A. Participation and co-creation throughout the OGP cycle
Aotearoa New Zealand’s approach to the Multi-Stakeholder Forum
Aotearoa New Zealand has an OGP Officials’ Group (officials) comprising Te Kawa Mataaho Public Service Commission’s open government staff and the agency officials working on open government commitments. Officials and an Expert Advisory Panel (EAP) meet quarterly. For the NAP3, the EAP met both separately and with OGP officials to develop, implement, monitor and report on the NAP3.
The EAP was initially conceived as a panel of open government experts, able to work with officials and bring their expertise to bear, in Aotearoa New Zealand's early days of developing and implementing National Action Plans. Between 2017 and 2019, the recruitment criteria for EAP members were expanded to include community connections. The EAP selection process evolved further when, in March 2019, Te Kawa Mataaho Public Service Commission publicly invited applications for nominations to the EAP from a broad range of applicants. Four new members, bringing their diverse background and special skills, were appointed by Te Kawa Mataaho Public Service Commission on the recommendation of a three-person panel comprising one EAP member, one OGP officials group member and a Deputy Commissioner from Te Kawa Mataaho Public Service Commission.
The EAP has continued to evolve and mature over the NAP3 period, reflecting changing needs over different stages of maturity and officials’ and EAP’s greater collective knowledge and experience. The qualifying criteria for EAP selection and the EAP nomination processes have broadened, with a particular interest in increasing diversity.
The EAP provides an independent view to officials. For example, the EAP recorded its own thoughts and views in the preamble of the NAP3 and their observations are included in this self-assessment (see page 15). The EAP supports officials to facilitate a conversation between government and civil society, tests officials’ ambition and process and, importantly, acts as a source of insights and advice to make the products better.
The engagement between officials and EAP has been robust and authentic. Tensions are inevitable in working with others where there are strongly held views and multiple objectives to meet. During the term of NAP3, EAP and officials worked on clarifying their roles by building greater understanding and positive and constructive working relationships.
To support our working together well, we developed our own Kawa (how we work together) – a values-based approach to working together in which it was agreed that the kōrero (discussions) would be guided by:
- Whakawhānaungatanga – valuing knowing each other and our diverse experiences and strengthening and building positive relationships
- Whakamanatanga – understanding one another, protecting each other’s mana and respecting one another’s perspectives, encouraging robust open discussion
- Mahi Kotahitanga – sharing knowledge and expertise, seeing growth as a strength, being comfortable to change direction as we learn, and providing a safe place for challenge and ambition and exploring the possibilities
- Māramatanga – navigating with purpose and priority, informed by context and constraints.
B. Participation and co-creation when developing the National Action Plan
There was more active engagement across agencies and civil society in the processes for developing NAP3 than with previous NAPs. Civil society was involved at various stages of the process in developing the Plan. Over 200 New Zealanders submitted 449 ideas, gathered in the regional workshops and provided through the online tool on how to make government more open, accountable, and responsive.
There was good engagement in the development of the action plan. Officials and EAP collectively reviewed all the ideas that were submitted as part of the public engagement. The NAP3 development process enabled ideas generated by individuals to be tracked all the way through to the Commitments in the final NAP3 plan. The public engagement undertaken on Aotearoa New Zealand’s third National Action Plan is summarised here.
Synthesis workshop participants (which involved agencies, a subset of participants from the public workshops, EAP and officials) synthesised the ideas. The ideas were categorised under three themes – participation in democracy; public participation to develop policy and services; and transparency and accountability. The ideas were then refined into commitments, comprising actions for agencies to deliver and publicly report on (see Plan on a Page on Introduction and background section). While it needed refinement and stretch at subsequent sessions with EAP and officials to make it better, the basic structure and content of the Plan was formed at the workshop.
While people responding to the draft National Action Plan recognised that there was more to do, they were excited about the energy and momentum visible in the creation of this plan. This was expressed in the comments submitted on the New Zealand OGP website.
Input from EAP members in OGP meetings has been particularly important to officials during the development of NAP3 to test the thinking and processes, when updating reports, and during NAP3 implementation. The discussion has been both challenging and positive.
The process for developing the Plan involved a large number of agencies (more than the number tasked with commitments), with agencies prioritising this work over other demands. Officials (including for the first time, officials in the Legislative Branch) were willing to be part of developing commitments.
Some opportunities for process improvement were identified. For example, the Independent Reviewer’s Design Report brought to our attention that civil society stakeholders outside of EAP had had no further opportunity to determine the final contents of the plan after the synthesis workshop was held. The approach to NAP4 is taking this feedback into account.
Expert Advisory Panel Role
The EAP provides an independent view to Te Kawa Mataaho Public Service Commission and other government agencies. It supports Te Kawa Mataaho Public Service Commission to facilitate a conversation between government and civil society, tests officials’ ambition and process and, importantly, acts as a source of independent advice and lived experience to make the products better. The EAP and officials worked together throughout the development of the plan and met jointly for regular sessions involving review and challenge of progress against the NAP3.
Developments for NAP4
Organisations outside EAP have actively sought involvement in the Action Plan process. In 2021, a group of 10 civil society organisations wrote to the Minister for the Public Service to give their thoughts on OGP matters. The group has since become involved in the OGP process, including helping to refine the ideas developed for NAP4. This development signals an opportunity to further evolve Aotearoa New Zealand’s model.
We assess ourselves as complying with the relevant standards and will continue our commitment to continuous improvement.
C. Participation and co-creation when implementing, monitoring and reporting on a National Action Plan
EAP’s influence on engagement
There were quarterly meetings with EAP to discuss progress reports with officials. The reports were then published for feedback and notified to OGP list subscribers.
At times, the EAP challenged officials to engage more broadly with civil society and diverse groups when implementing NAP3 commitments. For example, public engagement for Commitment 5: Public participation in policy development was initially seen as largely confined to public service policy practitioners and managers. As a result of EAP's challenge, engagement on this commitment was broadened to include the general public and civil society. In the End-of-Term Report the Policy Project within Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet (DPMC) stated that:
“As we workshopped with policy practitioners and discussed the proposal for guidance with community representatives and engagement specialists, they provided feedback that there were many factors to address to lift public service community engagement performance. We realised that we needed to set the decision tool within a broader context. That is, to recognise that selecting the level of influence on the IAP2 Spectrum of Participation in the early stages of a policy project was one of many things that was needed to underpin improved community engagement practice. Selecting engagement methods that match that design and implementing those effectively by applying a principled approach were also important component parts.”
Opportunities to share
In addition to the regular quarterly discussions where there was formal and informal time for people to share what they were working on with other agencies and with EAP, we also held a specific session for reflections. At this session, officials met with the EAP to focus on their experiences working with stakeholders in implementing commitments and sharing what they learned. This session was valuable, and we will look to build on what was learned in the future.
We learnt that value can be obtained by identifying and leveraging the linkages between commitments. Products developed for one commitment were shared, to support work done under other commitments.
For example, three of the NAP3 commitments under Theme One: Participation in democracy have been mutually supportive. These are Commitment 1: Engagement with Parliament, Commitment 2: Youth Parliament and Commitment 3: School Leavers Toolkit.
Commitments 2 and 3 focused on Youth participation. In addition, the work undertaken by the Office of the Clerk to deliver Commitment 1 was linked to Commitments 2 and 3.
Making changes during commitment implementation
Agencies didn’t always know the full context or have all the relevant information when they started implementing commitments. In undertaking NAP3, we learnt that we need to be sufficiently flexible in implementing commitments to accommodate any changes in context or new information.
Some milestones needed to change as a result of agencies learning more about the circumstances they were facing or the steps that would need to be taken to achieve the objectives of the commitment. Agencies have at times had to re-plan and re-phase their work. In each case the objective will still be achieved but will take longer than was originally anticipated. Work will continue after the expiry of the plan; updates on progress against these commitments will be published in 2022.
We learnt that, in carrying out future action plans, we will also need to continue to:
- regularly review performance and be prepared to amend milestones during implementation, even if it means work will continue beyond the end of the Plan
- focus on the objectives to be achieved, as opposed to a rigid focus on “ticking off” milestone steps.
We assess ourselves as complying with the relevant standards and will continue our commitment to continuous improvement.
D. Expert Advisory Panel observations
By international standards, New Zealand is a strong performer across many aspects of open government. However international experiences have highlighted how important it is to continue to work hard to retain public trust and confidence.
Our role is to work with Te Kawa Mataaho Public Service Commission and other government agencies, throughout the development and implementation of New Zealand’s Open Government Partnership National Action Plans. This includes providing constructive advice and communicating openly with, and involving, civil society and government officials.
A key part of our approach has been the quarterly sessions we have held with officials to review progress against the commitments. It has been pleasing to see officials respond positively to the challenges we posed for them and to see them responding to the lessons they have learnt along the way. Officials have been open with us in identifying when things weren’t going to plan and discussing the changes they were having to make in response.
One of the focus areas we’ve brought into the conversation with agencies is discussion of how they are including diverse voices and how they are keeping communities informed about their work. This is an important part of the work and one we are keen to see develop further over the next plan.
The development and implementation of the third National Action Plan has been both rewarding and challenging. We recognise that we are only at the beginning of our journey – but our foundations are strong.
As we develop the fourth national action plan, we will encourage the government to maintain its commitment to co-developing ambitious goals with iwi and civil society. This will support the Crown in its relationships with Māori under Te Tiriti o Waitangi/Treaty of Waitangi and the need to continually improve and grow the connection between the public service and communities to realise Aotearoa’s democratic, environmental and social values.
Each new National Action Plan provides us with the opportunity to get closer to making that model a reality.
We’d like to acknowledge the hard work and dedication of officials and civil society involved in delivering NAP3 commitments. There will no doubt be challenges ahead; but we look forward to continuing to work in the spirit of partnership for NAP4.
Expert Advisory Panel
30 November 2021