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Open Policy Making and Public Dialogue - What are they, how do they work and can they work for me?

Thursday 20th February, 13:00 till 15:30
BIS Conference Centre, 1 Victoria Street, London SW1H 0ET

On 20th February 2014, a group of 50 policy makers from across Whitehall attended an event jointly organised by Sciencewise and the Cabinet Office’s Open Policy Making Group. The purpose of the event was to build knowledge amongst policy makers of innovative practice around open policy making and dialogue; to help them explore how the issues might be relevant to their work; and to direct them towards sources of further support.  

The audience included representatives from the Department of Business Innovation and Skills; Department of Work and Pensions; DEFRA, Food Standards Agency; Home Office; Ministry of Justice; Defence Science and Technology Laboratory; Department of Communities and Local Government and the Home Office.

Maria Nyberg, Head of Open Policy Making at the Cabinet Office, gave an introduction to Open Policy Making. She described:
-    What is Open Policy Making?  
-    Why is Open Policy Making important? Why now? Where has this come from?
-    What impact does Open Policy Making have? How will it make government better?   

See Maria’s slides

Sir Roland Jackson, Executive Chair of Sciencewise, introduced the Sciencewise programme and using public dialogue as a tool for policymaking. He described:
-    What is Sciencewise?  What is public dialogue and how does it relate to Open Policy Making?
-    Why is public dialogue important?  Why now?  
-    What impact does public dialogue have?  How can it contribute to policymaking?

See Roland’s slides


Case Studies
Four case studies were introduced, each describing how open policy making or public dialogue had been used in real-life policy contexts:

1.    Steven Hill (RCUK) described his experience of using public dialogue to help research councils make decisions around managing and sharing research data, and how the public felt about making research data more open.  


2.    Laura Harbidge (BIS) described her work on consumer law reform within BIS, using online tools and social media to consult people on what they wanted consumer law reform to look like.  

See Laura’s slides here.


3.    Hannah Verdin (HFEA) described her experience running a public dialogue on mitochondrial replacement.  This work engaged the public to get their input on the ethical and practical dilemmas emerging from using this technique to prevent mitochondrial disease.

See Hannah’s slides here.


4.    Kalada Bruce-Jaja (FCO) described his work on policy capability in the foreign office, gave examples of efforts to make policy making more open in the FCO, and described some of the constraints and opportunities of such work.

Participants had the opportunity to hear in detail about two case studies of their choosing, and discussed these experiences direct with the speakers.

Action planning
In small groups, the participants discussed how Open Policy Making and public dialogue might be relevant to their own work.  They recorded these on Action Planning Forms, which have been used by the event organisers as the basis for targeted individual follow-up after the event.

Next steps
Amy Pollard presented the resources available for further support, both from Sciencewise and Open Policy Making. See Amy's slides here.

Participants filled in evaluation forms for the event.  These were strongly positive of the event, with 83% rating the event as good or very good, and 96% saying they would recommend similar events to a colleague.