Information

Open Government action plan 2021 to 2025 - commitment 5: participation

Overview of the participation commitment, including milestones and their co-creation process, alongside progress reports submitted throughout the action plan.

This document is part of a collection


Commitment overview

Powering participation in Scotland.

Timeframe

October 2021 to September 2025

Lead implementing directorate

Local Government and Communities

Civil society stakeholders

  • involve
  • democratic society
  • Glasgow University
  • TPX Impact

Problem

During the last year the profound and uneven impact on society, rights and freedoms caused by the COVID-19 pandemic has brought into focus the need to ensure people in Scotland can participate in the decisions that affect them, as individuals and in communities.

Scottish Government is committed to human rights, equality, inclusion and participatory democracy, and will deliver Covid Recovery in a person-centred way. However, it is recognised that participation in decision making currently lacks diversity, an intersectional approach is rarely taken and participation methods used may not help address these inequalities. There is a lack of diverse representation within civil society and too few opportunities for these vital organisations to see themselves as important voices in creating a culture of inclusive participation.

There remains an appetite for increased participation, but too often the purpose and outcomes are unclear and participants cannot see how their input has influenced decision making.

There is insufficient understanding of the benefits of participation in public service. Levels of collaboration in policy making between government, stakeholders and the public is uneven. Too often this is accompanied by a lack of:

  • skills, confidence and resources to commission or deliver effective participation, using the method most suited to the task
  • accountability and transparency, with little monitoring and evaluation of participation
  • alignment of participation with equalities and human rights
  • understanding of how participation supports the delivery of other goals and priorities

This has created uncertainty and risks undermining work to improve democracy, trust in government and participation in decision making

Status Quo

Scotland's previous Action Plan produced a Participation Framework, to improve Scottish Government's approach, build skills and confidence. The Participation Framework is under-utilised and needs improvement to ensure inclusion and equality are at its core and is useful beyond government.

Scottish Government is focusing on mainstreaming human rights and Equalities, and the rights of children and young people. This will create a legislative foundation and guidance. A recent review of the Participation Framework identified changes that are needed, with a key recommendation that participation is designed and conducted with those "furthest away" from government in mind – to help everyone engage.

There are wider problems with the status quo, centring around a lack of inclusive opportunities, lack of skills, and lack of transparency and accountability

  • methods used (e.g. consultations) tend not to be inclusively designed, or part of a systematic and accountable approach to generating and using evidence from participation
  • engagement often does not reach beyond a limited and up-skilled group, as processes are not typically designed with the needs of individuals with protected characteristics in mind
  • there are insufficient feedback loops to inform participants how their input has influenced decision making

These work together to prevent a fully inclusive and intersectional approach to participation.

Innovative forms of democracy such as participatory budgeting, Citizens' Assemblies, and making the most of digital platforms have strengthened public involvement. These would benefit from more systematic application to avoid creating unmet expectations that can lead to further exclusion.

Action

This commitment will deliver actions around three interlinked themes:

1. Improve the Participation Framework to be better used and more focused on inclusion and equality. Link policy, practice and decision making to build access to tools, advice, skills and confidence, better connecting participation resources to community practice.

2. Provide advice and support to ensure participation focuses on equality of access. Scottish Government is focusing on mainstreaming human rights and Equalities, and the rights of children and young people. This will create legislation and guidance that recognises participation is a human right. It is key that participation is designed and conducted with those 'furthest away' from government in mind – to help everyone engage.

The actions will seek to overcome barriers of: lack of understanding, skills, transparency and accountability. This means recognising and systematically addressing:

  • that methods used (e.g. consultations) are often not inclusive, or seen as a core part of the system of generating and using evidence
  • the need for careful resourcing, design and recruitment so that engagements are not with a limited and already up-skilled group. When individuals with protected characteristics are engaged with, processes should be designed with their needs in mind.

3. That it is often unclear if outputs from participation are influencing decision making. Innovative forms of democracy such as participatory budgeting or Citizens' Assemblies; use of digital platforms; and focused deliberation with particular groups, will be further strengthened. The Participation Framework will provide guidance so that these are institutionalised, with more systematic application to avoid creating unmet expectations that can lead to further exclusion.

Initial milestones

(Milestones will be updated accordingly)

Participation framework: developing knowledge and skills across SG (beginning autumn 2021)

  • develop general participation training for use with key sets of policy officials in SG, which has a focus on equalities mainstreaming, intersectional analysis and competent participation
  • deliver participation training for key groups of policy officials within Scottish Government
  • evaluate and reflect on training and subsequent participation activity, to develop more tailored training for use across SG

Participation Framework: embedding equalities and an inclusive approach (beginning autumn 2021)

Update PF to include:

  • an Equalities and Participation statement, explaining why participation is an equalities and human rights issue, and what our responsibilities are. This will include an update to the existing one page framework diagram, where there is currently no mention of equality or ‘who’ is being engaged
  • further information needs to be provided on exclusionary practice (e.g. funds to travel, digital exclusion) and actions to mitigate this
  • collaboratively develop a set of guidance on achieving representative samples of society, including going beyond known people and networks – this should focus on those furthest away from power, opportunity and wealth.
  • This will happen in stages:
  1. In the shorter term, develop options for more diverse ‘mini publics’ and engagement via specialist outreach groups, to ensure inclusion of people furthest away, and those who are not already included in SG data sets
  2. In the longer term, work with SG analysts to adapt SG data sets, making these as inclusive and intersectional as possible. This can link in with the Equalities Data Improvement Programme (EDIP)
  • In the longer term, develop and propose options for a central unit, the remit for which can include considering ways to support community capacity building needed to ensure successful and equitable participation. This can link in with the Open Government Network for Participation (below)
  • Collaboratively develop consistent and systematic monitoring and evaluation that will be embedded into participation delivery. This can form a key part of a framework that holds policy areas to account for how participation is happening, including multiple named contacts with dedicated responsibility for participation and regular Ministerial updates
  • As above, design and roll out a programme of PF training to build capacity on equalities mainstreaming, intersectional analysis and competent participation
  • Collaboratively consider ways to more explicitly align participation with equalities and human rights:
  1. frame communications and guidance in this way
  2. develop routes to normalise a view of implementing participation as part of upholding equalities and human rights commitments

Institutionalising Participation and Deliberative Democracy working group: reporting and beginning processes of change to make participation routine and effective (Autumn 2021 onwards)

We have set up an Institutionalising Participation and Deliberative Democracy that brings together experts from Scotland, UK and international organisations.

In autumn 2021, this Working Group will report its recommendations on how we can make participation routine and effective. These will include:

  • defining the principles, standards and aims of using participatory processes including (but not limited to) Citizens’ Assemblies
  • identifying methods of governance for delivering credible and trustworthy participatory democratic processes
  • setting out options and an indication of the resources necessary to establish and deliver these routinely and sustainably

The recommendations will be taken forward by a range of stakeholders, including the Open Government team. We will prepare milestones to measure progress towards these recommendations on the publication of the working group’s report.

  • defining the principles, standards and aims of using participatory processes including (but not limited to) Citizens’ Assemblies
  • identifying methods of governance for delivering credible and trustworthy participatory democratic processes
  • setting out options and an indication of the resources necessary to establish and deliver these routinely and sustainably

The recommendations will be taken forward by a range of stakeholders, including the Open Government team. We will prepare milestones to measure progress towards these recommendations on the publication of the working group’s report.

Embedding Open Government principles in the planning, conduct and outputs of annual Citizens’ Assemblies (from December 2021)

  • set out how SG will implement the outcomes of the Expert Working Group on Institutionalising Participatory and Deliberative Democracy
  • establish cross-portfolio working to support the delivery of deliberative democratic processes
  • Support the delivery of annual Citizens’ Assemblies from 2022 to meet the values and principles set out by the Expert Working Group on Institutionalising Participatory and Deliberative Democracy

Developing an active and inclusive Open Government Network for Participation (2022 onwards)

  • Establish Network: scope in collaboration with civil society, develop terms of reference (January 2022)
  • Engage Network as a key route to make the Participation Framework publicly useable and useful (February 2022)
  • Consider how the Network can be supported to engage with and provide shared learning and training opportunities for Ministers and government officials, and civil society. This will include reflecting on the role that civil society has and could have in taking better and fairer decisions and inclusively developing policy that meets a wide range of needs (2022 onwards)

Review of consultations - spend, approach, monitoring (Autumn 2022)

While consultations are an important tool and are currently the default method of seeking public views, they are not effective or inclusive for many parts of our society.  This project will put in place training to ensure that public servants understand the value of consultations in the context of other methods of participation.

The specific milestone deliverables over this period will be set out at each of the twice yearly reviews.

Monitoring the completion of local authorities delivery of 1% of budgets through participatory budgeting (from autumn 2021)

Scottish Local Authorities and the Scottish Government agreed a framework whereby at least 1% of local government budgets will be subject to Participatory Budgeting.  This establishes a shared expectation that together with elected members, officers, civil society and local communities we use Participatory Budgeting to go beyond current arrangements for consultation and engagement.

Originally agreed to be met by March 2021, the timeline has been revised to recognise the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic upon local government, people, and communities. There is a degree of flexibility available to councils as to when they can practicably meet it, and they will initially report in August 2021.

Implementation of the National Participatory Budgeting Strategic Group’s framework for the future of participatory budgeting and embedding open government principles (September 2021)

Established in September 2020 with an initial focus on establishing an overall framework for Participatory Budgeting over the lifetime of the following Scottish Parliament, the group deliberated on shared ambition, intentions and priority areas for development where there is energy and enthusiasm for the differences Participatory Budgeting can make. This resulted in a Framework for the Future of Participatory Budgeting in Scotland produced in July 2021.

The Framework establishes areas of priority where there is significant potential for a contribution from PB. These are education, health and wellbeing, housing and tackling climate change with our communities.

As milestones, this will be set out in autumn 2021.

Embedding Open Government principles in Just Transition participatory budgets

  • we will explore the use of Participatory Budgeting in 2021‑22 as part of our wider support for community‑led climate action
  • we will identify opportunities at COP26 to develop the concept of Participatory Budgeting for climate action – both in Scotland and abroad – and identify opportunities to develop programmes specifically involving schools and young people
  • we will work with local authorities to embed climate principles into wider participatory budgeting initiatives, building on the agreement between the Scottish Government and COSLA that at least 1% of council budgets will be subject to Participatory Budgeting by 2021‑22

Embedding Open Government principles in Just Transition participatory budgets

  • We will explore the use of Participatory Budgeting in 2021‑22 as part of our wider support for community‑led climate action
  • We will identify opportunities at COP26 to develop the concept of Participatory Budgeting for climate action – both in Scotland and abroad – and identify opportunities to develop programmes specifically involving schools and young people
  • We will work with local authorities to embed climate principles into wider participatory budgeting initiatives, building on the agreement between the Scottish Government and COSLA that at least 1% of council budgets will be subject to Participatory Budgeting by 2021‑22

Embedding Open Government principles in the Community Empowerment Act parliamentary review (2023)

By 2023, there is a requirement for the Community Empowerment Act to be reviewed. This will provide an opportunity for participation, and the application of Open Government principles of accountability and transparency.

We will develop actions and milestones when possible.

Embedding Open Government principles in the National Performance Framework refresh (2023)

  • early engagement and input into NPF refresh planning by Open Government team, ensuring awareness and understanding of Open Government principles
  • inclusive discussions and agreements about the practical applications of these principles to the NPF i.e. what would an NPF that is transparent, accountable and participatory could look like
  • collaborative development across NPF refresh process of a set of outcomes and indicators that are transparent, accountable and have been influenced by participatory processes

Embedding participation as a core skill in centre of expertise (new name to be confirmed) (October 2021 to December 2021)

We will work to develop a way of bringing together expertise to deliver priority reform projects. This will include embedding an equalities-focused approach to the Participation Framework across ways of working and addressing reform priorities.

We will develop actions and milestones when possible.

How the commitment will contribute to solving the problem described above

This commitment will contribute to solving the problem described above through the following outputs and outcomes.

  • provide guidance and advice to support the delivery of high-quality participation for Scotland's Covid Recovery, as well as the equalities and reform priorities
  • establish high-quality Citizens' Assemblies and other forms of participatory democracy as routine
  • establish a network with civil society to progress improving the Participation Framework and implementation of this Plan

There will be outputs from Participation Framework improvements that will feed into guidance, training and advice on participation.

  • set a clear definition of participation and the expectation that co-production or co-design will be used where possible.
  • improve guidance on representation and sampling, making these as inclusive and intersectional as possible, including linking to Equalities Data Improvement Programme.
  • explore ways to contribute to community capacity building to build more equitable participation, including ensuring participation funding incentivises inclusive engagement and targets marginalised communities.
  • establish transparent monitoring and evaluation that records how participation is happening and what it has influenced
  • explore ways to align participation with equalities and human rights
  • implement programmes of training to roll out the Participation Framework and build capacity on equalities mainstreaming
  • work with CSOs and procurement policies to ensure funding is targeted at under-funded groups or communities
  • work with Open Government Network to bring in voices with lived experience to Plan Commitments

OGP Value this commitment is relevant to

  • civic participation
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