Trust thinks Open Government may be the shift change Stormont desperately needs
The Building Change Trust, along with a wide range of Voluntary, Community and Social Enterprise (VCSE) Sector representatives highlighted the benefits of a more open and participative government on 5th November at an event at Malone House in Belfast.
The Trust were joined by the Minister for Finance and Personnel, Simon Hamilton MLA, Lizetta Lyster representing the UK Cabinet Office, Queen's University Belfast's Professor John Barry, Anne Colgan, Chair of Irish OGP Civil Society Forum, and speakers from across the UK and Ireland, at the event designed to progress an open government agenda in Northern Ireland.
A number of key representatives from the local VCSE sector were also in attendance.
‘Launch of the Northern Ireland Open Government Network’ was the first high profile event of its kind to push forward with the establishment of an open government campaign, with the Building Change Trust seeing it as a ‘win-win’ situation for society.
Paul Braithwaite, Development and Implementation Officer, Building Change Trust, said: “We feel that a more open and participative government would mean a more efficient and well run executive. We think that it could be the change of strategy that Stormont desperately needs at the moment.
“An open government would help to restore public faith in the integrity of the institutions through greater transparency, public participation and accountability.
"It creates a situation where the onus is no longer purely on the politicians to resolve intractable problems, but rather this becomes a shared endeavour across society.
"Citizens would have a greater say about government’s priorities so there is a greater match between public services and public needs".
Supporting the Open Government Partnership the Minister said: “I welcome the publication of the research commissioned through the Building Change Trust which brings focus and attention to the Open Government Partnership, and highlights the need for collaborative working to progress the open government agenda across Northern Ireland.
“Commitment to the Open Government Partnership from over 60 countries means that open government is now accepted as an integral part of public service delivery.
"I view an open government as a key underpinning principle of my public sector reform agenda. My Department has demonstrated its support for open government already in the areas of open policy making and open data.
“Our public sector innovation laboratory involves bringing together public servants, academics and members of the business and community and voluntary sectors to devise innovative solutions to problems facing the public sector.
“Opening up the policy making process to people from outside of Government brings a different insight and should lead to better, more tailored policy solutions.
“My reform agenda seeks to address the challenges we face through identifying and enabling new ways of working.
"Only by transforming our approach can we continue to provide the high level of public service our citizens have come to expect and Open Government can certainly assist us in that aim".
The Open Government Partnership (OGP) is an international framework of government commitments to transparency, accountability and participation.
"The UK is one of the founding nations and there are over 60 member countries, now including ROI which formally joined this year.
"One of the initiative’s key features is that it functions in each country through a joint and equal government – civil society partnership.
Paul Braithwaite added: “Currently the OGP has little impact in Northern Ireland due to the fact that the commitments made are almost entirely at central government level and hence only apply in England and to some extent Wales, with one commitment applying in Scotland.
"We are keen to build on the support generated at our last seminar in May in which we discussed the possibility of establishing more OGP commitments in Northern Ireland. We expect further feedback, positive debate and direction to arise from this event."
For more information contact Paul Braithwaite on firstname.lastname@example.org or via Twitter on @Paul_BCT or #opengovni