Lifting the curtain on open government

My thoughts on building a community of open government champions across Scotland

What do people say about open government outside of Scotland’s Open Government Network?

Understanding this has been my focus in recent months, looking to lift the curtain on this agenda to allow wider Scottish civil society to look in and become champions of open government.

I’ve also been in listening mode, making it my business to understand what’s gone before and what progress looks like — compartmentalising feedback to build a critical perspective of open government in Scotland.

Then there’s getting the Big Lottery funded Pioneers Project up and running. This project is all about working with different communities to explore what an open government means in the context of the things that matter most across Scottish society. How do we ensure government truly serves its citizens rather than themselves first in areas such as health, education and housing?

Opening up government for ethnic minority communities event — May 2017

We’re using the broad agenda of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs)to frame those conversations, which means that my role consists of promoting not just one but two multilateral agendas here in Scotland. It’s some test, but one of the most exciting challenges I’ve faced.

The first few months have been about building the structures and relationships for a wider conversation around open government, with early work streams developed with a variety of groups, including women, disabled people and ethnic minority communities. It’s about identifying the issues, exploring the problems and creating solutions together.

IDEAS and Eco-Schools Young Advocates for Change event, audio produced by — June 2017

An example is our work with young people. Last week we co-hosted an event with Young Scot with a view to co-producing an unconference with young people around open government. This builds on our support for the Young Citizens Advocates series delivered by IDEAS and Eco-Schools, and our prospective work with Project Scotland to build a structured policy dialogue between young people and policy makers in Scotland.

Meeting of Scotland’s Sustainable Development Goals Network — July 2017

I’ve also been setting up Scotland’s SDG Network (here on Knowledgehub - check it out!) and our Global Goals site. The SDGs are an area where we’ve made significant progress in recent months, but I recognise that the goals aren’t everyone’s interest.

My attention now turns to the Open Government Network in Scotland. With a membership that’s nearly doubled in five months, and one that boasts an impressive cross-section of civil society, this network has brought more than 200 people together to help make government more open and I’m optimistic with where we can go together. And I’d like YOU to be part of it too!

This network hosts some of the brightest minds across civil society, and should be used as a place to bring people together, share expertise and ideas and strengthen the open government movement across Scotland.

Scottish Government and Civil Society presenting in Washington D.C. on the #opengovscot movement — July 2017

Our network must also grapple with the dynamic between government and the various parts of civil society as together we look to adopt a new way of working. Both parties will have different expectations, and civil society itself hosts individual agendas and perspectives.

But that is the beauty of a network, and my role is to work with this; we need Scotland’s Open Government Network to play host to different views and ideas or risk leaving the curtain closed.

If there is going to be another open government action plan (the current plan ends in December 2017), then the process needs to be different. Scotland’s Open Government Network needs to be different. We need to learn from best practice, but build something that connects with Scotland.

Over the next few weeks I will be looking to roll out topical interviews and ‘know your network’ profiles as a way to promote ideas, connect members and bring people into our network. I will continue to blog about my work over the next six months to allow you to job shadow me via Medium or the Open Government Network site.

It’s now over to you to get involved! This is your opportunity to join a young but growing network committed to making government work better for people in Scotland.

You can get in touch by contacting me at Or join Scotland’s Open Government Network. And make sure you're part of our Sustainable Development Goals Network here on Knowledgehub. 

Thanks for reading!

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