Open Government Partnership in NI – What’s the Next step?

Off the back of the hugely successful Open Government Partnership seminar held in Belfast at the end of May, the Building Change Trust are hosting a follow-up discussion this Thursday to see where we can go next with bringing this International Initiative to Northern Ireland.

The OGP is an international framework of government commitments to transparency, accountability and citizen participation. It functions in each signatory country via a government-civil society partnership, the role of the latter being to both support and hold governments to account for the commitments it has made.

Almost 1000 commitments have so far been made by governments as part of the OGP towards transparency, accountability and participation around the world. Of these, 29% have so far been delivered on time and 34% have been assessed by the OGP’s Independent Reporting Mechanism as having ‘transformative’ potential.

The Trust believes that civil society in Northern Ireland could organise and take action to bring the benefits of the OGP to Northern Ireland.

#ogpbelfast, which took place at Riddel Hall in Belfast, welcomed panellists from across the Voluntary, Community and Social Enterprise (VCSE) sector, as well as representatives from local academia.

Speaking at the event, Tim Hughes, Open Government Programme Manager, Involve, explained the nature of how OGP works, highlighting the UK process to date.

He said: “Involve and other members of the UK network would like to broaden their impact in future to include devolved regions. The current UK OGP action plan was one of the most successful co-creation processes anywhere in the world to date, notwithstanding the limited geographic reach”.

Patrick Corrigan, Amnesty International NI, speaking on the theme of the health of transparency, participation and accountability in Northern Ireland said that for many the term ‘Open Government’ is an oxymoron.

Adding: “We have heard rhetoric from the First Minister and Deputy First Minister back in 2009 saying they should be as open and transparent as possible, but experience since has been anything but. We should seize the Open Government agenda but it is not going to be easy – it’s a very long game”.

All speakers highlighted the need to convene an OGP working group to support the implementation in Northern Ireland, with the underlying aim to bring inclusivity and openness to real people across society.

The follow up event is being held at the VSB Foundation in Belfast between 1230 and 1430 on Thursday 12th  June 2014.

As well as this, to help inform the Trust’s strategy in resourcing this area of work, we  will be running a series of Idea Generation Workshops, designed to encourage innovation and creativity within the VCSE Sector.

The workshops will be aiming to generate new and forward thinking approaches to civic activism in Northern Ireland. In paralle the Trust has also commissioned Involve to undertake research to identify some of the most innovative approaches to civic engagement internationally.

At the end of both these processes the Trust will consider whether and how the best of these ideas could potentially be implemented in Northern Ireland.

This activity is all taking place as part of our work on the Creative Space for Civic Thinking theme.

The workshops will be held in as follows:

Belfast on 20th June at Clifton House.

Derry-Londonderry on 23 June at The Junction in conjunction with The Junction and Garden of Relfection.

Castlewellan on 24th June at Hillyard House.

Enniskillen on the 26th June with the Fermanagh Trust as part of the Xchange Summer School.

Paul Braithwaite, said: “We at the Trust are really excited about the ideas generation workshops.

“Not only do we want the ideas for civic activism projects to be innovative, imaginative and impactful, we want the process by which we come up with these ideas to be just as thought provoking.

“These workshops will not be the normal round table discussion, we hope they’ll be memorable and productive, culminating in some great ideas for how the Voluntary, Community and Social Enterprise Sector can help grow and develop civic activism in Northern Ireland”.

For more information, or to register for any of the workshops or the Open Government Partnership Seminar, please click here or contact Paul Braithwaite.

Paul Braithwaite works for the Building Change Trust, an endowment-based Trust set up in 2008 by the National Lottery to promote and support change in the Voluntary, Community and Social Enterprise sector in Northern Ireland. Paul leads on two of the Trust’s five themes: Social Innovation and Creative Space for Civic Thinking. Prior to joining the Trust Paul worked in a number of roles include community relations work in North Belfast and around 8 years in the international development field, including 4 years living abroad in Pakistan and the Democratic Republic of Congo.

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