What difference can we make?

Dear Network

I am writing to introduce myself as interim Chair of the UK Open Government Network and for your support as we seek to reignite our movement.

We are living through an unprecedented time due to the coronavirus. And it is clear that our government is facing unparalleled challenges as it seeks to protect lives and livelihoods. Yet it is also clear that too often the principles of open government have been ignored.

From repeated warnings from the UK Statistics Authority about the misrepresentation of data, to the numerous reported cases of multi-million pound contracts awarded without a transparent tender process. From denigrating ‘activist lawyers’ who uphold our laws as determined by parliament, to the breaking of international laws that uphold our inherent belief in a rules-based international order.

Trust between government and citizen, at a time when lives depend on it, has been depleted.

But trust can be restored. And trust must be restored. Because we are at the foothills of technological change and public service reform that will transform the relationship between government and citizen. An age of bias, algorithms and artificial intelligence. Post truth, misinformation and rights associated with data use. More than ever we need good government. And we need an effective Open Government Network to help make it so. Which is why we need your help.

Over the coming months the UK OGN needs to better understand who you are and how you can contribute: either as an individual or an organisation. And we need to work collectively to make a difference because no one individual or organisation will be able to drive the change required on their own. It will take a coalition of shared purpose, with clear strategic direction and tireless determination, alongside a willing government.

I will post a link for a Zoom call with other members of the UK OGN committee in the next few weeks but please reply below as we need to understand if this is an effective platform. If not we will have to change it. Briefly tell us more about you, why you are involved in the UK OGN, and what you hope we can achieve with your involvement.

Best wishes,

Kevin

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Hi everyone,

I’m Jess and also on the OGN Steering Group with Kevin. Really keen to see some more engagement from the network. It feels like a critical point for our democracy and I really believe the Open Government Network can make some positive and tangible interventions.

Looking forward to seeing your responses.

Jess

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Hello Kevin, Jess

Great to see work here to revitalise the network. It would be great to see work in the UK within the Open Response + Open Recovery framework that OGP has been using.

Whilst the work of OGP network laid some of the foundations for current revelations of major accountability gaps in public procurement in the UK pandemic response, as a network we’ve not taken the opportunity to push forward on this, or articulate the need for further reforms.

I’ll aim to make the upcoming call if I can,

Tim Davies

Project Director, Global Data Barometer (www.globaldatabarometer.org)

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Hello all,

Thank you for starting this Kevin.

To briefly introduce myself - I am the Engagement and Policy Manager for England and Wales at Community Leisure UK. We are a membership organisation that represent charities and social enterprises managing public culture and leisure facilities / services across England, Wales and Scotland.

I would agree with Tim Davies on the work of this Network and what more we can do. In particular, we need to articulate the impact of the Government’s current decision on the health and well-being of our communities.

If I am available, I will certainly try to make the call or ask a colleague to attend.

Please note we are a very small team but are committed to supporting wherever we can.

Thank you.

Best wishes,

Jennifer Huygen

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Hello Kevin,
Thanks for the post and I am a civil society member of the Scotland OGP.
Happy to take part in a call.
Alex

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Hi all,

Since Kevin started the ball rolling …

I was approached by Comprehensive Future who campaign for comprehensive education (the name is a bit of a giveaway) because, at the time, I was pushing at some closed doors regarding transparency. According to my Twitter description, “Openness is fundamental to the political health of a modern state.” (which I flagrantly stole from the Duchy of Lancaster, David Clerk, https://assets.publishing.service.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/272048/3818.pdf.) It so perfectly sums me up. I see my role within Comprehensive Future as obtaining the ammunition information they need to argue their case. I fundamentally believe that if all the facts are known the best decisions will naturally follow, although I’m an incurable optimist.

I have some experience of Freedom of Information legislation through my own innumerable mistakes. (The public authority, with their generous budgets for legal counsel, have been 100% succeeded at the First Tier Tribunal but the one time it’s been to the Upper Tribunal I was successful … in getting it remitted to back to the lower court.) I’m also studying a Masters degree in Data Science so, compared to the average citizen, have a very good understanding of the threat certain tech companies present to civilisation and possibly even intelligent life on this planet. I’m very worried (… and lest anyone forgets, I’m an incurable optimist.)

I’ve always felt a bit of an imposter on this forum, and wondered if there is more I could contribute. I’m up for a zoom call.

Best wishes

James Coombs

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Hello …

I am a district councillor, sadly in a party that does not have control of the Council, but by only one vote. However, we live under the regime of the so called Cabinet/Executive system which is not representative and I do not believe to be democratic.

My main interests are about housing and the dreadful planning changes currently being at the fore, and the cataclysmic horror that is climate change. I am also a volunteer for a couple of organisations that help vulnerable people.

I am a techy (retired)… and I think the blockchain and related technologies do have the potential to facilitate a more equitable society. The world and political parties need to be embracing these possibilities in their manifestos and agendas.

I would be very interested in joining a discussion and gaining a wider perspective than the noise box I live in !

Thanks.

John

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Thanks @alexs Great to hear from you. It will be great to have you involved in the call!

Excellent @inforightsjames Great to hear from you and thanks for engaging!

Great to hear from you @johnmckay and I agree re: the noise box!

Thanks for replying @jenniferh and great to hear more about what you do.

Agree @timdavies We need to push forward. Look forward to hearing more. Hopefully you can make the call.

Best wishes

Kevin

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Hello, great to see the network becoming active again. I’d be up for a Zoom call. I work for Bond - the UK network for international development organisations, and quite a few of our members work on the transparency and accountability themes covered by the OGP. I’d be happy to share the Zoom call information with them as well.

I’d also like to know whether this network (or individuals on this forum) will be submitting a response to the draft National Data Strategy which is currently under consultation? I’m considering how or whether Bond should also respond - so if you have some ideas, let me know!

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Hi everyone, I am currently a Masters student in Democracy and Elections at Manchester and am applying for a PhD at UCL on the topic of transparency in political advertising on social media. I’d love to listen in on the Zoom call as sounds very interesting! To echo James above, I am very interested and keen to be involved (sorry to not have more to offer at this stage!).

All the best
George Bolton

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Hi George,

Excellent choice of topic for a PhD!

Best wishes

James

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Hi everyone! Fantastic to hear from the range of hidden faces behind this group, and a thank you for Kevin Keith for reigniting the conversation. I am an AHRC Heritage Research Associate based at UCL, and lead on this project: https://heritage-research.org/2019/10/17/successful-follow-funding-bid-ahrc-heritage-priority-area/
At the moment i am working to pull together an event ahead of the close of the PWP (which John Mckay mentioned), which has a working concept outlined here: https://heritage-research.org/events/inclusive-thinking-policy-practice-planning-heritage-arts/
I’m on the hunt for speakers actually but waiting back from a friend who works in MHCLG to secure a date.
Meanwhile, my own interests are very much about the role of heritage within the planning process and how various methodologies that we practice can be useful in deliberative democratic approaches. Id been trying to write a proposal about this back in Feb, which i’m still working on.
Would be great to liaise - looking forward!
Hana

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Hi John,

Given your interest in local planning decisions, have you seen the recent Transparency International report on corruption risks in the local planning process?

If not, you can find it here: https://www.transparency.org.uk/publications/permission-accomplished

Best

Rachel

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Hi Rachel,

Thanks for pointing me to the Permission Accomplished report… an inspired title, it could be the tag-line for a planning consultancy !

I feel sure I have read this but I couldn’t remember the content so definitely worth a re-read.

We have a situation locally where a large developer is now funding a planning officer within the Council to process their own applications. The NPPF provides for such arrangements in certain circumstances, rightly or wrongly, but this arrangement was entered into without any political oversight. Members became aware of these arrangements entirely by accident, followed by the usual political circling of wagons. There may well be times when such arrangements make sense, although I struggle to imagine the circumstances, but there should at the very least be political oversight and transparency when making decisions like this. I think this is exactly the sort of thing that this report is trying to address. Sadly my LPA is not in the sample they chose to analyse!

Anyway, sorry for the mini-rant, and thanks again!

John

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Michael Macpherson
Medical Doctor and Scientist
Peace and Conflict Researcher
Democracy Reform Campaigner

Good day Kevin Keith and All,

I want to highlight two aims which are probably essential for improving
governance (e.g. towards more open government) and the democracy needed
to underpin better governance,

  1. effective participation of citizens
  2. state constitution first and foremost as a contract among all the people

I’ll briefly expand on point 2, if there is interest to discuss then
will also explain what is meant by “1” (above)

In modern terms we have no constitution. Defenders of our condition
often claim that we do have a constitution but it is spread across
various mainly ancient documents and some of our constitution may not be
formally written but is tradition. Be that as it may ours is a highly
unsatisfactory, confounding and harmful condition (especially in crises
and hazardous times) for a supposedly democratic state. Most citizens,
it is clear (A), have no clear or precise idea of what their
constitutional rights and duties are. Ask an authority such as a jurist
or a mainstream politician and you will be told that of course we have
constitution – it is the monarchy, parliament, the judiciary and one or
two principles such as habeas corpus and freedom of speech. However
there is no established and widely known idea of a “contract among all
the people”. To help development of this we propose that consciousness
raising and public debate should be promoted around some central values
and principles to be found in well-respected (codified) state
constitutions. For instance, “The dignity of the human person shall not
be violated”, secondly: /A fundamental principle of democracy, to be
found in state constitutions, determines where ultimate political power
of the state lies:/ “All power in the state belongs to and can be
effectively used by the people”.

A. For this assertion there is surely strong empirical evidence.
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Hi Keith, is there any news on a date for the call? Not sure if it’s just for OGN Committee members but if it’s wider, looks like there is some interest here. Thanks!

HI Sarah. Great to hear from you. Yes. Just posting it up in the next hours or so. Best wishes, Kevin