Plain language in norway’s civil service

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Plain language in norway’s civil service

  1. 1. Plain Language in Norway’s Civil Service Torunn Reksten, the Language Council of Norway Sissel C. Motzfeldt, the Agency for Public Management and eGovernment
  2. 2. Population: almost 5 million Government: Majority Government (Labour, Socialist and Centre) Literacy: 1/3 of the population has reading problems – coping with demands of everyday life and work (level 3 of IALS) Studies: • 1/3 find it difficult to fill in public forms • 1/3 do not believe that public authorities try to write in a clear and understandable way Some facts about Norway
  3. 3. Our project: Plain Language in Norway’s Civil Service • Initiated and funded by the Minister of Government Administration, Reform and Church Affairs • Goal: Stimulate public agencies • A 3 year project - launched in March 2009 • Framework: The Government Communication platform, the Leadership platform, two central reports to our Parliament
  4. 4. Consequences of poor language • Lack of respect and trust • Loss of involvement from the public • Undemocratic – threatens equal rights • Unnecessary expenses
  5. 5. Who is involved? • Agency for Public Management and eGovernment and the Language Council of Norway – 5 persons altogether – project group • A reference group • The Norwegian Dyslexia Association • Public agencies
  6. 6. What makes our project unique? • The Language Council with it’s permanent section for clear language at government level (established in 2006) – language skills • The Agency for Public Management and eGovernment - project management skills and huge network • Together these parties have the unique opportunity to reach a broad audience and ensure high quality language and communication tools.
  7. 7. We offer • grants • consulting • a popular “pool of knowledge” • clear language writing/training courses • “how to run a plain language project”
  8. 8. Our main acknowledgement program The Plain Language Award  is for government agencies which have made an extraordinary effort to improve the language in written information to the public  is awarded by the minister of Government Administration, Reform and Church Affairs  was awarded to the Norwegian State Educational Loan Fund in 2009
  9. 9. Branding Clear as water Practical language advice or web page updates Quotes or sayings on language Our logo and web site
  10. 10. What have we achieved so far? Case studies • The Norwegian Public Service Pension Fund – saves money and time by altering its mass produced letters • The Norwegian Directorate of Immigration – seized the opportunity to improve their language standards as a new law was introduced
  11. 11. What have we achieved so far? Case studies • The Norwegian State Educational Loan Fund – user involvement • The Ministry of Children, Equality and Social Inclusion – wishes to set an example with its legal language
  12. 12. Lessons learned by the project team Our strengths • We offer free tools and support. • We have the support of the government and the minister. • We are a dedicated group of people with different professional backgrounds. • We have funding. Our weaknesses • We lack documentation and research. • We need to have closer cooperation with the academic sector. • We need more time and human resources.
  13. 13. Lessons learned by the government agencies • Make it evident that it’s about your reputation. • Set clear and realistic goals and ambitions. • Get support from the management at all levels. • Involve all crucial groups from the beginning. • Find key persons, but not only. • Start with the most important communication. • Let the actual audience test the new documents. • Demand progress reports. • Use lots of humour and be generous with praise.
  14. 14. Where do we go from here? Emphasis on sustainability • 2 more years • Closer cooperation with research institutions • Initiate studies showing the importance of plain language (i.e. studies on effectiveness) • Improve the language in laws and regulations • Involve local municipalities (435)

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