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Open Policy - what next

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It’s with a huge amount of pride but also a hint of sadness that I write this blog. After three years of leading the simply brilliant OPM team in the Cabinet Office, we are winding down at the end of the year. So much as happened in the last few of years and if you indulge me I’d like to share my reflections on the journey that has been OPM.


It all started with the civil service reform plan – open policy making should be the default it said. Lots of people agreed but it was not 100% clear what it all meant. Was it better policy making? Was it something radically different than what good civil servants had always done? Was it about digital gadgets and wizardry? The OPM team was created on the back of that reform plan and kicked off some work on other reform related initiatives as well as thinking or reimagining what policy making in a fast moving, digital and networked world could look like.


Collaboration has been at the heart of the work the team has led. From the very start it was about working with departments and policy makers, not only to define what good looks like and how openness might vary from department to department, but also help provide the tools needed to embed a new way of working. The numerous stories we came across were actively blogged and our OPM blog has proved to be very popular indeed along with a good solid number of Twitter followers.


Early on we decided to hold tech inspired events where policy and digital come together and show how we might do things differently – the art of the possible – by showcasing where departments were already trying new approaches whether through the use of wikis, crowd-sourcing or bold new ways of meaningfully engaging with the public. I will never forget our first event at Hub Westminster, energetically chaired by the brilliant Matthew Taylor of the RSA, and the show ‘n tell marketplace which became known as open policy wonderland! Just showing the thing – to borrow from GDS vocab – became our way of bring people together and earlier this year we held another open policy extravaganza for policy makers titled Open Policy 2015, again focusing on practical tools and approaches – this time reaching nearly 600 civil servants.


So much work has been achieved by such a small team whether it be launching Policy Lab, overseeing the contestable policy fund, launching Civil Service Quarterly, but I think the game changer for me was the OPM toolkit. This is where we started showing policy makers the actual tools and platforms they can use. You’ll be pleased to know that a new version will be launched early in the new year – with a simpler design and more tools – as good a legacy product as any.


For me what stands out and what I am most proud of is working with brilliant people – across government and outside of government - amazing stakeholders who are driving innovative approaches and challenging the way things are done to put citizens and users at the heart of what we do.


It has been inspiring also to meet international delegations who have set up their own versions of the OPM model – I was delighted to learn that we have a close cousin in the Privy Council Office in Canada for example!


So we come to the end of our road. But it’s of course not the end for open policy. Open policy is alive and kicking and departments – as always – are continuing to improve the ways in which policy is developed and I am pleased that the policy profession support unit will take on the OPM toolkit, making sure it continues to thrive and stay relevant. Open government remains a key commitment and the work of the Open Government Partnership will be critical here.  The Government is currently developing the UK’s third OGP National Action Plan, setting out the ambition for a more open, transparent and accountable government.


So, thank you – for following this blog and for the various ways in which you have helped open policy come alive. It has been a pleasure and a privilege.


And thank you to my team – past and present. This was always a small team with a big purpose – and HUGE ambition. I am so grateful to you all.


Which leaves me to wish everyone a merry Christmas! Enjoy – and please continue to follow this blog which will now be managed by our fantastic sister team – Policy Lab.


And remember what our friends in GDS say – make things open, it really does make things better.

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