I've been enjoying reading all the posts about open policymaking over on the Demsoc blog.
We've thought quite a lot about digital engagement at the Department of Health, and how we can use tools and techniques to invite people into the policymaking process. Our plans for how to do this better (and by default) will form a large part of the digital strategy that we publish in December.
Over the last year or so we've taken quite a few different approaches. Sometimes we've just wanted to explain policy effectively, sometimes we've wanted to invite people to join a public conversation, sometimes to help co-create policy. Our work has usually involved consulting the views of others in some way. Interestingly, our better examples of digital engagement tend not to have been around formal consultations.
I've described 5 different methods that we've used for policy engagement below. I'll post some of them as case studies for the Open Policymaking discussion too.
Long term conditions strategy
We asked stakeholders and others to contribute to the development of the cross government long term conditions strategy by asking them to submit comments openly on a DH website over 8 weeks, and by partnering with the doc2doc forum to host conversations about the issues that the strategy might cover.
We received 446 comments on this post, which went directly to the team working on the strategy along with the comments in the forums and more organic communities
We've been running a policy engagement campaign for the Dementia Challenge in partnership with the Alzheimer’s Society. The campaign has encouraged people to get involved with the champion groups who are reviewing how we tackle aspects of dementia care.
The campaign has mostly been delivered through social media and partners, with the department running only some of the engagement exercises itself on official channels, and curating the wider conversation centrally.
We have used DH channels to ask some consultation-style questions on behalf of the champion groups, including about how care for people with dementia and their carers could be improved and how we can create dementia friendly communities.
Care and support bill
We invited people to participate in the drafting of the Care and Support Bill.
We published the draft bill, inviting people to comment publicly clause by clause, providing people with an opportunity feed into the process of parliamentary scrutiny.
This is fairly niche engagement, but people have used the site to post 600 comments on the draft of the bill directly to the team working on the Bill.
Last year, we worked with the NHS Future Forum to help gather and understand feedback on the changes to the health and care system, during the pause in the progress of the Health and Social Care Bill.
The digital bits of the listening exercise included formal consultation-style questions on DH channels. 2,500+ comments were posted on our official engagement channel to be analysed by the future forum team.
And the work included personal engagement from the Forum leaders via blogs, webchats, participation in live blogs and outreach to online communities.
Maps and apps
This was a crowd-sourcing exercise over 6 weeks to identify and showcase the best existing health apps and the best ideas for new apps.
We used Ideascale to gather ideas, user comments and votes, supported by blogs and other social media to extend the conversation. There were 495 entries, with tens of thousands of votes and other interactions.
Our best examples tend to have a few things in common:
- They use multiple methods - sometimes asking questions, sometimes participating, sometimes on our own channels, sometimes elsewhere.
- They are delivered in partnership with others.
- They have a digital home, usually on an official site. But that's not necessarily where all the engagement happens.
- They include personal engagement - ministers, officials and partners openly taking part in digital conversations.
- They require energy and expertise from the digital team, and the full commitment of policy teams.
- They prompt involvement from people who wouldn't otherwise have felt they have an opportunity to contribute.
- There is a genuine need for engagement, and a desire to act on the results.