Tools for Transparency: Stay Educated through Foursquare


Foursquare logoFousquare, a location based application for smart phones, has been growing in popularity at an exponential rate. In 2010 the service grew by 3400% with over 380,000,000 check-ins worldwide. The service uses game mechanics to entice users to check into locations, leave tips, comments and reviews and to find nearby friends.

One of the more useful features on Foursquare is that each location includes a “Tips” section.  When viewing a location, either on the website or through the mobile application, you can see tips — todos, fun facts, and other brief notes and links — left by previous visitors. These notes can then be sorted by date or popularity, and also hold great potential as an interesting educational tool. By allowing users and organizations like Sunlight to connect certain facts relevant to politics and politicians with certain locations, Foursquare becomes an innovative way for folks to inform and say informed on transparency issues. Here’s how:

As Foursquare becomes more popular, more people will begin to “check into” the offices of politicians and at political hotspots from all over the country. In fact, right now, you can check into the office of Speaker John Bohner. To tap into this tool’s educational potential, after you check into Rep. Bohner’s office (while visiting), you can easily take a moment to leave a tip on his Foursquare page with information about his biggest donors or related information from his OpenCongress page.

John Boehner on FoursquarePeople who check in at his office after you will now have a quick link to review this data before they meet with anyone from his office. The Capitol Hill Club is a popular fundraising spot, and noting that in the tips section on their Foursquare page will alert visitors to past fundraisers held there.

The Capitol Hill Club on Foursquare

These tips aren’t just useful at the national level. For instance, if you happen to check into the Wisconsin State Capitol Building, you might find information on Senate Republican Leader Scott Fitzgerald useful.

Wisconsin Capitol Building

Want some great resources to help you leave savvy tips? Here are a few we suggest:

Please keep in mind that the point of Tips is to make helpful information available to future visitors, so make your comments constructive. (Information (not jerkiness) is power.) Also, not all political offices and spaces have been logged into Foursquare yet. If you find that to be the case, why not add them yourself and share a useful tip while you’re at it?