Local Policy

The Sunlight Foundation supports government openness as a fundamental democratic principle. Open data policies represent a critical means for achieving that objective. In early 2013, we launched a new initiative looking at municipal data disclosure and related state issues. We actively monitor and support existing open data and accountability initiatives, research case studies, support best practices and propose new policies.

The Sunlight Foundation supports the full range of benefits that can come from local implementations of open data policies. However, in line with our focus on transparency, we’re especially interested in seeing open data policies contribute to better understanding of the money that could influence government decision-making, improved knowledge of government services and transactions, and improved access to government processes and decision-makers for all citizens.

On this page, you’ll find helpful resources related to crafting policy, navigating the current local #opengov landscape, and more. To get started, read more of our work on the Sunlight Foundation blog.

Local Open Data Policies

Interested in working on an open data law in your community or integrating open data language into other policies? Sunlight has a number of useful resources for you.

Are we missing any? Email us or Submit a Pull Request

Open Data Policy Guidelines

The Sunlight Foundation created this living document to present a broad vision of the kinds of challenges that open data policies can actively address.

A few general notes: Although some provisions may carry more importance or heft than others, these Guidelines are not ranked in order of priority, but organized to help define What Data Should be Public, How to Make Data Public, and How to Implement Policy — three key elements of any legislation, executive order, or other policy seeking to include language about open data. Read the Guidelines

Deep Dives

As part of our exploration of best practices for open data generally, we also examine the potential impact of opening specific kinds of information. Our “Deep Dives” take the magnifying glass to priority data for different communities, highlighting the current state of this data across the country, crafting recommendations for how its disclosure could be improved, and sharing demonstrations of just what happens when this information is made available and accessible.

Explore what open data could mean for…

  • Asset disclosure

    Asset disclosure can help answer questions about the basic integrity of government officials. Learn More

  • Campaign Finance

    Campaign finance disclosure is an essential public accountability mechanism. Providing public access to this kind of information about the flow of money in politics empowers oversight and accountability in the government decision-making process. Learn More

  • Crime

    Crime impacts every community. The information generated from incidents of crime fuels a wide variety of news stories and apps that keep people updated on important public safety issues. Learn More

  • Lobbying

    Lobbying might evoke images of power brokers in Washington, D.C., but lobbyists are also influential at the local level of policy. Learn More

  • Zoning

    Zoning impacts the most physical elements of our communities and daily lives — from the location of your local supermarket (and what you can purchase there) to the size and height of your home. Learn More

Sunlight’s Local Open Data Tools

  • Open States

    State governments have an important role to play in federal operations and local government realities. As such, Sunlight also engages in questions about state-level transparency by monitoring, supporting, and advocating for accountability and open data policies at this level. You can view some of the work that we have done on state issues here. Open States is a collection of tools that make it possible for citizens to track what is happening in their state’s capitol by aggregating information from all 50 states, Washington, D.C., and Puerto Rico. All Open States data is available via the browser, our API, bulk downloads and the Open States iOS application. Visit the site

  • Open Civic Data

    Technology can make local government more responsive, accountable and useful, whether through an email reminder about a community meeting or an app that connects you to your council rep. But first, data about your government needs to be organized into a form those tools can use. The Open Civic Data model provides completely free and open formats of: people, organizations, events, bills and votes. Open Civic Data collected thus far is available by bulk download, find out how you can contribute today! Visit the site