Understandability, inclusion, transparency and communication

Understandability – Training and support for the use of good administrative language

An online course on good administrative language has been prepared. We will introduce guidelines and a programme to ensure that public officials and employees take the course. The online course will become part of the orientation of new employees. A further goal is to ensure, in cooperation with the municipalities and the Association of Finnish Local and Regional Authorities, that there is a sufficient number of people who have completed the course in local government.

Expertise of language and communications, and a broader understanding of linguistic matters is required, not only for customer communications by officials, but also when it comes to management, decision-making and the preparatory tasks by experts in the various sectors.

In addition to training, there is a need for constant development and maintenance of skills and support offered by departments and workplaces. Support is needed when new services are produced or activities reformed, but also in daily activities. The plain language programme also seeks to support the increased use of language and usability experts at public offices and workplaces. The first priority is that the language is easyfor the citizens to understand .

In addition to the online course on good administrative language, the Institute for the Languages of Finland (Kotus) is preparing more extensive online training material of administrative language as part of its three-year (2019–2021) project.

Plain language also means non-discriminatory language. All authorities are, by law, required to prevent discrimination and to promote gender equality and non-discrimination in all their activities.

Understandability – Improving plain language skills in government

In addition to plain language skills, it is also important to further increase the awareness and competence of plain language in government. There are up to 700,000 people in Finland who require plain language (Finnish Centre for Easy Language 2019). An online course on plain language will be organised. Marketing material will be prepared that will also contribute to the purposes of the course and can be used as an introduction to plain language. Plain language is in particularly needed by the authorities in the various administrative branches involved in direct customer contact with citizens or who produce different types of administrative texts, such as decisions, forms or guidelines. The goal is that increased command of plain language will also mean that it will be more commonly used and that the volume of materials produced in plain language will grow.

Understandability – Wire frames

In addition to plain text and speech, good visual solutions promote understandability and accessibility. A package of support materials will be produced, which will contain the practices of good visualisation and examples of successfully completed cases within the administrative branches. The visualisation course is available on the eOppiva platform. The visualisation course will be followed by new courses.

Understandability – Boosting accessibility competence among public officials

It will be ensured that competence on accessibility will be increased in public administration and that understandable and plain content will be highlighted in public online services. Together with Celia, a short course will be prepared on the eOppiva platform on how accessibility and plain content are connected.

      • A short course on how accessibility and plain content are connected has been published on eOppiva. Specialists from Celia act as trainers on the course.
      • The Institute for the Languages of Finland (Kotus) is preparing more extensive online learning material on administrative language to supplement the previous online course in good administrative language.

Inclusion – NGO Academy – public officials to gain competence and NGO connections

The first NGO Academy was organised on 1 October, on the Civic Engagement Day. It was organised together with Allianssi, Citizen Forum, the Martha Organization, the Mannerheim League for Child Welfare, Finnish Red Cross, Finnish Federation of the Visually Impaired, Vallin ry and the Ministry of Justice. The NGO Academy aims to strengthen public officials’ knowledge of NGO activities and understanding of the different roles and operating methods of NGOs. The intention is to support the networking of public officials and organisational operators and creation of contacts. This aims at increasing joint understanding and dialogue between administrative operators and NGO activists. The NGO Academy was a success. Eight dialogue events deepening the dialogue between organisations and public officials were also organised in connection with the NGO Academy. The NGO Academy was organised remotely, and an extensive material package of the recordings and conversations in the NGO Academy will be prepared. The Academy continues on the Date Forum in March. The goal is that the representatives of the organisations and public officials could then meet face to face. In the regional round events, many public officials and organisation representatives expressed their wishes to arrange such academies also regionally. The materials and results of the recently organised Academy can be utilised in arranging regional events. This work is about to be launched already in several regions.

Inclusion – The day of the Elderly Citizens Council and the day of Children’s Rights will be complemented with the introduction of a day of the Council for People with Disabilities

It is important that the representatives of the councils for people with disabilities gain additional opportunities for sharing competence and experiences at the national level and to carry out development activities together. The Elderly Citizens Council day has been organised for a number of years now. In the future, the Councils for People with Disabilities will be offered a similar annual event, which could partly overlap the day of the Elderly Citizens Councils. The planning work for the day of the Councils for People with Disabilities will start in cooperation with the Advisory Board for the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (VANE) and by hearing the wishes of members of Councils for People with Disabilities on the goals for the day.

      • The Elderly Citizens Council day was organised on 21 October 2020 as an online event with a theme “Older people as a resource to society”. The event was organised in cooperation with the Finnish Association for the Welfare of Older People, Valli ry, Age Institute, UKK Institute, the Ministry of Justice and the Ministry of Social Affairs and Health.
      • The day on topical issues regarding the rights of children will be organised in Helsinki as an online event on 19 November 2020 in cooperation with the Ombudsman for Children and the Mannerheim League for Child Welfare. This year’s theme is “Children, coronavirus and economy”.

 Enforced compliance with the Act on the Openness of Government Activities

The experiences of the Chancellor of Justice indicate that compliance with the Act on the Openness of Government Activities remains insufficient. A significant number of the complaints received by the Chancellor of Justice concern the Act on the Openness of Government Activities. As outlined in the Government Programme, compliance with the Act on the Openness of Government Activities must be enhanced by issuing stricter obligations for government officials to comply with the Act on the Openness of Government Activities in a manner that promotes openness and by determining more explicit consequences for breaches of the law.

The goal is to enhance openness-promoting compliance with the Act on the Openness of Government Activities through ethical and purpose-oriented development in particular. This is because the interpretations of the Act on the Openness of Government Activities and the data protection regulations are, in many respects, genuinely borderline cases and there are strict sanctions for unlawful disclosure of confidential information.

Openness – Strengthening commitments

The support package for open government activities and its various language versions will be updated. As part of the update, materials will be added and developed in the following fields in particular: 1) enabling and supporting the participation of young people (children and young people under 18), 2) taking into account the various linguistic groups in the promotion of government openness and development of opportunities for participation and information on linguistic rights and means to promote them, 3) the equality aspect, 4) accessibility in order to support the new law concerning accessibility (Act on Providing Digital Services, 306/2019) and to ensure that people with disabilities have access to information and opportunities for inclusion. The accessibility element will be completed in cooperation with Celia and other parties that offer accessible services.

The support package will also contain information on how public officials, local government officials and public sector employees can take part in social media debates and how to face and increase citizen participation on social media, for example.

Boosting the marketing of the “Openness Game” as a means of development. The Swedish-language version of the Openness Game (board game, development tool for organisations) is now ready. Plans are also made outside the Action Plan to clarify whether there is a cost-efficient way to create an online version of the Openness Game.

A training course on openness will be produced for the eOppiva platform in Finnish and Swedish. The contents will also feature basic information on the Act on the Openness of Government Activities and such topics as personal data protection. One of the modules in the training will cover internal inclusion.

Openness and inclusion must become part of everyday tasks. It will seek to establish the kind of opportunities and means which could be used to support public officials in their efforts to act as openly as possible in their tasks in office.

The principle is that openness is deeply rooted in all of the government’s operational methods and attitudes instead of being a separate responsibility that causes extra work.

Communications – Supported by management commitment

A regional round was organised which offered a forum of dialogue for the local government management, public officials and government officials in the region and the topics included the activities on the promotion of openness, inclusion and trust. The goal is also to strengthen cooperation and communication between authorities that promote openness.

      • The “Building trust” regional round has just ended. The round included events for public officials and leading public officials around the country, of which seven were held in Finnish and one in Swedish. In addition, five events were organised for the non-governmental organisations. The event planned to be arranged in Helsinki was transferred to be held in the spring of 2021 in order to be able to meet face to face. Other events held in the autumn were arranged remotely, with the exception of the Rovaniemi event that included a part with physical participation. A total of 26 Halftime dialogues were arranged in connection with the events. Summaries of the dialogues have been utilised when preparing the Open Government Strategy. They will also be utilised in the public management development projects about to be launched.

Communications – Sharing best practices

Collecting and additionally highlighting Finnish and international best practices and tools for promoting open government.

One important element in sharing best practices is the availability of information and its accessibility as laid down in legislation concerning accessibility (306/2019) through websites and other means. Online services must comply with level AA as laid down in the accessibility recommendations.

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