The countdown is on to TransparencyCamp 2016 — and we’re taking it out on the road!

Wallace the Robot welcomes TCamp attendees.

We’re busting out of the Beltway. This year, Sunlight is focusing TransparencyCamp, our annual unconference, exclusively on state and local issues. Please join us and hundreds of your friends and colleagues from across the country on Oct. 14–15, when we head to Cleveland and convene our communities in the city’s stunning downtown public library.

Why Cleveland? We wanted to host this TransparencyCamp in a town with strong grassroots organizers and clear problems its community is trying to solve. We looked across the United States, talking to our friends and allies. We looked for a place where people are dedicated to open government and innovation and the possibilities they offer. We wanted to connect with an amazing library system, close to multiple schools and universities.

Transparency has shifted what the public knows about government as well as demands for accountability. Mayors, city councils and communities confront urgent problems and challenges that their communities need to understand and solve, together. State governments are striving to improve social service delivery and technology procurement through open data and open source, even as political influence from outside the state seeks to shift state policies and practices. From re-thinking community outreach to innovating digital platforms for state lawmaking, from mapping lead pipes or parking tickets to aggregating America’s criminal justice data, the open government movement is changing government in towns and states throughout America.

Great solutions require great input. Great input requires a multitude of voices, experiences and perspectives. As an unconference, where attendees create the program, TransparencyCamp is designed to level the playing field. Everyone has an equal voice. You’ll have an equal opportunity to shape the agenda. You can define the problems that need to be solved and bring people together to outline strategies to fix them.

If you’re a community organizer or civic leader trying to get your government to share the information you need in the way you need it, TransparencyCamp is a space to sit down with government officials and learn about the technological or legal hurdles they face to sharing the information you want. You can connect with librarians who specialize in collecting information and teaching digital literacy. You can build with software engineers and designers who know how to harness emerging technologies, learning how to build a scraper to liberate government data from PDF jail.

If you’re a librarian, TransparencyCamp is a space to clarify how the goals of the civic technology and government tech communities align with your work. You can tap into the energy and curiosity, empower new allies, find new avenues for furthering your own work and connect more people to knowledge. You can connect with other people entrusted with being stewards of community spaces, both physical and virtual and refine what a library should be in the digital age.

If you’re a government official seeking to promote or understand open data, TransparencyCamp offers a bureaucracy-free zone where you can speak frankly with other government wonks in the same boat. You can listen and learn from technologists and advocates about strategies that have worked in other communities, from policy to procurement to powerful stories of change in the face of budget cuts, apathy and anger.

If you’re a technologist or designer, TransparencyCamp provides a platform to demonstrate the power that tech brings to tackling longstanding problems, to show that you’re not just developing software or APIs, but solutions that work for the communities they’re intended to serve. You can learn about new approaches to gathering or creating data, analyzing or publishing it and integrating it into applications and services. You can discuss how civic technologies connect to social change or entrepreneurship, sharing ideas or prototypes that can improve life in cities around the world.

If you care about how government works, TransparencyCamp is for you. If you’re frustrated about how government isn’t working, TransparencyCamp is also for you. Participating in this unconference has inspired some big projects in the past, from Code for America to the US States Open Data Census.

Whether it’s a concrete plan for a new project, increased knowledge or connections, you’ll leave TransparencyCamp inspired with new insights, new goals for how communities can work together towards a smarter future and new friends to help on the journey.

So mark your calendars, tell your friends and colleagues, reserve your tickets and start submitting your ideas for sessions at TransparencyCamp. We’ll see you in Cleveland!

Let’s come together to figure out strategies and solutions for making local and state governance better, faster, smarter and more transparent.

TCamp in a library?

I can’t wait for everyone to discover the Cleveland Downtown Public Library. There’s a reason it’s called “The People’s University.” Cleveland has reimagined the role of libraries in the 21st century. Sure, the main branch has marble stairways and shelves of books. But it also has a sparkling makerspace and a tech center that piloted the deployment of Wi-Fi hotspots and laptop loaner programs. The library’s light-filled event space hosts everything from hackathons to sewing classes to conferences.

Throughout our history, libraries have been the place we can all go when we need to find the information our governments store and provide. How have they done that? How do they do it now? Through community engagement, metadata, archiving, user-centered design, convening, building trust, handling sensitive data, creating open source tools, responding to law enforcement requests, prioritizing digital security, overcoming resource constraints, bridging the digital divide, archiving and presenting government information, making complicated information easy to understand, empowering people through information, increasing technological literacy…

If that list strikes you a recitation of what the Civic Tech and GovTech community has been trying to do for the last decade, you’re right. We’re working towards the same goals. We just have a tendency to do it in different rooms.

We built this TransparencyCamp to bridge that gap. Cleveland already gets it. There’s a library branch inside City Hall. Anastasia Diamond-Ortiz is not only the Library’s Director of Strategy and Innovation, she’s also the co-founder of Open Cleveland, the city’s Code for America brigade. When libraries join with govtech and civic tech, we deepen the expertise and expand the alliances promoting public access to information. We all win. Because collaboration = awesome. See you at the library!