements asking that open data be a critical feature of the plan and those opposing its inclusion. A number of statements requested that specific data programmes not be included in the action plan. Some submissions suggested that the programme in the action plan should continue the work begun in New Zealand’s Action Plan: 2014-16 and others asked us to be more ambitious and not include extensions of the previous commitments. We have taken on board feedback from the OGP’s independent reviewer, and other submitters, and opted to start afresh with a suite of new commitments.

 

Stage 3

 

Stage 3 of the engagement process ran from 5 to 24 August 2016. It included public meetings, a wiki site where people could provide ideas for commitments, teleconferences, webinars, and a conference workshop.

 

Public meetings

Public meetings were held in Auckland and Christchurch on 17 and 23 August respectively. Awareness was built through an online event tool, stakeholder networks, community group newsletters, social media and the engage2 blog.

 

Auckland

The Auckland event on 17 August was supported by Victoria University’s Institute for Governance and Policy Studies. This support included hosting the event on its Auckland campus and providing materials for the event.

 

The workshop was noted by participants as a positive first step in increasing openness and broader views in the development of the action plan. For some participants this was their first engagement with OGP, rather than using the online engagement platforms. 

 

There were three key areas of discussion:

  1. Engagement from government
  2. Strengthening practices around the Official Information Act
  3. Transparency and accountability in decision-making in government.

 

Overarching approaches to the action plan were discussed including:

  • ensuring that the government was willing to listen to, and act in response to, the concerns of New Zealand communities
  • ensuring the new plan included new commitments, rather than simply reflecting ongoing government work
  • that the action plan should be made up of a number of small steps building toward a more transparent and accountable future for New Zealand.

 

Christchurch

There were five key areas of discussion in Christchurch. These were: 

  1. The need for increased opportunity for engagement with government, at both central and local government level, where there was a presumption of equality between the two parties inherent in the process
  2. The challenge civil society organisations have in responding to government requests for engagement, given tight resources
  3. The need for access to government-held data and questions about the use of copyright on government websites
  4. The strengthening of the application and approach used by government with requests for official information
  5. The use of the International Association for Public Participation’s spectrum of public participation to define and communicate the level of government engagement.

 

Conference attendance

OS//OS

Open Source//Open Society (OS//OS) ran on two days in Wellington in August. This conference explored how technology and open ways of working can transform life, work, organisations and society. On 23 August SSC co-hosted a session at the conference to develop commitments and themes for the next action plan.

 

Three themes were discussed:

  1. How can government make it easier for people to find out about opportunities to engage in decision-making processes? How can we make the decision-making process more transparent?
  2. How can technology increase engagement with government?
  3. How could young people be more involved in engagement with government?

 

Outputs from this discussion were included in a co-creation workshop in Wellington on 26 August where government officials, community groups and individuals worked together to draft possible commitments for the plan.

 

Online feedback

In August, 64 people provided 87 submissions on the wiki site.

 

Of the 87 submissions, eight themes emerged:

  1. Community group capacity and participation in government
  2. Fiscal transparency
  3. Involving citizens in public policy and programme development
  4. The Official Information Act
  5. Ongoing OGP engagement
  6. Open data
  7. Standards and culture around open data/open information
  8. Transparency.

 

Number of submissions by theme
 Stage 3 themes Number of actions 
 Civil Society capacity and participation  16
 Fiscal transparency  8
 Involving citizens in public policy and programme development  15
 Official Information Act  13
 Ongoing OGP engagement  1
 Open data  13
 Standards & culture around open data / open information  8
 Transparency  13

 

Stage 4

Stage 4 of the engagement process ran from 21 to 30 August 2016.

Co-creation workshop

A co-creation workshop was held in Wellington on 26 August 2016. This included a webcast of the scene-setting presentations live from 9am for those who could not travel to the event.

 

Thirty people participated in the workshop: individuals; representatives of non-government organisations; and officials from government agencies (including the Department of Internal Affairs, Land Information New Zealand, Statistics New Zealand, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade, the Treasury, the Ministry of Justice, and the State Services Commission).

 

The workshop was divided into two stages. In the first, submissions were discussed and prioritised. In the second, participants attempted to complete OGP commitment templates, drawing on the submissions under each theme. 

 

These templates were provided to SSC to continue the conversation with government agencies that might have accountability to deliver the proposed commitments.

 

Engagement highlights

  • 845 stakeholders directly informed about the opportunity to participate in the process from 8 to 30 August 2016
  • 87 submissions on the wiki site
  • 30 people participated in the co-creation workshop in Wellington.

 

While this programme marks a sizeable increase in the scope of engagement and awareness-raising activities within the development of this action plan over the 2014-16 plan, we recognise there remains a great deal of scope for improvement. We see the greatest areas for improvement to be around the time allocated for commitment and plan development and in making better use of technology to further increase public involvement.

 

Main page: National Action Plan 2016-18

 

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