Creating an open data firestarter: Help us improve our draft executive order


(Photo credit: Stefanotshcki!/Flickr)

Here at the Sunlight Foundation, we’ve worked for several years to provide you with the best of what we’ve found out in the field as governments and activists have come up with ideas to make their public data more accessible and usable. We bring you stories from the people who are opening up their data to provide inspiration for how best to do this. We help cross-pollinate the field through analysis and by linking people together at events like TransparencyCamp.

So far, the most useful way we’ve found to provide the distillation of all of these experiences is through our Open Data Policy Guidelines. We used insights from public practice at the federal, state and local levels to create these guidelines, and they’ve been extremely useful in sharing best practices with groups from across the country. Our guidelines have helped open data advocates at a variety of points along their path, whether by helping groups that are already working on a policy draft find ways to strengthen their effort, or by helping spur further interest in formalizing processes for opening up public data.

The open data landscape has been quickly evolving over the last few years, and we’ve been getting an ever-clearer view of what open data policies need in order to be complete. As a result, we’ve drawn on experiences communities have relayed back to us about the implementation of their open data programs in order to improve our guidelines several times.

However, while we’ve continued to get lots of positive feedback about our Open Data Policy Guidelines, one of the things we’ve learned from open data advocates inside and outside of government is that some would like be able to start their conversations with more concrete language. In other words, if we considered our guidelines to be carefully chosen pieces of wood to use in building a toasty open data campfire, what we heard was that some advocates wanted some lighter fluid.

As we here at the Sunlight Foundation always aim to please, we have developed a draft open data executive order that advocates can use in order to provide that faster start to an open data policy conversation. We designed it particularly to start municipal policy conversations, like the kind that we have through participating in the What Works Cities initiative, but please feel free to try it on for size in whatever governmental context you’d like.  

This is our first take on this document and we’re very interested in getting your thoughts on how to improve it. To that end, we’ve opened the draft for your comments — please leave them in the Google doc here or in the comments section below. We’d especially love to hear about what we’re missing or what specific segments of enacted open data policies you’d like to see echoed in our draft executive order. For inspiration, take a look at this collection of policy clauses that demonstrate individual open data guidelines, or check out the open data policy comparison for other examples of real language adopted in cities, counties, and states throughout the country.

You can read over the draft executive order below, or click here to open it in a separate window and leave your comments, ideas and suggestions. Feedback is welcome and appreciated!