Deliberative Innovation: Research and Practice

This afternoon I was at a seminar on Deliberative Innovation: Research and Practice at Edinburgh University’s Institute for Advanced Studies in the Humanities. This was presented by Oliver Escobar and Stephen Elstub, and chaired by Sara Drury. It was great to to meet and learn from Oliver, Stephen, Sara, some of Sara’s students from Wabash College and others in a very varied gathering.

As usual, this post is mostly composed of my tweets, slightly edited for comprehensibility. Larger amendments and additions are in [square brackets]. The block-quotes are my thoughts.

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Initial lessons for Scottish PB (updated)

This is an update of a post from my first week in São Paulo, with input from my much better half. Mistakes of course are my fault, not hers.

  • If we don’t get PB right first time, people will lose confidence in it.
    • In this lesson, right can be replaced with good enough, because nothing is perfect, and Scotland is just learning to do PB.
    • This lesson means we need effective processes so that people know they have made the choices.
    • It also means that what is promised must be delivered near enough on time and near enough on budget.
      • This should happen in any context, no matter how much (or how little) money is involved.
      • We can argue about what near enough means at appropriate points.
  • Projects must be monitored as they proceed.
    • Also, due diligence/monitoring must happen at the end of project periods.
    • And that data must be analysed to see what is effective.
    • There should also be the possibility of discontinuing projects if it turns out that they are unlikely to be delivered, or if the benefits can be delivered in better ways, or if an urgent need arises for the money allocated to the project.
      • But this must be done transparently, and must not even appear to be party-political.
  • Don’t rely on revenue forecasts, because what is forecast may not materialise!
  • Annual cycles, i.e. projects that must be started and completed in a year, may be sub-optimal.
  • LeithChooses’ 2018 turnout (1000/20,000 = 5%) is good.
  • The current Scottish model of PB should have a deliberation stage before projects are formulated.
    • At the moment, PB process-runners (e.g.LeithChooses steering group) set themes, then invite projects.
    • The Brazilian model involves participatory deliberation on what the themes should be.
  • There should be some data gathered on who participates.
    • This is to show whether PB schemes are truly participatory, and whether they attract votes from people who need the services PB would offer.
  • Don’t build up an unhelpful bureaucracy around PB.
    • This may lead to clashes between parts of the bureaucracy that support different aims and objectives.
    • While spending money to create and perfect process is valid, wasting it on un-neccessary process is invalid, and puts people off the work.

Scottish Open Government Action Plan: launch event #OpenGovScot #OpenGovScotLAUNCH #OpenGov

I’ve been a mostly-quiet member of the Open Government Network Scotland for about two years. I’ve not done much, just quietly supported the idea that if we have access to facts and ideas, we can make more informed, and hence better, decisions. However, in December I spent a weekend proofreading a late draft of the new Open Government Action Plan, so I was delighted to be invited to this morning’s launch of the finished document.

As ever, this post is to consolidate and review my thinking and learning, as well as to share it. So errors and omissions in this account are mine.

Here is the agenda for the day. My tweets, thoughts and write-up follow it.

9:30 Official Launch (Livestreamed): Welcome speeches by, then Q&As with, co-chairs of Open Government Steering Group:

  • Cabinet Secretary for Government Business and Constitutional Relations, Michael Russell
  • Member of the Open Government Partnership International Steering Committee, Lucy McTernan
  • COSLA (Convention of Scottish Local Authorities) – Cllr Graham Houston, Vice President
10:30 Break
10:50 Workshop: Delivering the Action Plan in partnership and beyond

Group discussion questions: How do we work in partnership?
How do you want to be involved? How can government and civil society/third
sector work collaboratively together? How might this work? How do we take
this forward?
Table 1: financial transparency
Table 2: participation and public involvement
Table 3: access to information
Table 4: being more accountable
Table 5: transparency on Brexit

12:15 Closing remarks – Stephen Gallagher, Director of Local Government
12:30 Lunch and networking

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Slobbing in São Paulo

Tuesday 2019_01_15

As predicted, I’ve been slaving over a hot laptop all of today. There was an amount of administrivia to do. This wasn’t helped by the University’s VPN being very slow, and something deleting a calendar invitation to all researchers at Merchiston.

This may have happened as I was trying several alternatives to using Outlook via the VPN. It turns out that Outlook for Mac 2011 doesn’t sync with my university calendar well (or at least not quickly enough). Nor does Thunderbird. And the current freely available version of Outlook for Mac doesn’t work on my MacBook Air (early 2015 13″, running MacOS 10·13·6.) I refuse to pay a subscription for Office365. (A one-off purchase would be acceptable to me.)

The rest of the day was spent refining interview questions and focus-group questions. I can’t shake the feeling that this should be a quick process. However, logically, it takes time to work out what should be asked, then even longer to work out how it should be asked to avoid ambiguities.

Ah well, time to relax with a beer and for my personal side to blog about Brexit. Nighty-night!