Chapter 6. Mainstreaming citizen and stakeholder participation in the policy cycle in Argentina

This chapter assesses Argentina’s approaches to informing, consulting and engaging with citizens and other relevant stakeholders in open government reforms. It argues that institutional communication can help raise awareness regarding the benefits that effective stakeholder participation can yield, such as higher trust in government. The chapter outlines the various good practices that the central government, ministries and provinces have implemented and the important role of the third Open Government Partnership Action Plan of Argentina. The final section presents recommendations on how to align existing practices and move towards an integrated approach for stakeholder participation.

    

Introduction

Information, consultation and engagement are the key elements of stakeholder participation.

Stakeholder participation is a core open government principle and lies at the heart of inclusive policy making. Today, according to the global civil society alliance, CIVICUS, “Argentine civil society is robust and highly visible and has played a positive role in recent legal reforms”. Their overview further notes that “(t)he right to create and operate civil society organisations is guaranteed in Argentina. Non-governmental organisations (NGOs), trade unions, grassroots organisations and advocacy groups are legally recognised, are robust and play a major role in society” (CIVICUS, 2016). Despite these positive findings, representatives from civil society organisations, academia and other stakeholders, interviewed for this Review, noted room for further improvement in terms of being informed and consulted, and actively participating in the policy cycle. The following chapter provides an assessment of and recommendations for improving the environment for participation in Argentina.

According to the OECD Recommendation of the Council on Open Government, stakeholders are defined as “any interested and/or affected party, including: individuals, regardless of their age, gender, sexual orientation, religious and political affiliations; and institutions and organisations, whether governmental or non-governmental, from civil society, academia, the media or the private sector”. Stakeholder participation, in turn, is defined by the OECD Recommendation (2017b) as, “all the ways in which stakeholders can be involved in the policy cycle and in service design and delivery”. The OECD uses a model that distinguishes between different degrees of stakeholder participation:

  • Information refers to an initial level of participation characterised by a one-way relationship in which the government produces and delivers information to stakeholders. It covers both on-demand provision of information and “proactive” measures by the government to disseminate information.

  • Consultation refers to a more advanced level of participation that entails a two-way relationship in which stakeholders provide feedback to the government and vice-versa. It is based on prior definition of the issue for which views are being sought and requires the provision of relevant information, in addition to feedback on the outcomes of the process.

  • Engagement refers to instances where stakeholders are given the opportunity and the necessary resources (e.g. information, data and digital tools) to collaborate during all phases of the policy cycle and in service design and delivery (OECD, 2016).

The first part of this chapter assesses Argentina’s efforts to further improve public communication, with a strong focus on the initial degree of stakeholder participation. The second part examines initiatives taken by the Government of Argentina to consult and engage stakeholders in the policy-making cycle.

Box ‎6.1. Provision 6, 8 and 9 of the OECD Recommendation of the Council on Open Government

“Actively communicate on open government strategies and initiatives, as well as on their outputs, outcomes and impacts, in order to ensure that they are well-known within and outside government, to favour their uptake, as well as to stimulate stakeholder buy-in.”

“Grant all stakeholders equal and fair opportunities to be informed and consulted and actively engage them in all phases of the policy cycle and service design and delivery. This should be done with adequate time and at minimal cost, while avoiding duplication to minimise consultation fatigue. Further, specific efforts should be dedicated to reaching out to the most relevant, vulnerable, underrepresented, or marginalised groups in society, while avoiding undue influence and policy capture.”

“Promote innovative ways to effectively engage with stakeholders to source ideas and co-create solutions and seize the opportunities provided by digital government tools, including through the use of open government data, to support the achievement of the objectives of open government strategies and initiatives.”

Source: OECD (2017b), Recommendation of the Council on Open Government, OECD, Paris, https://legalinstruments.oecd.org/en/instruments/OECD-LEGAL-0438 (accessed 30 November 2018).

Using public communication as a lever for open government

Argentina is making use of the potential of public communication in support of open government.

Public communication plays a fundamental role in the everyday lives of citizens, as it allows them to gain access to relevant information and acts as a precondition for engaging with their government on issues that matter most to them. Beyond simply serving to disseminate information, when delivered strategically public communication can support better policy making and service delivery, as it raises awareness about reforms and helps to change behaviour. As such, communication can promote greater transparency and participation and therefore acts as a key pillar of open government reforms, as reflected in provisions 6 and 8 of the OECD Recommendation of the Council on Open Government (OECD, 2016; OECD, 2019a).

Efforts to improve public communication are happening in a context of unparalleled technological advances and increasing use of digital technologies and social media, which are introducing new possibilities for government-citizen interaction, and allowing public administrations to reach a wider audience in more rapid and cost-effective ways. However, such opportunities also come with challenges. Examples across the globe point to how social media can propel disinformation at a speed often faster than the capacity of governments to react.

Box ‎6.2. The OECD’s work on public communication

The OECD has supported the creation and strengthening of networks on public communication in both Morocco and Tunisia, and has conducted data collection and analysis of the public communication landscape and media ecosystem in both countries, in addition to organising a series of capacity-building activities. The OECD further developed an analytical framework on open government and media and collected data on public communication to assess the current state of communication policies, institutions and practices. The data collection focuses on four areas: communication strategy, communication structures, communication methods and activities, and relations with the media. Based on the evidence gathered, the OECD will produce a series of benchmarking reports.

These reports will cover the following areas and include a focus on women and youth:

  • setting up public communication for increased transparency and stakeholder participation

  • access to information as a prerequisite for accountability

  • local and community media as levers for including citizens’ voices

  • online media, social media and citizen journalism and the challenges and opportunities they raise for hearing citizens’ voices

  • the contribution of media ecosystems to hearing citizens’ voices.

Source: OECD (n.d.), Open Government, OECD, Paris, www.oecd.org/gov/open-government.htm (accessed 5 December 2018).

Governments are increasingly aware of this issue and consider communication to be one of the top four priority tasks for their Centres of Government (CoG) (OECD, 2017b). However, the strategic use of communication in support of transparency, integrity, accountability and stakeholder participation remains an underexplored avenue across the OECD. In fact, only 10% of surveyed Centres of Government list the promotion of transparency and stakeholder participation as a key objective of their communication strategy (OECD, 2017b). Similarly, only around 2% of commitments included in OGP National Action Plans relate to media and communication (OGP Explorer, 2018).

Box ‎6.3. Public communication and its potential to improve policy making and service delivery

Governments are increasingly recognising the potential of communication activities to improve policy making and service delivery, and are implementing a wide variety of innovative approaches to communicate with their audiences.

The “Food is GREAT” campaign led by the Department of Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) of the United Kingdom, as part of the government-wide “GREAT Britain” campaign, has helped boost British trade in food and drink exports from GBP 20.1 billion in 2016 to more than GBP 22 billion in 2017-18. The campaign is on its way to achieving its 2020 target for exports of GBP 29 billion.

The “Change4life: sugar smart” campaign by Public Health England aimed at improving the nation’s health, by making sugar content visible and real through the Sugar Smart App and advertising across 750 supermarkets. The campaign has helped to change the behaviour of families across the country, with 30% of mothers reporting that the campaign made them reduce their child’s sugar intake – a figure that rose to 80% among those who had downloaded the app. A test and control study conducted outside supermarkets showed that the campaign led to a 4% decrease in sales of sugary cereals, a 3% decrease in sales of sugary drinks, and a 4% increase in diet drinks during and after the campaign.

The AdoptUSKids campaign run by the US Children’s Bureau aimed to increase the number of children placed in permanent and loving homes. According to response numbers and follow-up surveys, the Ad Council estimates that the campaign has helped spur more than 24 000 adoptions of children from foster care.

Source: PR Week (7 August 2018), “Case Study: Food is GREAT campaign celebrates surge in exports”, PR Week, www.prweek.com/article/1489784/case-study-food-great-campaign-celebrates-surge-exports, (accessed 5 December 2018); Government Communication Service (n.d.), Case Studies: Campaign Highlights 2016/17, UK Government, London, https://gcs.civilservice.gov.uk/guidance/campaigns/case-studies (accessed 5 December 2018); The Government & Public Sector Practice (n.d.), The Leader’s Report, https://sites.wpp.com/govtpractice/insights/leaders-report (accessed 5 December 2018).

Argentina could improve communication about open government reforms beyond the initiatives taken within the framework of the OGP process

In recent years, public communication has grown substantively in Argentina in size and scope – namely through increased public investments in communication initiatives, the growing presence of government on social media, and the creation of websites and data portals for the different ministries (CPI, 2017; Ure et al., 2017). However, despite ongoing efforts, the Government Secretariat of Modernisation (SGM) noted during OECD interviews that citizens were still generally unaware of existing initiatives and progress towards opening up the government – a challenge common to many OECD countries.

The 2015 OECD Survey on Open Government Co-ordination and Citizen Participation in the Policy Cycle found that 22 OECD member countries also identified the recurring “lack of, or insufficient communication and awareness of the benefits of open government reforms amongst public officials” as a key challenge to implementing open government reforms (OECD, 2016). When the OECD Surveys on Open Government in Argentina asked respondents to name the main challenges to the successful implementation of participation initiatives with relevant stakeholders. 83% of ministries acknowledged that stakeholders are not sufficiently informed about participation opportunities, with a similar share of provinces responding accordingly (80%) (Figure 6.1).

Figure ‎6.1. Is communication one of the top 5 challenges to successfully implement participation initiatives with relevant stakeholders?
Figure ‎6.1. Is communication one of the top 5 challenges to successfully implement participation initiatives with relevant stakeholders?

Source: Responses to OECD (2018), OECD Surveys on Open Government in Argentina, OECD, Paris.

As discussed in Chapter 2 on the Policy Framework, the then Ministry of Modernisation (MoM) put forth a State Modernisation Plan in 2016, which included open government initiatives as one of its six pillars. To accompany this reform, the Ministry developed a communication strategy with a strong social media focus. It included several activities targeting different segments of the population through the use of diverse channels, including social media platforms, emails, videos, printed communication material (i.e. posters and flyers), institutional websites and interactive forums (notably, the conference Argentina Abierta presented in Chapter 7 on the Open State).

In interviews conducted during the fact-finding missions, the OECD discussed the challenges facing the team in charge of communication in the SGM. The representatives noted that they are a small team (consisting mainly of two people who are responsible for communicating about open government initiatives) without a fixed budget upon which to rely. The move of the then MoM to the Chief of the Cabinet of Ministers Office (Oficina de la Jefatura de Gabinete de Ministros) presented the possibility of obtaining more privileged access to communication channels with greater outreach. Prior to the restructuring, the communications team shared around three to four initiatives per year with the Presidency’s communication channels, which only permitted communication on major events and initiatives on topics related to open government.

There is room to strengthen open government communication within the administration.

A key element supporting the implementation of open government agendas is effective communication about initiatives within and among government agencies. Survey results show that line ministries and provinces are using internal communication channels to disseminate information about open government reforms. In fact, 16 out of 20 surveyed ministries had informed public officials about the existence and scope of open government strategies and initiatives. The same applies to 12 out of 15 provinces. However, in Argentina, only 20% of ministries have a clear communication strategy. According to the OECD Surveys, internal circulars are used by 46% of responding ministries and 20% of provinces (Figure 6.2).

Figure ‎6.2. Approach of institutions informing other public servants about the existence and scope of open government strategies and initiatives, as well as their benefits
Figure ‎6.2. Approach of institutions informing other public servants about the existence and scope of open government strategies and initiatives, as well as their benefits

Note: Data for provinces for the option Existence of a specific communication strategy are not available

Source: Responses to OECD (2018), OECD Surveys on Open Government in Argentina, OECD, Paris.

Potential remains to improve the co-ordination of messages on open government initiatives both horizontally and vertically.

The co-ordination of messages on open government initiatives, both horizontally and vertically, is crucial to maximise their uptake and to promote the effort to move towards an open state. Open Government Contact Points from line ministries, all branches of the state and the subnational level, as suggested in Chapter 4 on Implementation, could be involved in communication efforts on open government.

Box ‎6.4. Examples of public communication networks facilitating co-ordination

Italy’s #PASocial

In Italy, public communicators have been organising events since 2015 to exchange good practices and lessons learned around public communication, and to facilitate co-ordination. This approach has since evolved with the establishment of a public association (#PASocial) currently comprising 300 people. The association works for the promotion of good practices, exchanges between peers and training in the field of public communication.

Estonia’s Communication Co-ordination Council

The inter-ministerial Government Communication Co-ordination Council meets every week to exchange information and organise communication activities. The Council is responsible for discussing government communication topics, making proposals for instructions governing the organisation of work in the field, consulting with the Government Office with regard to amending and establishing legal acts pertaining to government communication, and discussing and adopting positions on key matters pertaining to government communication. The working meetings of the Co-ordination Council are chaired by the Director of Government Communication and include heads of communications units at the ministries.

Source: Government Office of Estonia (2017), Government Communication Handbook, Tallinn,

www.valitsus.ee/sites/default/files/content-editors/failid/government_communication_handbook_eng_13.09.2017.pdf (accessed 5 December 2018).

In this respect, the Secretariat of Modernisation could strengthen its role as the co-ordinating actor of open government communication in collaboration with the Secretary of Public Communication in the CMO. Together, they could convene regular meetings with Open Government Contact Points and all communication officers of the government to strengthen their involvement in communication about open government initiatives, and share good practices as well as lessons learned. In addition, the Secretariat of Modernisation could benefit from including communication objectives and activities for open government in its overall communication plan. Involving all ministries and provinces in the implementation of the Secretariat of Modernisation’s communication plan would ensure that the messages communicated by all actors involved in open government initiatives are harmonised, as is done in the case of Lithuania’s OGP Action Plan (Box 6.5).

Box ‎6.5. Lithuania’s 2016-2018 OGP National Action Plan: Promoting openness by developing and implementing measures for publicising information about government activities and civic participation in governance

The Government of Lithuania used its 2016-2018 Open Government Partnership National Action Plan to promote a government-wide effort to improve public communication and civic participation. Specifically, the National Action Plan pointed to the lack of common standards for publicising information about government activities and the absence of consistent, high-quality communication efforts as barriers to ensuring uniform delivery of information and to motivating public engagement. The government noted that effective communication requires the active generation of interesting content and high-quality presentation, and that information about government activities should be easily accessible and presented in a clear and understandable format. At the same time, the public must have access to information on public governance processes and participation possibilities.

The commitments made under the National Action Plan therefore seek to promote the systematic publication of information, as well as to assist institutions to strengthen their communication capacities. Lithuania, led by the Office of the Government, will develop guidelines for the publication of governmental activities by creating common standards that promote interaction and accessibility. The Plan also calls for the publication of an electronic newsletter on government activities and the creation of templates for publicising government activities through social media. This example also highlights the opportunity to link institutional communication efforts to mutually reinforcing cross-sectoral initiatives, such as the OGP.

Source: OGP (n.d.), Lithuania 2016-2018 Open Government Partnership National Action Plan, Open Government Partnership, Washington, DC,

www.opengovpartnership.org/sites/default/files/AVP_planas_2016-2018_en%20%281%29.pdf (accessed 4 December 2018).

In addition to further efforts to communicate information about the national open government agenda, the Secretariat of Modernisation could encourage other ministries and provinces to increase communication on their own open government initiatives internally and externally. To this end, the SGM could provide them with specific guidance (i.e. a manual how to develop communication messages) or offer platforms for them to do so (i.e. sharing information about how to reach key stakeholders, using joint hashtags, etc.).

The Secretariat of Modernisation uses two-way communication approaches about open government initiatives and could increase its frequency

The SGM acknowledges the potential that a more structured communication approach offers, especially if implemented in conjunction with an outreach strategy on open government reforms that consists of diverse set of channels and activities. The latter include the use of one-way communication channels such as newsletters for national media, weekly mails to citizens, press conferences, the intervention of high-level officials on TV and radio shows, and the use of online blogs and daily social media updates.

The conference Argentina Abierta is an important part of the Secretariat’s outreach approach to disseminate information and gather feedback on current open government practices. Argentina Abierta brings together experts, academics, government officials, civil society organisations and citizens to exchange experiences, knowledge and lessons learned in the area of open government. This event recently held its third edition in May 2018, addressing themes such as access to information, data journalism and the use of new technologies to support the opening up of the government (in addition to transversal topics such as gender, natural resources and extractive industries) (SGM, 2018). The interactive nature of the conference provides for a good example of two-way communication in which civil society organisations (CSOs) have the possibility not only to be consulted, but also to exchange ideas face to face with government representatives.

The success of any open government initiative also depends on communicating its progress and the challenges encountered during implementation. For its third OGP Action Plan (2017-2019), Argentina has increased its communication endeavours, making use of new digital platforms, such as Trello, to inform participating ministries and citizens about the progress made on each commitment (see Chapter 5 on Monitoring and Evaluation). In addition, the third Action Plan highlights the relevance of communication throughout several of its commitments. For example, commitment 10 on the opening of information on gender equality includes an objective to collaborate with civil society to develop communication activities aimed at disseminating gender statistics (SGM, 2016).

The SGM also sends monthly bulletins on updates and news published in Trello to inform stakeholders about the implementation of OGP commitments. Additionally, public forums are organised and include discussion panels where the public servants responsible for implementing the respective commitments of the OGP Action Plan report on challenges and advances. These discussions are live-streamed through the SGM’s official YouTube channel. According to the SGM, these initiatives seek to encourage remote participation in the discussions, in particular from CSOs from other provinces, as well as to generate a record of the reports, which will serve both the OGP’s Independent Reporting Mechanism (IRM) researcher and the National Open Government Roundtable (GSM, n.d.).

At sector and provincial level, the approaches used to communicate with stakeholders vary. When asked about their outreach strategy, 17 out of 20 ministries confirmed that they carry out activities to raise awareness with the general public, in addition to 13 out of the 15 provinces. There are, however, clear differences in terms of the sophistication of the initiatives carried out. The then Ministry of Health, for example, organised a roundtable with relevant CSOs and other members of the public, while other ministries make use of open data portals.

The use of social media offers the potential to leverage more responsive and inclusive communication with citizens.

Digital technologies and social media platforms are drastically transforming the way governments share information, allowing them to rethink their communication approaches. The instantaneous, direct and interactive components of these platforms bring tangible benefits for governments, enabling them to be more transparent, participatory and collaborative (Graham, 2014). Interestingly, 94% of public administrations in OECD countries use social media and online tools as their preferred means of informing stakeholders about the existence of open government initiatives (OECD, 2016).

The use of social media represents an important tool for Argentina to leverage more responsive and inclusive communication, especially as the country is the regional leader in terms of online connectivity. Out of a population of approximately 44.7 million, about 93% are connected to the Internet and 67% have a Facebook account (Internet World Stats, 2018). Moreover, a study from Carrier & Asociados (2017) found that millennials (individuals aged 24–33) and centennials (persons aged below 24) are the segment of the population most present on social media, and in average connect through three main platforms – namely, Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.

According to the OECD CoG Survey (2017), 70% of centres of government have a clear social media strategy. In this respect, it is critical to ensure that all relevant communicators have the necessary resources and skills as well as clear guidelines on how to use these platforms to fully support a communication geared towards participation and transparency (see Box 6.6 for an example of the German Government’s social media guidelines).

Box ‎6.6. Germany’s guidelines on social media use by government

In recognition of the fact that social media is changing public communication, several public institutions in Germany have elaborated guidelines on its use for external communication. These include, among others, guidelines for federal ministries. These guidelines emphasise that as a citizen-friendly administration, the administration needs to communicate directly, fast and engage in a dialogue. As such, social media can supplement but not replace traditional public communication. The guidelines include information on:

  • different social media platforms and their advantages

  • private use of social media by public officials

  • how to engage in social media

    • compatibility of the legal requirements of the institution with the conditions of the social media platform

    • considering the target group

    • organisational structures, resources and the communication strategy

    • paying attention to the fact that social media does not comply with working hours

  • creating a profile

  • active and passive use of social media

  • remembering important issues such as: data privacy, freedom of information, accessibility of social media, copyright and liability issues.

Source: Die Bundesregierung (2013), “Handreichung zu sozialen Medien jetzt online verfügbar” [Help on social media now available online], 15 November 2013,www.verwaltung-innovativ.de/SharedDocs/Kurzmeldungen/DE/2013/handreichung_zu_sozialen_medien.html (accessed 21 November 2018)

Communication about open government reforms requires messages tailored to the needs of different stakeholders.

When designing communication approaches for open government reforms, citizens’ media consumption habits need to be taken into account to ensure that the most effective channels are used. Online news sites are the most important information source in Argentina, with nine out of ten online users turning to the Internet for news (Reuters Institute, 2018). For these users, television (76%) remains another important source, while print outlets (42%) are consumed by fewer people. The growing relevance of social media is of particular importance, with 72% of users accessing news stories via these platforms, including Facebook (60%), WhatsApp (37%), and YouTube (27%) (ibid.). Targeting the right audience through their preferred source of information has become a challenge for all governments. While online media reach a wide population, 7% of Argentinians are not online and 33% do not have a Facebook account (Internet World Stats, 2018).

Globally, citizens are increasingly participating in news production through citizen and community journalism. This trend offers an opportunity to showcase a wider variety of voices and engage in a public debate. In Argentina, 58% of the country shares news via social media, 35% comment on news via social media or websites (Reuters Institute, 2018), and 44% of Internet users consume user-generated content (Digital Strategy Consulting, 2012). Examples of such user-generated content include the platform VozData, launched by the newspaper La Nación. This collaborative open platform allows readers to digitise public documents and transform them into useful information. Such initiatives could be actively supported by providing training to citizen journalists as well as to traditional outlets on community management. Citizen journalists as well as community media could also be involved in open government communication efforts.

The provision of information and regular two-way communication with citizens and other stakeholders constitutes the basis for effective engagement with these groups. This topic constitutes the focus of the second part of this chapter.

Making use of the benefits of stakeholders participation

Enhancing stakeholder participation is one of the key objectives of the Government of Argentina.

Argentina’s current government has demonstrated its commitment to advancing the open government principle of stakeholder participation. References to citizen participation feature in two of the current government’s 100 priorities:

  • Priority 47: Citizen participation. “We believe in teamwork, not only within the Government but between the State and society. We want to expand these networks to work more and more with social organisations, volunteers and companies to reach each of the people who need it.”

  • Priority 84: Open government. “A contemporary state is more open, transparent and close to the citizens. With the objective of opening up public administration, we are strengthening the practices of open government at the federal level by fostering accountability, citizen participation, new technologies and public innovation.”

In addition, Argentina’s State Modernisation Plan (see Chapter 2 on the Policy Framework) makes explicit reference to citizens in its declared aim to “strengthen trust with citizens and the protection of their rights, providing goods and services of quality and effectively promoting initiatives by the people” (Presidency of Argentina, 2016). The Plan also seeks to better “co-ordinate the administration and creation of digital channels through telecommunications networks to facilitate information sharing, such as through mobile applications, social networks, etc.” as well as to “publish all relevant information for citizens about the services that are provided” (ibid.).

Argentina could move from information and consultation to more advanced engagement practices.

The benefits of stakeholder participation were recognised in the OECD Recommendation of the Council on Open Government in 2018, to which OECD countries as well as Argentina are adherents. The Recommendation affirms “that stakeholder participation increases government accountability, broadens citizens’ empowerment and influence on decisions, builds civic capacity, improves the evidence base for policy-making, reduces implementation costs, and taps wider networks for innovation in policy-making and service delivery”. The following section is guided by the elements of Provision 8 of the OECD Recommendation.

To make use of the benefits that stakeholder participation can yield, governments need to ensure that stakeholders have equal access to opportunities for participation. According to data collected for perception surveys by Latinobarómetro in Argentina, when asked by whom their country is governed, more than two-thirds (73%) of the people polled responded “powerful groups acting in their own interest”. A mere 26% responded that the country is governed for the good of the entire population (Latinobarómetro, n.d.) (Figure 6.3). According to the OECD, any situation “where public decisions over policies are directed away from the public interest towards a special interest” can be characterised as policy capture (OECD 2017b). As argued in more detail in the OECD Integrity Review of Argentina, policy capture is the opposite of inclusive policy making and weakens democracy and its core values (OECD, 2019a). The Review argues that: “To overcome the concentration of economic resources in the hands of ever-fewer people (…), and to enable an environment conducive to inclusive growth that promotes innovation and competition and reduces inequalities, Argentina should (…) aim at improving its policy-making processes by making them more accessible, inclusive and subject to public accountability” (ibid.).

Figure ‎6.3. The majority of Argentinians believe that a few powerful groups dominate their country
Figure ‎6.3. The majority of Argentinians believe that a few powerful groups dominate their country

Note: “In general terms, would you say that your country is governed by a few powerful groups for their own benefit, or that it is ruled for the good of the whole population? The original question reads as: “En términos generales ¿diría usted que (país) está gobernado por unos cuantos grupos poderosos en su propio beneficio, o que está gobernado para el bien de todo el pueblo?” Overall, this survey was conducted in 18 countries in the region (Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Mexico, Nicaragua, Panama, Paraguay, Peru, Uruguay and Venezuela).

Source: Latinobarómetro (2017), Análisis Online [Online Analysis] (database), www.latinobarometro.org/latOnline.jsp (accessed 5 December 2018).

While stakeholder participation can play a vital role in overcoming the concentration of economic resources, its benefits extend beyond countering policy capture. Stakeholder participation is at the very core of participation and can have a positive impact on the perception of democracy and accountability at all levels of the state. The benefits can be divided into two clusters (OECD, 2016; OECD, 2015a; Corella, 2011):

  • Instrumental benefits (i.e. better results): this is based on the idea that participation can improve the quality of policies, laws and services, by enabling them to be elaborated, implemented and evaluated based on better evidence and more informed choices. They may also benefit from the innovative ideas of citizens and be more cost-effective.

  • Intrinsic benefits (i.e. a better and more democratic policy-making process): this refers to the improvement and democratisation of the process, which becomes more transparent, inclusive, legitimate and accountable through participation. A better process can contribute to strengthening representative democracy, building trust in government and creating social cohesion.

In order for the Government of Argentina to access the potential benefits yielded by the inclusion of stakeholders in policy making, it must ensure the continuous provision of information, effective consultation and active engagement. To this end, an institutional framework that ensures a co-ordinated approach for these initiatives is crucial.

Creating a culture of open governance requires building a more solid institutional framework for stakeholder participation in line ministries and provinces.

Chapter 4 assessed the overall institutional framework for open government in Argentina. The following section focuses on the specific institutional framework for stakeholder participation as well as citizens’ and civil society participation in the National Roundtables related to open government. Two Roundtables are directly concerned here, namely the National Open Government Roundtable (Mesa Nacional de Gobierno Abierto) and the Roundtable on Integrity (Mesa de Integridad). However, the latter does not include representatives from civil society. In contrast, the National Open Government Roundtable offers a seat at the table to the following CSOs:

  • Civil Association for Equality and Justice (Asociación Civil por la Igualdad y la Justicia, ACIJ)

  • Directorio Legislativo

  • Latin American Centre for Human Rights (Centro Latinoamericano de Derechos Humanos, CLADH)

  • Foundation for Studying and Research on Women (Fundación para el Estudio e Investigación de la Mujer, FEIM)

In order to comply with the membership requirements of the OGP, it is necessary for governments to set up a permanent working space with civil society. In Argentina, the National Open Government Roundtable, which first met in July 2017, brings together four government representatives and four civil society organisations. At present, the Roundtable has a strong focus on the OGP agenda, however representatives of CSOs and government officials have noted the intent to extend the focus of the Roundtable to initiatives independent of the OGP process.

The four CSOs that participate in the Roundtable represent important policy areas, in which they are able to exert influence on the political agenda of the country. They also retain a strong focus on transparency or accountability. However, civil society organisations active in specific sectoral policy areas, such as environment or transport, have not yet been integrated into the Roundtable or the open government agenda of Argentina as a whole. As argued throughout this Review, open government and its principles can function as a catalyst for all policy areas. CSOs that are already part of the Roundtable could therefore reach out to peer organisations which are not yet playing an active part in the open government agenda, to request their support for the mainstreaming of open government across government. Similarly, members of the Roundtable could partner with their peers in the provinces to actively support these organisations.

The National Roundtable on Open Government constitutes an important step in institutionalising the Government of Argentina’s engagement with civil society organisations. However, in order to further broaden representation, it may be advisable also to consider participation by the private sector (e.g. through business associations), trade unions and academia. This would ensure a higher degree of inclusiveness and extend the Roundtable’s scope beyond a focus on transparency and accountability to sectoral policies.

In the second half of 2018, the then Ministry of Modernisation launched a public consultation on the regulation and re-organisation of the National Roundtable on Open Government. On 18 October 2018, the Secretariat met with the CSOs that form part of the OGP process to assess comments received during the public consultation. During the meeting, the comments were discussed and examined with a view to integrating them into the regulations of the Roundtable (Presidency of Argentina, 2018). Although at the time of writing (November 2018), the institutionalisation of the Roundtable has not been finalised, the inclusive nature of the re-organisation process represents a positive step in strengthening the relevance of the Roundtable in the open government agenda.

Chapter 4 on Implementation proposes the creation of a National Open Government Steering Committee to lead the country’s open government and open state agenda. Should Argentina decide to create the Steering Committee, participation from all stakeholders, including civil society, academia and the private sector will of course have to be ensured. The National Open Government Steering Committee could provide for a forum of more regular and institutionalised interaction between external stakeholders and the government. As argued before, civil society organisations could be given the opportunity to select members that represent their positions in the Committee (possibly through a rotation system). Should the Steering Committee decide to organise dedicated meetings on the open state issue, CSOs could facilitate this process by working closely with representatives from all branches and exerting pressure to hold them accountable.

Ministries should assign clear institutional responsibilities for stakeholder participation

In addition to ensuring the inclusion of civil society in the Roundtable, a number of ministries and provinces have established dedicated offices on stakeholder participation (Table 6.1). The Secretariat for Political and Institutional Affairs (Secretaría de Asuntos Políticos e Institucionales) of the Ministry of the Interior, Public Works and Housing (Ministerio del Interior, Obras Públicas y Vivienda) has a National Directorate dedicated to Community Relations and Citizen Participation (Dirección Nacional de Relaciones con la Comunidad y Participación Ciudadana). Its mandate includes the co-ordination and promotion of mechanisms that increase the legitimacy of representative institutions and broaden community participation in the decision-making processes of the administration. To this end, the Directorate designed three actions plans:

  • The Programme for the Promotion and Strengthening of Citizenship and Organisations of Civil Society aims at training citizens and CSOs.

  • The Programme of Technical Assistance and Research on Participation and Community Relations aims at deepening knowledge of different aspects of citizen participation and the different types of relationship that exist between the state and civil society, with a particular emphasis on the municipal sphere.

  • Special joint state-civil society projects oriented towards the design and organisation and implementation of initiatives in collaboration with governmental and non-governmental organisations involved in issues related to participation and community relations (Ministry of the Interior, Public Works and Housing, n.d.).

The National Directorate, moreover, offers a number of services and support to CSOs and local governments. These include training sessions for CSOs, citizens and officials that work on topics related to participation. Local governments seeking to incorporate spaces for participation into their legislation can also request technical assistance from the Directorate. Eventually, its mandate will include the elaboration of publications, events and projects that are jointly implemented with CSOs, in order to better respond to the demands of society (Government of Argentina, n.d.).

Table ‎6.1. Ministry offices responsible for stakeholder participation

Name of the ministry/institution

Name of the office

Staff numbers

INJUVE

Chief of Cabinet (Jefatura de Gabinete)

4

Ministry of Agroindustry

Directorate of Information and Public Statistics, Citizen Service Centre (Direccíon de Informacíon y Estadística Pública, Área de Atención al Ciudano)

N.A.

Ministry of Education

Commitment for Education (Compromiso por la Educación)

6

Ministry of Justice and Human Rights

Justice 2020 Programme (Programa Justicia 2020)

7

Ministry of Production

Mesa de Entrada

N.A.

Ministry of Work, Employment and Social Security

Citizen-oriented Centre (Centro de Orientación al Ciudadano)

20

Ministry of the Interior, Public Works and Housing (Secretariat for Political and Institutional Affairs)

National Directorate for Community Relations and Citizen Participation (Dirección Nacional de Relaciones con la Comunidad y Participación Ciudadana)

N.A.

Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Worship

Secretariat for Co-ordination and External Planning (Secretaría de Coordinación y Planificación Exterior)

N.A.

Secretary of Co-ordination of Mining Policy

Communication Office (Comunicación)

5

General Comptroller’s Office

Secretary-General (Secretaría General)

4

Note: Ministries not included in the table either did not answer this question or do not have an office dedicated to stakeholder participation.

Table ‎6.2. Offices in the provinces and the City of Buenos Aires in charge of stakeholder participation

Name of the province/city

Name of the office

Staff numbers

Chaco

Directorate of Open Government (Dirección de Gobierno Abierto – Centro de Gestión)

10

Salta

Citizen Service Centre (Centro de Atención Ciudadana, Secretaría de Modernización)

N.A.

Santa Fe

Undersecretariat of Strategic Planning (Subsecretaria de Planificación Estratégica)

12

Catamarca

Secretariat of Development and Citizen Participation (Secretaria de Desarrollo y Participación Ciudadana)

9

City of Buenos Aires

Secretariat of Citizen Administration and Service (Secretaría de Atención y Gestión Ciudadana)

N.A.

Note: Provinces not included in the table either did either not answer this question or do not have an office dedicated to stakeholder participation.

Offices dedicated to open government in ministries, public institutions and provinces are crucial to co-ordinate open government initiatives and provide strategic guidance. While it is not necessary to create an office that focuses solely on stakeholder participation, ministries and provinces could allocate the responsibility for open government initiatives to an existing office or newly created office. Informal Open Government Contact Points already established in most ministries provide a good starting point for the potential anchorage of offices.

The success and impact of the office on advancing open government in the respective institution or province is nevertheless dependent on financial and human resources, as well as political will. One positive example in this regard is the case of Santa Fe, where the Governor is a vocal supporter of open government through his publicly available agenda, and supports the incorporation of the concept of open government and an open state into the new draft State Constitution of Santa Fe (Notife, 2018).

Ministries and provinces need additional guidance from the central government in order to enhance their stakeholder participation practices.

The OECD Surveys asked ministries and provinces of Argentina about the challenges they face in the area stakeholder participation. Overall, the most frequently cited challenge was “stakeholders are not sufficiently informed about participation opportunities”, mentioned by 83% of line ministries and 80% of provinces. The second most frequently cited challenge was “insufficient awareness among public officials of the value added of stakeholder participation practice”, which was noted by 87% of provinces and 75% of ministries.

Figure ‎6.4. Self-perceived challenges for effective stakeholder participation at sector level and in the provinces
Figure ‎6.4. Self-perceived challenges for effective stakeholder participation at sector level and in the provinces

Note: Provinces and ministries were asked to list their five main challenges to implementing stakeholder participation and to rank them accordingly. The figure reflects the frequency of the challenge chosen, but does not reflect the ranking.

Source: Responses to OECD (2018), OECD Surveys on Open Government in Argentina, OECD, Paris.

The reported challenges for effective stakeholder participation underline the importance of institutional communication, as discussed in the first section of this chapter. They also highlight the need for additional guidance and awareness raising about the benefits of stakeholder participation, conducted either by the SGM or the Open Government Contact Points in the ministries. The diffusion of existing toolkits on open government, transparency, open data, public innovation and agile management offers significant potential to raise awareness about open government and its benefits. Moreover, networking and dissemination events such as Argentina Abierta and the Roundtables and COFEMOD represent opportunities to raise awareness about the existence and usefulness of these tools (see also Chapter 7 on the Open State).

Since cultural change is slow to trickle down and reach all sectors and branches of power, the SGM should continue disseminating existing toolkits and encourage provinces and line ministries to build on experience acquired during the OGP process to elaborate their own stakeholder participation initiatives. The Secretariat could also continue to provide technical support for the implementation of stakeholder participation initiatives, a service that received praise from provinces and line ministries in the OECD Surveys and interviews held during the fact-finding missions.

The informal Open Government Contact Points established with the Secretariat of Modernisation could be key actors in raising awareness of the benefits of stakeholder participation. Continuing the close co-operation between the Secretariat and the ministries would help to ensure commitment at sector level to engage stakeholders. In addition to co-ordinating the homogenous implementation of open government strategies and initiatives within their institutions, the Contact Points could help to disseminate and advocate for the use of toolkits related to open government across their respective institutions. They could, moreover, help to design training courses that sensitise policy makers in the ministries regarding stakeholder participation initiatives, as analysed in more detail in Chapter 4 on Implementation. This could be done in close co-operation with the National Institute for Public Administration (INAP) and the Design Academy of Public Policy, which offer similar courses. Additionally, the informal Contact Points could be capacitated using a “train the trainers approach” to even better support the policy makers in their ministries.

Harmonising and aligning scattered good practice to move towards an integrated approach for stakeholder participation

Stakeholders are informed and consulted on relevant policy areas in the provinces of Argentina, yet mostly on an ad hoc basis.

Involving stakeholders in policy areas most relevant to their lives can contribute to regaining trust in public institutions. According to data from the OECD Surveys, stakeholders in provinces are frequently involved in topics related to well-being/health (60%). With regard to consultation on the strategic plan of the province, stakeholders are involved in around two-thirds of provinces (67%). Provinces also engage stakeholders in policies related to environment (67%) (Figure 6.5).

Figure ‎6.5. Stakeholders are engaged in a number of important policy areas in Argentina’s provinces
Figure ‎6.5. Stakeholders are engaged in a number of important policy areas in Argentina’s provinces

Source: OECD (2018), OECD Surveys on Open Government in Argentina, OECD, Paris.

A significant number of provinces consult stakeholders on topics that are highly relevant for policy making, such as provincial infrastructure plans or strategic planning. As argued in more detail in the OECD Public Governance Scan Review on Enhancing Administrative Capacity at Sub-National Level for Better Planning and Open Government in Colombia (2019b), the inclusion of citizens, NGOs and representatives from the private sector in strategic planning can lead to higher responsiveness to stakeholders’ needs. A project from the City of Buenos Aires offers a good practice on engaging citizens in urban planning and the re-organisation of their neighbourhood (Box 6.7).

Box ‎6.7. Asking the neighbours: Buenos Aires’ participatory approach to upgrading and integrating slum communities in the City

In many cities, the majority of projects in urban planning are implemented using a top-down approach. Not so in Buenos Aires. The Ministry of Housing elaborated an innovative participatory approach to engage the residents of the slum communities in designing and implementing projects that seek to improve access to infrastructure (gas, water or electricity) or integration of the community into the City. The slum-upgrading project has three principal integration aims: a) housing integration (providing adequate housing for families and security of tenure through the construction of a new neighbourhood); b) urban integration (installing basic infrastructure); and c) socio-economic integration (improving access to health, education and employment opportunities).

Features of the participatory approach

The process was initiated two years ago in the Villa 20 Buenos Aires city slum, where around 20 000 residents of Buenos Aires (Porteños) were living in dire housing conditions without access to water, gas or electricity. In order to better understand the needs and receive suggestions for improvements, the ministry organised a participatory roundtable. At the meetings, resident representatives, neighbourhood social organisations, the city ombudsman and the Ministry itself gathered to find a consensus on the re-urbanisation of the neighbourhood and its socio-urban integration. The board met on a weekly basis to allow sufficient time for thorough discussions and assessments. These participatory roundtables were established in each of the 30 blocks of the Villa 20 neighbourhood. A roundtable meeting of the entire neighbourhood took place twice a month and served to inform residents about the procedure and next steps. Eventually, the board prepared and approved the re-urbanisation bill, which was at the core of the project.

According to the President of the Housing Institute of the City of Buenos Aires, the benefits of this participatory approach can be summarised as follows:

  • “It improves the design and quality of the programme. If stakeholders help to make decisions at all stages of the programme, problems are more likely to be understood and solutions are more effective.

  • It enhances impact and sustainability through local ownership of projects and a sense of responsibility on the part of the community. This helps to overcome the paternalism in the relationship with public institutions in favour of a culture of rights and responsibilities – on both sides.

  • It contributes to overarching goals of good governance, democratisation and poverty reduction. It favours people’s empowerment, and helps to foster informed and responsible citizens.”

Source: Maquieyra, J. (2018), “Why Buenos Aires has put residents at the heart of slum upgrading, Apolitical, https://apolitical.co/solution_article/buenos-aires-residents-slum-upgrading (accessed 7 January 2019).

Another example where stakeholder participation improved the quality of reforms is the Bicentennial Houses of History and Culture Programme in Argentina (Box 6.8).

Box ‎6.8. Citizen participation in the cultural policies cycle of the Bicentennial Houses of History and Culture Programme in Argentina

Under the leadership of the Cultural Innovation Directorate at the National Ministry of Culture, the Government of Argentina is currently implementing an open government initiative that focuses on generating an open and collaborative space for citizens to meet and discuss local issues around culture and propose new solutions that improve the quality of life in the communities where they live. Currently, there is limited citizen participation in the process of developing public cultural policies and few spaces for discussion. The Ministry acknowledged this challenge and decided to develop a solution on the basis that “cultural policies have a direct impact on building identities, constructs, backgrounds and horizons in a society” (Secretariat of Modernisation, 2017). Together with civil society organisations, Museos Abiertos and the Estudio de Arte Dottore Malatesta, the Ministry of Culture seeks to explore ways to solve local challenges by strengthening the cultural links of local communities. In the context of the Bicentennial Houses of History and Culture Programme, the Ministry propose to empower the 117 existing cultural spaces across the country and use them as centres for social and cultural innovation to guide citizen participation.

Concretely, citizens are engaged through a number of initiatives that take place throughout the policy cycle (diagnosis, formulation, implementation and evaluation). These can be summarised as:

  • “focus groups, meetings and virtual instruments to analyse problems and opportunities for local creative industries

  • the Festival of Ideas programme at Bicentennial Houses, an open and collaborative space for exchange to co-create projects

  • implementation of projects co-created by the community

  • constant evaluation of the process through virtual and in-person tools” (Secretariat of Modernisation, 2017).

The Ministry committed to organising at least two open meetings with artists, cultural managers and civil society organisations working on topics related to culture, as well as public institutions. Since the initiative is restricted to the biennial implementation cycle of Argentina’s OGP Action Plan, the Ministry could use the valuable contacts established and lessons learned from the joint endeavour to develop additional inclusive initiatives that go beyond the Action Plan.

Source: Secretariat of Modernisation (2017), III Open Government National Plan of the Argentine Republic 2017-2019, Buenos Aires, www.opengovpartnership.org/sites/default/files/Argentina_Action-Plan_2017-2019_EN.pdf (accessed 5 December 2018).

While the topics on which citizens and other stakeholders are involved is crucial, it is important to reflect upon the stages of the policy cycle in which their engagement is most important (OECD, 2016). OECD data show that stakeholders in around 50% of provinces are involved in the identification (53%), drafting (53%) and implementation of policies (47%). However, overall only one-third of provinces include stakeholders in the evaluation of policies. As discussed in more detail in Chapter 5 on Monitoring and Evaluation, involving citizens and all stakeholders in the monitoring and evaluation of policies is of utmost importance, as it enables those involved in the process to assess whether and to what extent the process has (or has not) been successful in achieving its goals (OECD, 2016). One example in which concerned citizens were asked to provide their input on the process of evaluation is the Residents’ Panel in Canada (Box 6.9).

Box ‎6.9. The Ontario Residents’ Panel to Review the Condominium Act: An initiative in support of the Ontario Ministry of Consumer Services’ Condominium Act Review

One example in which citizens were involved in the reassessment of legislation comes from the Canadian Province of Ontario. In 2001, the Government of Ontario’s Condominium Act came into force, a “provincial legislation that governs the rights and responsibilities of condominium developers, owners, corporations, and boards of directors and establishes a number of protections for condominium buyers and owners”. Ever since, Ontario has experienced a boom in condominium construction that was propelled by densification policies and demographic changes, among others, with the result that by 2013, half of new homes in Ontario were condominiums.

In the light of these developments, the Government of Ontario decided to reform the 2001 Act in order to make it more responsive to the new needs and opportunities brought by the developments. The Ministry of Consumer Services was tasked with overseeing the review and decided to engage with the residents and property owners concerned by the Act. In order to evaluate the strengths and pitfalls of the Act, the Ministry partnered with experts in the field and created a three-stage process for the Review of the Act.

  • Stage 1: A Residents’ Review panel, one of the central components of the process, was established; the Ministry set up Stakeholder Roundtable Meetings; and the Minister organised Public Information Sessions, which included an option for residents to submit ideas about areas of the previous Act that did not address the challenges of their situation.

  • Stage 2: The expert panel assessed the findings and elaborated recommendations for the provincial government to review and alter the Act. The recommendations were also made available to the public to allow them to provide comments.

  • Stage 3: The Residents’ Panel met for a weekend to assess the recommendations and decide whether their comments had been considered. On this basis, the Panel provided comments on the report which informed the Action Plan, eventually resulting in recommendations to the Government of Ontario and the condominium sector and industry, to devise a renewed version of the Act that corresponds to the shifted reality of the sector.

Source: Government of Ontario (2013), The Ontario Residents’ Panel to Review the Condominium Act: An Initiative in Support of the Ontario Ministry of Consumer Services’ Condominium Act Review, Final report prepared for Public Policy Forum, Ottawa, https://files.ontario.ca/residents_panel_report_en.pdf (accessed 4 December 2018).

Good practices such as Innovación Abierta are essential tools to inform and consult with stakeholders.

A central approach of open policy making frequently used by the Secretariat of Modernisation to engage with stakeholders is the Open Innovation paradigm (Innovación Abierta). Managed by the UOG’s National Directorate for Public Innovation (Dirección Nacional de Innovación Pública), the concept was adopted from the private sector and translated into a valuable tool for stakeholder participation. The paradigm is used by the SGM to provide platforms and physical meetings in which participants share and co-create knowledge, assess public challenges and seek new approaches to tackle them (Table 6.4). According to the SGM, the Open Innovation paradigm catalyses knowledge, practices and objectives with a view to modernising the state and its link with society. Moreover, the composition of Argentina’s Open Innovation initiative is noteworthy, as it brings together representatives from the state, the private sector and civil society.

Table ‎6.3. Stakeholders involved in Open Innovation in Argentina

Participants

Role

Representatives of the state

Event organisers

Ensure consensus and participation, logistics and outreach, provision of methodologic framework

Specialists in the topic

Provide relevant information on the topic, participate in solution finding, assist with the mapping exercise and meet with involved stakeholders

Mentors

Facilitate the development of the projects, mainly by supporting experts from the public sector who work on the topic

Private sector

Entrepreneurs

Provide ideas for the development of the project

Developers

Provide technical input mainly during hackathons

Chambers and enterprises

Help to disseminate the ideas of the hackathons; provide speakers, experts and jury members

Data scientists, designers, communicators, inventors

Support the implementation process

Civil society

NGOs/associations

Provide an outside perspective, which can be especially important during the identification of priority topics; act on occasion as mentors and communicators

Academia

Play a crucial role in collaborating on communication, offer venues and participate as speakers, etc.

Source: Background Report provided by the Secretariat of Modernisation (unpublished).

As part of the Open Innovation paradigm, a number of ministries have organised hackathons on topics as diverse as technology and agriculture, tourism, territorial development and the environment (Box 6.10).

Box ‎6.10. Effectively involving citizens in relevant policy areas through hackathons

As part of the Open Innovation (Innovación Abierta) process, several ministries have organised hackathons on various policy areas. In one hackathon, the ministries of environment, production, science and technology and the teams from the provinces competed to generate an Environmental Innovation Project. The project seeks to facilitate the design and prototyping of technological projects that will offer solutions to specific environmental challenges. The initiative also sought to connect the technological community with the environmental sector, and to lay the foundations for the development of highly beneficial initiatives.

Key focal areas included:

  • Biodiversity – including the identification of threatened and/or endangered species and changes in their populations, the promotion of biodiversity and the use of databases in real time to record cases of illegal wildlife trafficking

  • Climate change – including innovative early warning systems that are accessible and effective in the context of climate change; increased effectiveness of protocols and action plans for extreme climatic events; increased awareness of climate change; and the collection, processing, storage, interpretation and/or availability of data relevant to climate change

  • Water – including simplification and reduction in costs of water sampling in watersheds, simplified and efficient monitoring of watersheds, and efficient use of water in the residential sector.

  • Waste collection – including the importance and perceived value of waste, alternatives for home organic waste treatment, detection of informal landfills, and collaborative work between urban collectors and the population.

Throughout the process, the main environmental challenges were defined through inter-sectoral discussions. The environmental challenges were then discussed to identify opportunities for innovation and to establish solutions together with the local entrepreneurial ecosystem. Presentations were held in the provinces of Chaco, Corrientes, Jujuy, La Rioja and Buenos Aires.

More than 200 entrepreneurs, professionals from academia, students, specialists in technology and the environmental sciences, and citizens participated in a hackathon that included envisioning, co-creation, development and prototyping of technological solutions to environmental challenges. The final incubation stage involved accompanying and strengthening the projects to enhance the implementation of the five hackathon-winning solutions.

This process – an example of various hackathons jointly organised by different ministries in Argentina – constitutes a good practice for effectively engaging citizens throughout the different steps of the policy cycle on projects that are meaningful and relevant to their lives.

Source: Background Report provided by the Secretariat of Modernisation (unpublished).

Another online engagement platform created within the framework of Open Innovation is Public Challenges (Desafíos Públicos). The platform offers citizens and other stakeholders the opportunity to co-create initiatives relevant to society. Citizens can participate by uploading innovative proposals and commenting on those of other participants (Secretariat of Modernisation, n.d.). In certain cases, mentors who are experts in the field provide support to citizens to help them solidify their proposal. The proposals are published on the website Argentina.gob.ar/desafiospublicos, where they can be read by anyone interested in the challenge (Presidency of Argentina, n.d.).

Encouraging all ministries to use the Platform for Public Consultation and Public Challenges

In addition to initiatives launched within the framework of Open Innovation, the Government of Argentina consults stakeholders through the Platform of Public Consultation (Plataforma de Consulta Pública). The platform was created to offer ministries the possibility to ask for citizens’ input on their respective policy areas. The platform is based on the open source online platform DemocracyOS. Stakeholders interested in participating consult an easy-to-understand manual which outlines the different steps involved. Users are then asked to either register through their Facebook page or to provide their full name and email address. According to information provided by the SGM, 21 consultations have been held involving more than 2 000 participants. Offering citizens and other stakeholders the possibility to participate and provide their input in an anonymous manner (without providing their Facebook profile data or full name) would further encourage people to contribute their opinion, and likely add to the number of inputs received.

Another good practice at the provincial level is the Citizen Innovation Laboratory of Santa Fe, SantaLab. The Laboratory (presented in more detail in Chapter 7 on the Open State) seeks to create a space for new forms of citizen organisation and self-organised groups that, through informal processes of citizen practice, make policy making more resilient and adaptive (Santa Fe, n.d.).

In order to simplify the consultation process for stakeholders, Argentina created a single Platform of Public Consultation. This process conducted by different ministries and institutions eliminates the confusion created by multiple platforms, and thus represents an important step in facilitating stakeholder participation. Any institution that seeks to create a similar platform should thus consider using the existing Platform of Public Consultation.

In the interviews conducted during the fact-finding missions, representatives from the national and provincial governments, as well as civil society, frequently cited Open Innovation, the Platform of Public Consultation and hackathons as central tools to foster exchanges. These tools, which were created by the Secretariat of Modernisation (borrowing in part from the private sector), have proven to be a significant resource.

Enlarging the variety of stakeholders that participate and reaching out to under-represented groups

Inclusive policy making requires governments to create channels that allow stakeholders to discuss challenges and find solutions.

Analysis of the frequency with which ministries use channels to inform, consult or engage stakeholders, shows that the full potential of social media and other tools is not being exploited. According to ministry estimates, only 29% of stakeholders have always or often used social media or participate in online consultations on the central government’s website. Rather, stakeholders tend to rely on the traditional approach of participating in public meetings (54% always or often). Stakeholders in the provinces seem to prefer social media as well as informal consultations (often used by 33% of stakeholders).

Overall, Figure 6.6 and Figure 6.7 do not highlight a preferred approach among stakeholders to engaging with provincial governments or line ministries. Accordingly, the provinces and ministries of Argentina could continue to diversify their participation approaches in order to include stakeholders that are reluctant to participate in a hackathon, for example. To this end, Table 6.4 provides a (non-exhaustive) overview of additional stakeholder participation practices that differ in their intended use, size of audience to be targeted and their organising entity.

Figure ‎6.6. Approaches to stakeholder participation in line ministries, 2017
Figure ‎6.6. Approaches to stakeholder participation in line ministries, 2017

Note: With which frequency have stakeholders used the following approaches to participate in the policy cycle in 2017? The missing percentage of options reflects the number of respondents who answered “I do not know”.

Source: Responses to OECD (2018), OECD Surveys on Open Government in Argentina, OECD, Paris.

Figure ‎6.7. Approaches to stakeholder participation in provinces, 2017
Figure ‎6.7. Approaches to stakeholder participation in provinces, 2017

Note: With which frequency have stakeholders used the following approaches to participate in the policy cycle in 2017?

Source: Responses to OECD (2018), OECD Surveys on Open Government in Argentina, OECD, Paris.

Table ‎6.4. Overview of stakeholder participation practices

Name of the initiative

Goal

Nature of topics discussed

Organiser

Duration/number of participants

21st Century Townhall Meeting

Advise decision makers through the use of modern technology

Mainly local issues (e.g. communal development)

Municipalities, agencies

1 day/ 500-5 000 people

Appreciative Inquiry

Initiate change processes, based on previous successes

Change processes in organisations and society

Enterprises, municipalities, agencies

Flexible

CitizenForum

Strengthen democratic competencies, initiate debate in society

Discussions on regional, national and transnational issues

Private foundations (to date)

Various weeks/300-10 000 people

Participatory budgeting

Citizens participate in budget decisions

Setting of priorities for expenditures and consolidation of local and communal budgets

Local politicians, local government

Various months (up to 10 000 people)

CitizenPanel

Advise decision makers

Feedback for politicians and service providers, long-term change in public perception

Local politicians, local government, other stakeholders

3-4 years (up to 4 surveys each year)/ 500-2 500 people

Citizens’ Council

Influence debates in society, advise decision makers

Communal development and local topics

Local politicians, local government, clubs, enterprises

2-day meetings in various months/ small groups of 8-12 people

Deliberative Polling

Information transfer, deliberation

Wide range of topics, ranging from local to transnational issues

Political decision makers

Various weeks/300-500 people

European Citizens’ Consultation

Information transfer, influence debates in society

Future of Europe, local and pan-European questions

Agencies and political decision makers

Various months/ groups of 25-150 people totalling up to 1 800 people

Consensus Conference

Exchange among experts and laypersons

Controversial topics of public interest, local to transnational questions

Agencies

3 days (+2 preparation weekends) /10-30 people

National Issues Forum

Information transfer, acquisition of competencies

Different topics linked to public organisation of local to national relevance

Municipalities, schools, universities and other educational institutions

1-2 days/10-20 people

Open Space Conference

Brainstorm and develop new ideas

Potentially any topic which requires a new or creative idea

Enterprises, clubs, agencies, communal agencies, educational institutions, church, etc.

1-3 days/ flexible (10-2 000 people)

Planning for Reality

Reorganise common spaces

Projects in urban planning

Local politicians, local government, similar institutions

Various months/ flexible

Planning Cell

Integrate citizens’ knowledge into planning decisions

Problems of local and regional planning (urban planning, infrastructure)

Local politicians, local government, similar institutions

2-4 days (flexible, max. 25 people per planning cell)

Scenario technique

Balance different future scenarios

Anticipation of future developments and issuing recommendations on different topics (local to transnational)

Enterprises, clubs, institutions, local government, educational institutions, church ,etc.

1-3 days/flexible (25-250 people, max. 30 people per group)

World Café

Use of collective intelligence

Potentially any topic which requires a new or creative idea

Enterprises, clubs, institutions, local government, educational institutions, church etc.

Flexible (3 hours to 2 days)/flexible (12-1 200 people)

Conference of the Future

Develop common perspectives, which are accepted by all stakeholders

Long-term strategies and goals for organisations and society

Enterprises, municipalities, institutions

2-3 days/ (ideally, a group of 64 people)

Future workshop

Develop creative approaches to solving complex challenges, and common perspectives on the future

Long-term changes and ways to influence processes and projects

Municipalities, institutions, organisations, clubs, etc.

2-3 days/ flexible (max. 25 people per group)

Source: based on Bertelsmann Foundation (2012), Politik beleben, Bürger beteiligen: Charakteristika neuer Beteiligungsmodelle [Reviving politics, involving citizens: Characteristics of new participation models], Bertelsmann Foundation, Gütersloh, Germany.

Argentina’s third OGP Action Plan is rooted in sound stakeholder participation.

According to interviews conducted with various representatives of civil society, the SGM made strategic use of the process of co-creation of the third OGP Action Plan to establish closer contact with other ministries and provincial representatives, and also to ensure more frequent and institutionalised interactions with CSOs. As discussed in Chapter 4 on Implementation, the OGP requires its participants to design their biennial Action Plans in an inclusive manner and to create spaces of engagement for a wide range of stakeholders.

Argentina’s process of creating the third OGP Action Plan was characterised by remarkable efforts to incorporate input from stakeholders in all parts of the country, not just the capital. The plan is based on the concept of “An Open State for the 21st century” in which the “government […] is at the service of its people” (Secretariat of Modernisation, 2017). In accordance with this vision, 54 civil society organisations and 28 state agencies participated in the co-creation process for third OGP Action Plan. During the co-creation of commitments for the provinces, 90 CSOs participated in roundtable discussions. Overall, their feedback on the process obtained during the first fact-finding mission was positive; moreover, CSOs urged the government to continue this outreach exercise for subsequent strategic documents and plans.

The inclusive approach used to design the third OGP Action Plan is rooted, among others, in feedback received on Argentina’s second OGP Action Plan. A core element of the recommendations provided by the OGP’s Independent Reporting Mechanism (IRM) was the need to ensure permanent consultation. The IRM advised the Government of Argentina to “institutionalise a permanent mechanism of co-ordination between the state and civil society, focused on the monitoring of the implementation of the commitments” (OGP, 2017). This advice was taken up by the government and resulted in the creation of the National Roundtable of Open Government.

Stakeholder participation is a key axis of the OGP Action Plan.

As with all countries that participate in the OGP, the biennial Action Plan in Argentina exerts a significant influence on the national open government agenda. The strong focus on stakeholder participation evident in the third Action Plan is reflected in the number of commitments devoted to this principle (Table 6.5). As noted throughout the Review, the inclusion of ten commitments in the OGP Action Plan under the responsibility of a number of different institutions poses challenges for overall co-ordination and implementation. Indeed, the Secretariat of Modernisation acknowledged during the fact-finding mission that various commitments, including those on stakeholder participation, have not yet been implemented. The institutions, moreover, admitted that completion of the activities and commitments is questionable within the two-year framework of the OGP Action Plan. The Secretariat’s decision to restrict the number of commitments in the forthcoming 2019-2021 Action Plan could thus lead to a higher implementation rate.

Table ‎6.5. Commitments related to stakeholder participation in Argentina’s 3rd OGP Action Plan

Name of the commitment

Lead implementing institution

Main objective as stated in the OGP Action Plan

#21 Improve the mechanism for the popular Initiatives

Secretariat for Political and Institutional Affairs; Ministry of Interior, Public Works and Housing

To promote the amendment of the existing legislation that regulates the popular initiative mechanism.

#22 Training programmes on open government practices

Secretariat of Municipal Affairs; Ministry of Interior, Public Works and Housing

To train local governments to pilot open government practices

#23 Participatory development of a National Plan for Equal Opportunities

National Women’s Institute

To use participatory tools to prepare a Plan for Equal Opportunities (PEO) with a focus on gender.

#24 Promotion of mechanisms incorporating civil society into the auditing cycle

General Audit Office

To intensify the link between the General Audit Office and civil society by implementing citizen participation mechanisms during the audit design stage and following report approval.

#25 Spaces for training and debate linked to the electoral process in Argentina

National Directorate for Electoral Matters; Ministry of Interior, Public Works and Housing

High levels of misinformation persist about the electoral process among young people aged 16-17 who, since the enactment of Law No. 26774 in 2012, are allowed to vote. This intensifies the lack of motivation among citizens at large to participate in the electoral process as poll officials, monitors or observers.

#26 Citizen consultation to generate statistical education data

Ministry of Education and Sports

To consult with civil society organisations (CSOs) engaged in education issues about data fields assessed by the SINIDE (Comprehensive Digital Educational Information System), including rurality, disabilities and teachers’ academic background, to analyse whether they meet the CSO’s needs, or whether they should include new measurement variables and, if so, work jointly on an education work table.

#27 Strengthening of the “Commitment to Education”, as a space for citizen participation

Ministry of Education and Sports

To contribute to quality and inclusive education through citizens’ participation in public policy making and monitoring; and to promote actions leading to appropriation of the space for citizens and dynamic intra- and inter-roundtable communication.

#28 Citizen participation in the cultural policies cycle of the Bicentennial Houses of History and Culture Programme

National Directorate for Cultural Innovation, Ministry of Culture

To promote citizen participation in the cultural public policy cycle and in the construction of state interventions in cultural expressions.

#29 Perceptions and representations from people with disabilities regarding service institutions

National Rehabilitation service – a decentralised institution under the Ministry of Health

To encourage dialogue to define priorities and disability public policy making, bringing together people with disabilities, their families and organisations in order to ensure compliance with the Convention.

#30 Roundtable on Habitat Policies

Undersecretariat for Habitat and Human Development; Secretariat of Housing and Habitat; Ministry of Interior, Public Works and Housing

To institutionalise and consolidate the Round Table on Habitat Policies; to create a workspace to analyse and make proposals on national public policies and contribute to the evaluation design.

Source: Secretariat of Modernisation (2017), III Open Government National Plan of the Republic of Argentina 2017-2019, Buenos Aires, www.opengovpartnership.org/sites/default/files/Argentina_Action-Plan_2017-2019_EN.pdf.

The government is working to ensure a continuous dialogue with stakeholders.

The OECD Recommendation stipulates that adherents should “grant all stakeholders equal and fair opportunities to be informed and consulted (…) and actively engage them in all phases of the policy cycle”. The following section provides a (non-exhaustive) overview of groups of society that the Government of Argentina seeks to involve in the policy cycle.

According to OECD data gathered, ministries and Secretariats in Argentina engage with stakeholders on a regular basis. Unsurprisingly, ministries engage most frequently with CSOs. In fact, 79% of ministries do so on a regular basis (Figure 6.8), with 46% of ministries engaging regularly with media representatives and journalists, and 58% engaging with academic institutions. These figures are comparably high vis-a-vis engagement with stakeholders in the ministries of OECD countries (Figure 6.9 and Figure 6.10). As building trust requires continuous engagement between ministries and stakeholders, Argentinian ministries should continue their efforts to reach out to all parts of society.

Figure ‎6.8. Frequency of ministerial engagement with stakeholders
Figure ‎6.8. Frequency of ministerial engagement with stakeholders

Source: Responses to OECD (2018), OECD Surveys on Open Government in Argentina, OECD, Paris.

Figure ‎6.9. Participation with different actors throughout the policy cycle in finance ministries
Figure ‎6.9. Participation with different actors throughout the policy cycle in finance ministries

Note: Data based on 37 countries’ finance ministries (OECD 31).

Source: Country responses to OECD (2015), 2015 OECD Survey on Open Government Co-ordination and Citizen Participation in the Policy Cycle, OECD, Paris.

Figure ‎6.10. Participation with different actors throughout the policy cycle in health ministries
Figure ‎6.10. Participation with different actors throughout the policy cycle in health ministries

Source: Country responses to OECD (2015), 2015 OECD Survey on Open Government Co-ordination and Citizen Participation in the Policy Cycle, OECD, Paris.

Moving beyond the usual suspects: Amplifying the variety of stakeholders that participate and reaching out to underrepresented groups

As stipulated by Provision 8 of the OECD Recommendation, all stakeholders should be granted an equal and fair opportunity to be informed and consulted, and should be actively engaged in all phases of the policy cycle. When assessing the measures used to engage with stakeholders, the diversity of groups that are targeted by provinces and ministries stand out. In fact, 53% of provinces have developed initiatives that involve elderly people, 67% target women and 53% focus on minorities. While these initiatives are an important step forward, half of all 20 participating ministries still do not implement measures to ensure the involvement of these groups (Figure 6.11). In the case of the provinces, 33% of line ministries lack targeted measures to reach out to specific groups of society.

Figure ‎6.11. Specific measures implemented by ministries to ensure the targeted participation of the following groups
Figure ‎6.11. Specific measures implemented by ministries to ensure the targeted participation of the following groups

Note: Data for differently abled people are not available for the provinces.

Source: OECD (2018), OECD Surveys on Open Government in Argentina, OECD, Paris.

The five provinces and ten institutions that have not yet established measures to engage the above-mentioned groups of society could profit from the benefits of stakeholder participation to create more open and inclusive policies. To this end, the following section examines concrete approaches to granting all stakeholders equal and fair opportunities to be informed and consulted, and to actively engage with them.

Argentina, as an adherent to the OECD Recommendation, should continue reaching out to vulnerable, underrepresented or marginalised groups in society

Having analysed the institutional framework to design and implement effective initiatives on stakeholder participation, the following section takes stock of the various efforts underway to reach out to and engage stakeholders in the policy-making process in Argentina. The majority of initiatives have been initiated by the third OGP Action Plan and in most cases remain commitments rather than implemented initiatives. Detaching these initiatives from the OGP process would allow the national government and the provinces to create a vision that goes beyond an isolated project that needs to be fully implemented within the two-year framework. Both the national and provincial governments have established a number of initiatives that target specific stakeholders, such as indigenous populations. A noteworthy example of such an initiative is found in the Province of San Juan (Servicio Informativo Gobierno de San Juan, 2017) in Costa Rica (Box 6.11.).

Box ‎6.11. Costa Rica’s consultation mechanism for Indigenous Communities

The Government of Costa Rica was the first in the Latin America region to establish an official consultation mechanism for indigenous communities to encourage more inclusive participation in the policy-making process. The mechanism is the result of a two-year co-creation process between the government and 22 Indigenous territories, and builds on recommendations from the Special Rapporteur on Indigenous Communities of the United Nations. In total, more than 120 activities were organised that reached more than 5 000 indigenous people.

The consultation mechanism establishes a set of guidelines for government institutions on how to effectively consult indigenous communities and better address their needs. It establishes an eight-step procedure to carry out a consultation:

  1. 1. The request for consultation

  2. 4. Request revision and approval

  3. 5. Preparation and initial agreements

  4. 6. Information exchange

  5. 7. Internal evaluation carried out by the Indigenous community

  6. 8. Dialogue, negotiation and agreement

  7. 9. Completion of the process

  8. 10. Monitoring, evaluation and compliance with the agreement.

The mechanism also creates the Unidad Técnica de Consulta Indígena within the Ministry of Justice and Peace, which has the objective of overseeing and managing consultations. Moreover, each Indigenous territory appoints a representative to ensure dialogue involves all of the community.

The Government of Costa Rica recognises the importance of developing open spaces for dialogue between government officials and indigenous communities. The local government of San Juan, for example, has carried out a third roundtable with local communities to identify their priorities and concerns and build a long-term platform for dialogue. It addresses several themes ranging from territorial development to health, education, security and infrastructure among others. Indeed, practices promoting more inclusive consultation mechanisms not only support the opening up of government, but also the uptake and implementation of ambitious reforms.

Source: Presidency of Costa Rica (2018), Costa Rica firma Mecanismo General de Consulta a Pueblos Indígenas [Costa Rica signs General Consultation Mechanism for Indigenous Peoples], San José, https://presidencia.go.cr/ministerio/viceministerio-de-la-presidencia-asuntos-politicos-y-dialogo-ciudadano/2018/03/costa-rica-firma-mecanismo-general-de-consulta-a-pueblos-indigenas (accessed 31 August 2018).

In addition to indigenous communities, the OECD Recommendation foresees active engagement with individuals regardless of their gender and age. In November 2017, the Congress of Argentina passed a law which obliges future lists of parties’ candidates to reflect full gender parity. While this change in legislation favours the inclusion of women and is line with the OECD Recommendation of the Council on Gender Equality in Public Life (OECD, 2016a), the composition of the Cabinet remains far from gender parity. Gender parity in politics is of course only one initiative to enhance gender equality overall. Nevertheless, it remains a prerequisite for a more equal society that grants all genders fair opportunities to determine the country’s policies, as advocated for by the OECD Recommendation on Open Government. The government acknowledges these challenges and the National Institute of Women (Instituto Nacional de las Mujeres) developed a National Plan for Equal Opportunities and Rights (Plan Nacional de Igualdad de Oportunidades y Derechos) 2018-2020 (Ministry of Health and Social Development, 2018). Its priority areas were identified with civil society organisations, trade unions and members of the Federal Women’s Council (Consejo Federal de las Mujeres).

The Guía Joven developed by the National Institute on Youth represents a good practice for more structured provision of information and engagement with youngsters in Argentina. It offers an overview of all services directed towards young people that the different ministries have to offer. The well-structured guide lists activities or public services by ministry that are open to participation or use by young people. For each activity, the guide provides a general description, the targeted audience (e.g. concrete age group), benefits, necessary documents, how to obtain the service and sources/contacts for further information (Presidency of Argentina, n.d.a.). Overall, the National Institute on Youth has reached 1.465 million young people and 1 779 organisations that work on youth-related topics, according to information provided for the OECD Survey on Open Government in Argentina.

Box ‎6.12. OECD’s work on youth engagement

OECD’s work on youth engagement and empowerment provides a holistic assessment of the opportunities for youth to participate in public life and the performance of governments in delivering youth-responsive policy outcomes. Acknowledging the heterogeneity of their demands, OECD findings suggest that young men and women often find it difficult to make their voices heard. Youth are vulnerable to global challenges including the consequences of climate change, raising inequality and high public debt; moreover, in some countries, today’s generation of young people may be the first in decades to be worse off than their parents. Despite being the most educated and connected generation of all times, many young people find it increasingly difficult to transit from education to the labour market, from the parental home to renting their own apartment, and from the care of their parents to becoming active citizens. As a consequence, young people in many OECD and non-OECD countries express less trust in government and public institutions than their parents.

Against this background, the OECD Youth Stocktaking Report is the first report of its kind to take stock of young people’s engagement in policy making and civic/political life, and to examine the governance tools applied by governments to mainstream their concerns across ministerial portfolios. Across the 36 OECD member countries, the report presents hands-on practices and lessons learned in the area of national integrated youth policies, institutional capacities and co-ordination, mainstreaming tools, youth engagement and representation practices, and youth-responsive legal frameworks.

In the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region, the OECD is currently providing support to Jordan, Morocco and Tunisia to strengthen youth engagement in public life, with the financial support of the MENA Transition Fund of the G7 Deauville Partnership. Based on peer-reviewed Country Reviews, the OECD has provided technical assistance to conduct mock elections in Jordan and to support the creation of local youth councils in Tunisia, among others. The project features a regional dialogue component which allows stakeholders from governments, youth associations, youth workers, academia and international partners across the region to exchange good practices.

Source: OECD (n.d.), “Promoting Youth Inclusion and Empowerment” (website), www.oecd.org/mena/governance/promoting-youth-inclusion-and-empowerment.htm (accessed 19 September 2018).

Open and inclusive policy making also requires active outreach to differently abled people. According to a census conducted by the National Institute of Statistics and Censuses in 2010, the number of citizens with disabilities and permanent impairments accounts for 13% of the Argentinian population (National Institute of Statistics in Secretariat of Modernisation, 2017). In an effort to design and implement more responsive policies and service provisions, the SGM included a commitment on “Perceptions and representations of people with disabilities about service-providing institutions” in the third OGP Action Plan. Led by the National Rehabilitation Service, a decentralised institution that reports to the Ministry of Health, the government seeks “to encourage dialogue to define priorities and disability public policy making, bring together people with disabilities, their families and organisations in order to ensure compliance with the Convention [on the Rights of Persons with Disability]” (Secretariat of Modernisation, 2017). To this end, the National Rehabilitation Service committed to implement four measures within the biennial timeframe of the OGP Action Plan:

  • Present an action plan and achieve consensus through four virtual conferences held over three months.

  • During these conferences, develop information-gathering instruments and training for actors-facilitators. These instruments will then be applied to gather information about the perceptions and representations of differently abled people, their families, institutions and professionals, as outlined by the previously agreed upon Action Plan strategy.

  • Present the information gathered as well as the evaluation of the Action Plan strategy.

  • Unveil campaigns that seek to disseminate, promote and raise awareness of the issue surveyed through the above instruments (Secretariat of Modernisation, 2017).

Inclusive policy making requires governments to create a forum in which the concerned stakeholders can express themselves and report on their perception of prevailing challenges and approaches on how to tackle them. The initiative by the National Rehabilitation Service provides a good example of how to consult concerned people and design more responsive policies that have a positive impact. The government also launched another initiative targeting young and elderly people and citizens without a computer at home (Box 6.13).

Box ‎6.13. Argentina’s Digital Country Plan

The Government of Argentina has launched an initiative to strengthen the social bond in society through use of an online platform. As part of the country’s Digital Country Plan (Plan País Digital), the government created Digital Points (Puntos Digitales) which seek to modernise municipalities and enhance the digital inclusion of citizens. The government also created a platform in an effort to connect people (including those that do not possess a computer at home), enhance digital literacy and enable access to ICTs. To this end, the government has equipped municipalities across the country with meeting places open to everyone, including elderly and young people. These Digital Points offer a place to learn, participate and spend leisure time by watching movies and television. To date, 353 Digital Points have been established in 23 provinces of the country.

According to the Secretariat of Modernisation, the aims of the Digital Points include:

  • Digital inclusion – promote equal opportunities in access to connectivity and new information and communication technologies (ICTs), in order to enhance digital inclusion and contribute to the development of people and their communities.

  • Expression – create a space for expression, the production of knowledge and the expansion of rights through free and open access to connectivity and new ICTs.

  • Knowledge –make each Digital Point a space for literacy, digital updating and job training, both for the individual and community, in order to facilitate access to culture and knowledge.

  • Participation: – provide a place for meeting and participation for community production, in order to promote social inclusion, improve and facilitate the productive activities of the population, and contribute to the development of people and their communities.

  • Entertainment – promote Digital Points as spaces for digital entertainment, recreation and leisure, through equal opportunities in access, use and appropriation of new technologies.

Source: Secretariat of Modernisation (n.d.), Punto Digital [Digital Points] (website), https://puntodigital.paisdigital.modernizacion.gob.ar (accessed 8 January 2019).

Widening the focus from mushrooming online platforms to physical spaces for interaction is a crucial endeavour in order to avoid restricting open government to people with specific technical expertise and an interest in innovation. While the frequently used hackathons and Open Innovation initiatives are cutting edge approaches in comparison to those of some other countries, they might not speak to elderly people. Offering all members of society regardless of age – including those that do not have the technical knowledge or only limited accessibility to the Internet – the possibility to be informed and part of open government initiatives is vital in order to increase awareness and understanding of how open government reforms can have a positive impact on people’s lives.

Potential exists to diversity civil society engagement in open government reforms in Argentina

According to information received during interviews conducted with civil society, the number of organisations that are actively engaged in the open government agenda in Argentina remains limited. Both representatives from the government as well as civil society acknowledged that only a few organisations have taken up a leading role in the open government agenda. Government interaction reaches beyond “the usual suspects” in only a few cases, but the government has acknowledged this shortcoming and shown commitment to improving the ecosystem for civil society. As argued in the following section, an open government strategy with a strong stakeholder participation component could help to create a favourable environment for CSOs and other stakeholders alike.

Conceiving stakeholder participation as an integral part of a National Open Government Strategy: Towards an overarching document on stakeholder participation

In order to work towards harmonisation and better alignment of stakeholder participation practices, Argentina could consider developing a guiding document related to stakeholder participation.

The analysis of ministries’ and provinces’ stakeholder participation initiatives shows great commitment to stakeholder engagement in important policy areas. A number of initiatives that target women, youth or differently abled people have been launched in order to make policy making more inclusive. While these efforts are to be welcomed they remain scattered, however, and could be assembled into an overarching or guiding document. Central governments in OECD countries have created umbrella documents on stakeholder participation in 46% of cases (OECD, 2016). Such guiding documents take a variety of forms that address the challenge over the short, medium and long term:

  • Short term: examples include whole-of-government citizen participation guidelines, such as those developed by the Government of the United Kingdom (Box 6.14).

  • Medium term: examples include the extensive references to and provisions on citizen participation in the newly developed National Open Government Strategy, as recommended in Chapter 2.

  • Long term: examples include the dedicated law on citizen participation developed by the Government of Colombia (Box 6.15).

Each of the proposed documents or laws comes with advantages and disadvantages. They also differ with respect to the timeframe of implementation, impact on policy making, and ease of developing and passing such a document or law. Whereas the development of the proposed guidelines document on citizen participation is less time-consuming, a fully fletched dedicated law on citizen participation would require a longer timeframe for elaboration and implementation.

Regardless of its approach, such a document, strategy or law could be a powerful tool for the Secretariat of Modernisation to reach out to all ministries and make a stronger case for the benefits that stakeholders can yield throughout the policy cycle. The very positive co-creation process of the third OGP Action Plan and the favourable co-operation with CSOs (although limited in diversity) could constitute a model for the elaboration phase of such an overarching document or law. Such an approach could also contribute to ensuring buy-in from all stakeholders during implementation.

Box ‎6.14. Towards more strategic engagement: England’s Civil Society Strategy

In August 2018, the United Kingdom’s Cabinet Office launched the Civil Society Strategy: Building a Future that Works for Everyone, the scope of which is limited to England. The self-declared purpose of the Strategy is to “act as the convenor of the emerging coalition of people and organisations which, together, have the answers to the challenges of our times. This means leading the debate about the future social model our country needs, co-ordinating investment, tracking data on what works, and most of all, ensuring people themselves are at the heart of the system we are building together”. Special attention is dedicated to the role of young people in implementing the vision of the Strategy. As advocated for by the OECD’s concept of an open state, the Strategy addresses the role of businesses, which shall operate in a responsible manner and, in particular, engage with communities to a greater extent in local planning to foster economic growth, prosperity and employment.

The Strategy was developed in co-operation with the public using the online platform GOV.UK, which offered the possibility for group discussions and feedback. Participation was high, with 513 responses sent through the platform in addition to over 90 feedback responses received via email or post. The Strategy focuses on five pillars: people, places, the social sector, the private sector and the public sector.

Measuring the impact of the Strategy is a self-proclaimed aim of the government, nevertheless no methodology has yet been determined. According to the Strategy, the “government will explore options to develop an empirical and practical knowledge base for evaluating the financial, physical, natural and social capital of communities” and report back biennially on the ambition and commitments of the Strategy.

Source: UK Cabinet Office (2018), Civil Society Strategy: Building a Future that Works for Everyone, London, https://assets.publishing.service.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/732765/Civil_Society_Strategy_-_building_a_future_that_works_for_everyone.pdf.

Stakeholder participation could be a core element in the National Open Government Strategy.

The Government of Argentina could include extensive provisions on stakeholder participation in the recommended National Open Government Strategy (NOGS). A strong commitment in this regard would send a strong signal to policy makers to acknowledge stakeholder participation as a core element of open government. The provisions could outline why participation is important and draw on participation initiatives that have been implemented by ministries in different policy areas, but not under the umbrella of open government reforms. Overall, the Strategy should reflect a whole-of-government commitment not only to open government but also to stakeholder participation. Elements in the NOGS could, moreover, outline ways to translate civil society’s input into more effective and inclusive policies, among others. Eventually, the Strategy could help to reach out to more CSOs, including those in close contact with line ministries in their respective policy areas (environment, health, etc.), but that are not yet part of the open government agenda of Argentina.

Embedding participation in a dedicated law on citizen participation

In order to further improve the sustainability of stakeholder participation reforms in Argentina, the government could consider developing a law dedicated to citizen participation. As reported by the Colombian representative who assisted with the OECD Review process, citizens in Colombia found themselves overwhelmed by the variety of participation opportunities. The Government of Colombia had created so many different participation mechanisms, at different levels of government, that citizens wishing to participate were unsure which mechanism was most appropriate for the initiative of interest to them. According to the representative of Colombia, the recently introduced law for the promotion and protection of the right to democratic participation (Box 6.15) helped to streamline the various participation channels and approaches. As in Colombia, the wealth of initiatives developed by the Government of Argentina over the past years has opened up a number of opportunities for citizens to participate. Co-creating a law on citizen participation could therefore help citizens to determine which of the participation channels is most suitable for their needs.

Box ‎6.15. The Colombian law for the promotion and protection of the right to democratic participation

The objective of Law 1757 from 2015 is to promote, protect and ensure the different modalities and mechanisms of the citizens’ right to participate in the political, administrative, economic, social and cultural spheres in Colombia. Article 2 stipulates that any development plan must include specific measures aimed at promoting participation of all people in decisions that affect them and support the different forms of organisation of society. Similarly, the management plans of public institutions should make explicit the ways in which they will facilitate and promote the participation of citizens in their areas of responsibility.

The law also created the National Council for Citizen Participation, which will advise the national government on the definition, development, design, monitoring and evaluation of public policy on citizen participation in Colombia. The Council is made up of the following representatives: the Minister of the Interior and the National Planning Department from the National Government, an elected governor from the Federation of Departments (states or provinces), an elected mayor from the Municipal Federation, members of victims’ associations, a representative of the National Council of Associations or Territorial Councils for Planning, the community confederation, the Colombian University Association, the Colombian Confederation of Civil Society Organisations, citizen oversight associations, trade associations, trade unions, peasant associations, ethnic groups, women’s organisations, the National Youth Council, college students, disability organisations and local administrative bodies. The heterogeneous composition of the Council ensures that several groups of society are represented and guarantees that all voices are heard.

This same law on citizen participation in Colombia defines participatory budget practices as a process to ensure equitable, rational, efficient, effective and transparent allocation of public resources, in order to strengthen the relationship between the state and civil society. It also acts as a mechanism by which regional and local governments promote the development of programmes and plans for citizen participation in the definition of their budget, as well as in the monitoring and control of public resource management.

Source: Presidency of the Republic of Colombia (2015), “Law 1757 from 2015” (website), wp.presidencia.gov.co/sitios/normativa/leyes/Documents/LEY%201757%20DEL%2006%20DE%20JULIO%20DE%202015.pdfwp.presidencia.gov.co/sitios/normativa/leyes/Documents/LEY%201757%20DEL%2006%20DE%20JULIO%20DE%202015.pdf (accessed March 2016).

Recommendations

Using public communication as a lever for open government

  • Strengthen the Secretariat of Modernisation’s role as the co-ordinating actor of open government communication in collaboration with the Secretary of Public Communication in the Office of the Chief of Cabinet of Ministers.

  • Build on successful two-way communication channels to integrate insights from stakeholders and strengthen their buy-in. Social media channels, the creation of opportunities for face-to-face meetings, such as through Argentina Abierta or public meetings, offer such opportunities and could be used with a higher frequency.

  • Consider convening regular meetings with Open Government Contact Points and all communication officers of the government to strengthen their involvement in communication about open government initiatives, and to share good practices as well as lessons learned.

  • Include communication objectives and activities for open government in the Secretariat of Modernisation’s overall communication plan.

  • Involve all ministries and provinces in the implementation of the Secretariat of Modernisation’s communication plan, in order to ensure that the messages communicated by all actors involved in open government initiatives are harmonised.

  • Encourage other ministries and provinces to increase communication on their own open government initiatives.

  • Support ministries and provinces in adopting two-way communication channels.

  • Provide ministries and provinces with specific guidance (i.e. a manual on how to develop communication messages) and offer platforms for them to do so (i.e. enabling them to participate in open government-related events such as Argentina Abierta).

Making use of the benefits of stakeholder participation

  • Continue providing technical support for the implementation of citizen and stakeholder participation initiatives to line ministries and provinces.

  • Make strategic use of the initial contact established through the OGP process to foster line ministries’ and provinces’ citizen and stakeholder participation initiatives, including beyond the OGP process.

  • Continue the dissemination of existing toolkits related to open government principles.

Harmonising and aligning scattered good practices towards an integrated approach for stakeholder participation

  • Use the recommended National Open Government Steering Committee for more regular and institutionalised interaction between stakeholders and representatives from the government.

  • Give CSOs the opportunity to select members that represent their positions in the Committee (possibly through a rotation system, as discussed in Chapter 4 on Implementation).

  • Broaden the Committee’s representativeness by including the private sector, unions, academia, etc.

  • Involve citizens and all stakeholders in the monitoring and evaluation of open government initiatives in order to enable those involved in the process to assess whether and to what extent the process has (or has not) been successful in achieving its goals (see Chapter 5 on Monitoring and Evaluation).

Enlarging the variety of stakeholders that participate and reaching out to under-represented groups

  • Widen the focus from online platforms to physical spaces of interaction in order to include stakeholders without advanced digital literacy.

Conceiving stakeholder participation as an integral part of the National Open Government Strategy: Towards an overarching document on stakeholder participation

  • Consider developing an overarching document on stakeholder participation in order to work towards harmonisation and better alignment of stakeholder participation practices. The guiding document could take a variety of forms that address the challenge in the short, medium and long term:

    • Short term: whole-of-government citizen participation guidelines

    • Medium term: including extensive reference and provisions on citizen participation in a newly developed National Open Government Strategy

    • Long term: a dedicated law on citizen participation.

  • Use the co-creation process of the third OGP process and the established contacts with CSOs as a basis for the elaboration of such an overarching document.

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