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Civil Service

Open by default

Posted by: , Posted on: - Categories: Skills, tools and techniques, Thought Pieces

Rachel, senior policy adviser on the OPM team, kicks off her blogging experience here with a post on what openness has come to mean to her - and what we mean by openness.

It's been a while since I've spoken at events about open policy making.  When I do, I am reminded about the benefits of reaching out.

An example of this was at a recent event co-hosted with Sciencewise.  Amongst all of the good examples of open policy-making in practice, was a clear message that it’s not always easy to be open. This blog neatly summarises some of the key concerns from attendees, and will be something that our team will revisit.

A recurring observation for me at the moment is people’s surprise when we talk about open not meaning public.  Open policy, for us, is about continuing to provide the highest quality of policy advice that the UK Civil Service is known for.  We talk about three broad ways of doing this:

Model of open policy making in four bubbles, with a large bubble showing the qualities of the open policy maker (curious, networked, digitally engaged) and the three bubbles of the OPM themes: broadening the range of people we engage, using the latest analytical techniques and knowledge, and taking an agile more iterative approach to implementation


It's clear to me that this doesn’t mean that we can work publicly on every aspect of policy all of the time.  You can easily imagine several scenarios where this wouldn’t be appropriate: commercially sensitive work or issues of national security, for example.

Genuine, authentic openness, then, is about being clear on the aspects of a policy that can benefit from the tools and techniques associated with open policy-making and being honest about those aspects that of policy that aren’t suitable for open approaches.   Starting with a position of openness, if you like, and adjusting that starting position depending on the policy context.

It’s also worth remembering that we’re part of a much bigger movement (think Open Data and Transparency, for example) towards increased openness and transparency.  This movement towards opening up is also not something that is restricted to UK border - the Open Government Partnership work that we are involved with is just one example of the ambition for greater openness not being confined to the UK, but something that is part of a wider global trend.
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