This fall the Sunlight Foundation is creating a whole new generation of watchdogs by engaging thousands of high school students as both consumers and producers of information in order to build detailed profiles of members of Congress. With their help, we’ll also build and post online a set of detailed profiles on every senator and representative.
The project is modeled on and done in partnership with the Digital Literacy Contest, an online search competition that teaches college students about various online resources. The new version, the Digital Democracy Contest, similarly asks questions answerable by using online resources on Congress, but with a twist: after answering a series of questions with known answers, the students are asked a question for which we don’t yet know the answer. (For example, “Does a Senator X have a top-ten campaign donor with interests before the committees he/she sits on?”)
The students are also asked to fact-check other students’ responses. Sunlight will then take answers written and verified by the students and add them to our profiles of members of Congress at OpenCongress.org, effectively crowd-sourcing the creation of a massive encyclopedia on our government.
The Internet has given us a wealth of information, but it’s crucial to be a savvy reader who knows how to check facts. The Digital Democracy Contest will give students these skills while also showing them they don’t need to wait for a diploma — or the voting age — before engaging as participants in our democracy.
The project is funded by the Sunlight Foundation and the MacArthur Foundation through a Young Innovator Award.
Tell us what you want to know about Congress. Use this form to help us create questions for the students.
We need participating classes for the fall and spring! Are you, or do you know, a high school government teacher? The contest will be available, for free, for any high school government class to participate. It has a ready-to-go online interface that takes about 40 minutes to complete in-class. Please email us if you know anyone who might be interested.