TransparencyCamp has come and gone, but the ideas that sprouted at TCamp are just beginning to come to life.
Steve Spiker from OpenOakland shared his insight about the transparency movement in the TCamp wrap up video below, “We’re saying things need to be different in our country and that’s only going to happen if you care enough to persist on it.”
The transparency community understands that progress starts at TCamp but it doesn’t end when you go home.
One of the things I love about TransparencyCamp is that it is a large essentially unscheduled event. You can't plan what's going to happen when you have over 500 people and just a loose schedule of events over 2 days. The branding has to be loud enough to guide people though the unconference format in an unfamiliar space and convey a sense of excitement and energy. The implementation has to be flexible and allow for things to change, like a picnic session in the park, or food trucks for lunch parking in unexpected locations.
Every year at about this time -- just days after our hallmark community event, TransaprencyCamp -- we kick up our heels, shake our heads, and think, “That was our best event yet.”
But this year, we really mean it.
TransparencyCamp 2013 was different from its predecessors. Not only was it our largest TCamp to-date -- with a chart-topping 500 participants from over 25 countries and 33 states* -- but it was also our strongest. More than a reunion of old friends fighting the same fight, this TransparencyCamp was a veritable democratic laboratory, with scientists from different backgrounds, countries and creeds coming together to share their experiments, find collaborators, and bring new ideas back home for testing and tweaking.
We’ll have some more reflections and behind the scenes views in the days ahead, but first, we wanted to share with you a closer at the weekend.
We are excited that you are coming to TransparencyCamp this weekend! Here are all the ten things you need to know to be a savvy camper. If you want to know more, head to our website: TransparencyCamp.org.
If you are not one of the 620 people that purchased tickets this year, we will have a streaming google hangout at: http://snlg.ht/tcamp2013hangout. Streaming begins at 10am and will continue at least to 11 each day.
The 2013 class of TCamp Scholars represents some of the best efforts to spread transparency to states and localities across the nation. The scholars hail from eight states. Here are a few of the scholars that you will want to meet at TransparencyCamp.
(Wait—you aren’t registered? Don’t miss out on TCamp! Register today.)
Asheesh Laroia is Executive Director of OpenHatch, a non-profit working to help the open source software community welcome newcomers, encourage gender diversity and retain contributors.
In 2008, Asheesh helped the Electronic Frontier Foundation extract information out of U.S. Patent and Trade Office's online system to view patent applications. He has also volunteered his technical assistance to aid the UN in Uganda.
Asheesh hopes to help unite the open gov and open source communities at TCamp: “I would love to work with existing and new projects at TCamp to answer questions and teach them more about how to make their projects sustainable. Think of it as a cross-pollination between long-standing open source people and open gov-oriented people!”
Shauna Gordon-McKeon is certainly busy-- Shauna serves several great causes as a freelance writer, researcher, programmer and volunteer organizer.
The Open Gov Sandbox is an area at TCamp that will help people contribute to open source, open gov projects. For Shauna, her ongoing work in this regard addresses a need in the open source community. Shauna explains, “For all the open government projects out there, there are few that are set up to be good ‘training grounds’ for new volunteers. We don't want difficulties with set up or miscommunications to drain the excitement of volunteers who are frequently getting involved for altruistic reasons.”
Louisianan, Shannon Dosemagen, is a co-founder of Public Lab, an impressive organization that democratized the response to the BP oil spill catastrophe by engineering low-cost tools for environmental monitoring.
Public Lab creates low-cost, open source, DIY style monitoring equipment to provide people with the means to do their own environmental investigations. In Shannon’s words, "We continue to work on projects such as this (referringto the BP oil spill), which help communities do their own data collection around potential environmental issues that they can then use to interface with both public officials and corporate executives.”
Shannon is looking forward to TCamp: “I'm hoping that there will be others interested in both transparency and openness in environmental health monitoring as well as others that are beginning to think about incorporating open hardware into strategies for addressing government transparency.”
Jason Williams is a blogger, radio personality and, in his words, “[an] uneasy citizen lobbyist.” This year, he worked closely with legislative leadership to create a follow up task force intent on developing open data standards. We are proud of Jason’s work as putting Sunlight Foundation guidelines, and other great open government ideas into practice.
In 2011, Jason caught the transparency community’s attention as a guest blogger reporting about the attack on Utah freedom of information (FOI) law.
When Utah’s FOI law was under assault, Jason stepped up to the challenge and joined a Governor-appointed task force. In his words, “The working group not only resolved differences and maintained the integrity of public access policy for the state, but also led to new coalitions for advocacy.”
As for his plans for TCamp Jason explained, “As this new legislative task force begins work this summer, there is an opportunity to expand on ideas and data management policy beyond even the clearly defined duties of the board. My goal at TransparencyCamp would be to share Utah's story but more importantly learn from others, and network -- even crowd source -- the Possibilities."
Below, is a map of the states TCamp scholars are coming from:
Check out some of the amazing people coming from overseas here!
The Sunlight Foundation's sister organization, the Sunlight Network, is organizing Citizen Advocacy Day, an exciting opportunity for citizens to let their members of Congress know how important a transparent government is to them. The event will take place May 6, the day after what is shaping up to be an eventful, fun and informative TransparencyCamp.
Citizen advocates will have a chance to talk to key policy staff for their Members of Congress about important transparency issues, like smarter open data through the DATA Act, making sure the Senate keeps up the with the times by mandating electronic filing of campaign finance reports and getting more disclosure about lobbying and the financial interests of members of Congress and their staff.
Sunlight will brief citizen advocates (and feed them breakfast!) the morning of the Advocacy Day to arm them with talking points about key transparency related priorities.
Sunlight advocates on ways to improve transparency of government information but we can’t do it alone. Become a Citizen Advocate and help shine a light on our government.
Unconferences are events run by participants. Attendees set the agenda for what will be discussed, lead the sessions and workshops that fill the schedule, and create an environment of innovation and productive discussion. It can be a bit hard to visualize how this all plays out before you’ve actually attended an open format event like this, so, to make things easier, we’ve pulled together some resources to help you get the most out of your TransparencyCamp experience -- or any other open format event you attend.
Washington, D.C. is a hub for political, nonprofit organization and business activity; it’s also well-loved destination for tourists, not to mention the visitors who come to see friends and family. As a D.C. resident, I know the experience of visiting Washington can be expensive, confusing and exhausting. So, to out-of-town TransparencyCamp 2013 visitors next month, let me give you some of the tips I share with friends and family to make your visit as enjoyable and productive as possible. But double-check the decisions you make; we offer these suggestions without warranty and with the understanding that there are many good ways to visit Washington.
Assuming you don’t already have a place to crash, your first decision – after registering for TransparencyCamp and making transportation plans – is finding a place to stay.
TCamp will take place at the Marvin Center on the campus of the George Washington University at 21st and H streets NW.
TransparencyCamp is a venue for your ideas and discussions because at an unconference, the attendees set the agenda. Although we do most of the schedule-building on the first day of Camp, every year we open up a forum for people to start discussing their ideas and thinking about sessions in advance. If you’re up for it, start submitting your session ideas now!
For those of you who are unfamiliar, TransparencyCamp, or TCamp, is our flagship opengov community event, hosted this year by Sunlight and the George Washington School of Media and Public Policy this May 4th - 5th in Washington DC. (If you haven’t already, click here to register! Tickets are going fast.)
You don’t have to submit an idea to our brainstorming forum to lead or submit an idea for a session at Camp, but doing so can be a great way to sound out your thoughts and link up with Campers interested in similar sessions in advance. To get started -- or to see what other Campers are proposing -- visit the TCamp13 Brainstorm page. There you can also vote on the sessions you would most like to see. Top vote getters are guaranteed a slot on the first day of Camp.
Once you think of a session idea, give it a clear name and a concise description that lays out what you want to accomplish during the session. Keep in mind ways to encourage discussion and creative ways of conveying your message. If you need help forging new ideas try looking at past seasons listed on the website for inspiration.
For the last two years, we’ve invited a number of scholars, advocates, journalists, policymakers, developers, and others from all over the world to join us for a series of informal meetings in the days before TransparencyCamp. This year, we’re opening up the process for participants beyond the USA, and we invite you to join us.
Apply to attend the TransparencyCamp International Program, May 2 - 5 in Washington, DC. Click here for more information.
For those unfamiliar, TransparencyCamp is Sunlight’s largest community gathering, a two day event focused on bringing together folks from a number of different backgrounds with an overlapping interest in government transparency. As an “unconference,” TransparencyCamp (AKA “TCamp”) relies on the participation of attendees to set the environment and even the agenda. It’s a unique and, dare I say, fun experience, and it’s one that we’re committed to making as accessible as possible. That’s why we keep our ticket prices affordable, host an annual scholarship program to help defer costs for those traveling within the US, and why we’re kicking open the door to our international “pre-Camp” this year.
Last year, we had over 400 attendees from 27 countries and 26 US states participate in TCamp. Although some of our international guests came here on their own, many attended via our pre-Camp program, a two day series of conversations and explorations designed to gear up for the larger TCamp event and provide a way for guests from a variety of political contexts to share their experiences, ideas, expertise, and challenges in a more intimate setting. It’s a great opportunity not just to connect your work with the global open government network, but to absorb multidisciplinary learnings and creative solutions from peers working as journalists, developers, technologists, policy-makers, government officials, academics, and advocates.
We understand that international travel costs are often a barrier to participation, and that’s why our International Program offers a partial travel stipend for participants. To learn more about our TransparencyCamp International Program and to apply to participate, click here*. Applications will be accepted on a rolling basis. The first deadline for consideration is February 6th. Apply now!
* Please note: We hope to gather a diverse set of non-US participants at TransparencyCamp and encourage women and members of underrepresented groups to apply. In addition, please keep in mind that all TransparencyCamp programming is in English, so English proficiency is essential.