This paper provides an outline to how the Open Government Pioneers Project is focusing on Open Government and the Sustainable Development Goals, and an overview of our intention to hold a series of engagement events as part of our outreach with citizens and civil society.
From low wages and a lack of housing to food insecurity and poor health, we are a long way from being the society we would like to be. But we should live in a place where people can satisfy their basic needs and enjoy a good quality of life without compromising future generations to come.
Governments alone cannot solve the problems of today, yet conventional approaches to decision making and policy design means that much of the power still sits in government. This imbalance between elected politicians and technocrats and the people they serve limits our abilities to find the right solutions to ensure people’s needs are identified and met.
More transparent, accountable and participative government is key to reinvigorating democracy in Scotland. By acting openly, with integrity and with the people, governments can play their part in the much needed shift towards co-produced policy design where real transformational change is most likely to occur.
In 2015, Scotland became one of the first countries to sign up to the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). These 17 goals are as close as the world has come to agreeing a strategy to achieve prosperity and equality on a planet that works for all.
Scotland is required to demonstrate its work to achieve the goals. Civil society and citizens across Scotland can use the SDGs and the political commitment from the Scottish Government as leverage to achieve real change at a national and local level.
The goals also provide a framework to begin community focused conversations about what matters to people. They can help us engage in constructive conversations about the local relevance of the 17 goals, better understanding what is particularly important across different communities and what the priorities of government should be.
Fitting the two together
Through using the SDGs as the framework to engage community stakeholders and residents to understand the issues that people care about most, we can begin to collaboratively problem solve how government must work to bring about change.
Not only will this approach help us to understand what Scotland’s priorities should be in order to progress towards the goals, it gives citizens the space to understand the barriers in their way, from disempowerment or a lack of communication, to rigid structures and diminished resources. It also gives people a voice over how government and public services should work.
Support for agendas
Significantly, both the Open Government and SDG agendas have political buy in. This presents a unique opportunity to further legitimise the presence of people and communities in decision making and policy design.
In May 2016 Scotland was announced as one of 15 ‘sub-national’ governments and civil society partnerships worldwide to be part of a pioneer programme to take the principles of open government to levels of governance closer to citizens’ everyday interests.
In 2015, the First Minister pledged that Scotland would lead the way to deliver a more equal, more just world. In signing Scotland up to the Sustainable Development Goals, the Scottish Government made a bold statement of intent not just to the people of Scotland but to the world. The goals have since become a key element of the Global Citizenship strand of Scotland’s Curriculum for Excellence.
As part of our outreach, we are holding a number of engagement events, approximately 9 in total.
We will first focus our attention on equalities events, which will be facilitated by our equalities partners and take place in May/June 2017. In the first instance, our partners include Young Scot, Inclusion Scotland and CEMVO.
Our partners will be supporting the facilitation and engagement with attendees at each event. These organisations are encouraged to take their own approach in the delivery of these events.
We have developed a loose structure to support and encourage conversations and outline why we are engaging in the first place (see discussion section). Open Government is not about telling people what to think and do, it’s about asking the right questions to ensure real progress can be made.
|Desired Aims For Events|
|1) To raise awareness of what open government means and how it can help with tackling problems|
|2) To develop the capacity of citizens to influence reforms in the pursuit of the Sustainable Development Goals|
|3) To localise the sustainable development goals and make these relevant to people|
|4) To capture the ideas of citizens to ensure the presence of people and communities in policy making|
Both we and our partners must carefully consider the personal development aspect to this work, to ensure participants leave the room with the confidence and tools to engage further in this area.
Our partners will be best placed to determine how this could work. For example, a pinpointing test before and after the event, and following any subsequent events, could be used to measure success across the following areas:
|Working With Others|
|Conceptualising and Analysing|
We are also keen to ensure that the events we hold link up to one another to ensure that a conversation exists across the all of our outreach, and that different groups are not put in boxes. People end up speaking to people they already agree with, which is why we want to strengthen those links between networks.
Very little is happening in Scotland to localise the Sustainable Development Goals – to make a high-minded global framework deeply relevant to people and communities. Although they are an important tool, these goals can only be effective if all citizens are able to see their own lives recast by how pursuing these might work, and that they have had a say over how we reach the desired outcomes.
This framework recognises the difficulties of engaging people around such terms as open government and sustainable development. Rather than beginning conversations with what we want, it seeks to start with the issues that matter most to people before introducing why these concepts later on.
Discussions of this nature will not only help to support participants to develop new ideas and solutions to complex problems, it will allow us to collect powerful stories that can be used to help others come to their own conclusions and form their own opinions over the way forward. Research shows that real stories matter, and the conversations that take place here will form key persuasive evidence to shape future policy responses and next steps around Open Government and the SDGs.
At the end of each event we will work with our partners to review what we did and how well it worked. We will use information to inform our future events and ensure we capture what we could do differently or better the next time. Not only will this help shape our future outreach and readjust our remaining plans, it will add to the international evidence bank around engaging people and communities on open government and SDGs.