Opening Government to Improve Outcomes

Laura Wesley at Canada Beyond 150: “Open Government is a concept. It’s a view into government. It’s an invitation to stakeholders, citizens and civil society to help shape government decisions and actions. It is not a program or policy, yet both can be part of achieving the vision of a government that encourages civic participation, invites accountability and demonstrates transparency. Examples of open government include proactively disclosing financial and human resources-related information online and publishing expenditures that can be displayed visually or as machine-readable charts. These measures are intended to strengthen public sector management.

From my place within the public service, I see opening government as a verb. To me, it’s what we are doing to create opportunities for people – wherever they work or reside – to contribute to the activities that go into governing so that the country reflects the values of those who live in it. Engaging citizens and stakeholders in the context of policy shaping builds trust, seeks others’ perspectives, enables accountability, and allows us to collectively design better policy, programs and services.

What is engagement in the context of public policy?

Engagement processes can be structured and formal like parliamentary committees to study an issue or those that allow for anyone to provide feedback on legislation as it moves through Parliament. They can be done by elected officials or by public servants working on their behalf, for example, through processes that invite stakeholders to comment on proposed regulatory or legislative changes. They can be informal, like hosting conversations online. They can be open and transparent, moderated or unmoderated, multilateral or bilateral. There are many options, yet deciding which methods to employ at the right time can be cloaked in complexity, with much at risk if we get it wrong. So how can we teach “engagement” as a mechanism to improve policy-shaping?

Canada Beyond 150 is a participatory learning program for public servants to experience new ways of developing and delivering public policy. I was excited to learn that engagement, along with design and foresight, was one of the three pillars of the program. My team had mapped some of the system-wide gaps that needed to be filled in order to build the organizational muscle required to engage broadly; this was our chance to understand how to support new public servants through change….(More)”.