If you know and love the Sunlight Foundation’s tools, you’ve probably seen the announcement that we’ll no longer support the creation or maintenance of technological projects or data repositories. Essentially, Sunlight Labs is shutting down.
This decision has inspired – and will continue to inspire – a great deal of discussion about everything from the purpose and future of civic tech to organizational strategy and sustainability models. Reflection and discussion help us all build more purposeful and effective civil society initiatives, and I look forward to the conversation.
That said, this is a time for action as well as reflection. Sunlight serves the public and the community of people and organizations dedicated to a more open and transparent government. We are committed to ensuring that Sunlight Labs’ work is still available to the public after Labs has been shuttered. Happily, everything we’ve built is open source. It is yours as much as ours; anyone can use it. That is the beauty of open source and our relentless commitment to open source creation and licensing over the past decade. Some of our projects have served their purpose and now reside blissfully in repo heaven. Others, such as Open States, Hall of Justice, Politwoops, Email Congress and others, are vibrant and important and could do wonders in a new home.
We have a lot of projects to work through, and a short amount of time in which to execute that vision. I will depart Sunlight as Labs Director on Nov. 11, and until that day, I will be working with the incomparable Bill Hunt (as well as some amazing Sunlight Labs staff and alumni) to close down Labs efficiently, responsibly and transparently. Where possible, we will work with our friends and partners to construct viable futures for existing projects. Our primary goal, though, is to ensure that Labs’ products are available to everyone freely and equally in a useful format.
If you are interested in adopting a Labs project, or you are currently using one of our projects and need assistance, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org. If you would like to track our process, follow @sunfoundation, @sunlightlabs and #sunlabslove on Twitter for updates.
Finally, on a more personal note: Since becoming Labs Director 10 months ago, I’ve thought incessantly about the role and impact of Sunlight Labs, both within the Sunlight Foundation and in the civic tech space. The coming weeks and months will obviously be hard on many of us, inside and outside of Sunlight. But Sunlight has never been solely about Labs, and Labs has certainly never been solely about technology. Our legacy rests in people, and the impact people can have when they fuse subject matter expertise with technological innovation in order to solve a specific problem. I love Sunlight Labs to a somewhat irrational degree. But mostly, I love Sunlighty people who are trying to build a Sunlighty world. Labs played a formative role in building that community, and that community will continue to build new solutions long after Labs is gone. That is our legacy, and it’s something to celebrate.