Today in OpenGov: How to connect communities to their data


In today’s edition, we share our new “Tactical Data Engagement” guide, catch up on the latest Sunshine Week news,  talk about Trump and transparency with C-SPAN, and much more…


The Sunlight Foundation published a new, comprehensive guide for cities to engage their residents to improve their communities with public data.

In “Tactical Data Engagement,” local elected officials, government workers and the public will find practical steps that go beyond just publishing open government data online, including a strategic process, cases studies that reflect real impact, and simple tactics to move from ideas to action.

The resource was developed as part of Sunlight’s ongoing work with dozens of cities across the United States through the What Works Cities initiative, which seeks to improve how data, evidence and technology are applied to improve the business of government and lives of residents.

As Sunlight has advocated for over a decade, public access to government information in the 21st century should be free, open and online — but that’s not enough to meet cities’ goals to improve outcomes for  local communities.

“We shouldn’t just be proactive about data access, but about facilitating use and reuse,” said Stephen Christopher Larrick, Open Cities Director at the Sunlight Foundation. “What we’ve seen is that cities that connect open data to the unique needs of their residents are able to achieve impact and demonstrate its worth”

These gains don’t happen without the investment of time and expertise by city leaders and partnerships within and outside of government.

“As Sunlight celebrates the progress that has been made publishing public information online in recent decades, we’re also mindful of all of the work yet to be done during Sunshine Week,” said Alexander B. Howard, Deputy Director at Sunlight Foundation.

Opening data isn’t enough on its own to deliver the transparency, accountability and tangible improvements to city life that mayors and residents want and need to see from the investment of time and resources. ‘Tactical Data Engagement’ provides useful case studies of cities and proven strategies that we hope every city will adopt and adapt, meeting their communities where they are to solve shared problems, together.”

The guide is still a work in progress and we’d love it if you told us what you think by reaching out to or posting a comment in the public google doc. (Sunlight Foundation)



  • Yesterday, the American Library Association presented Senator Jon Tester of Montana with the James Madison Award for his work promoting open access to government information and transparency. While accepting the award, Senator Tester announced that he is forming a bipartisan transparency caucus in the Senate. (Newseum)


  • Tester reintroduces the Public Online Information ActAll Montanans know we cannot hold folks accountable without sunshine, and in the 21st century we have no excuse not to be as transparent as possible,” Tester said.  “We need more sunshine in our government and this legislation will make it easier for Montanans to keep folks honest.The POIA “will make all public records from the Executive Branch permanently available on the Internet in a searchable database at no cost to constituents.”(Senator Tester)We are thrilled to see it reintroduced. Sunlight has supported POIA since 2010, when Rep. Israel and Sen. Jon Tester, first introduced this important transparency reform. If enacted, the bill would enshrine into law the simple, transformative principle that in the 21st century, public means online.  We hope Congress moves forward with much-needed open government reforms.

Celebrating Sunshine

  • Who uses FOIA and why? FOIA Mapper attempted to answer those questions based on an analysis of 229,000 requests spread across 85 federal agencies. (FOIA Mapper)
  • Sunspots: “Still, there are bright spots around the country: court decisions, laws, bills, and other efforts breathing life into FOI principles. And it’s important to recognize those successes where we get them, because it’s all too easy to feel discouraged by the persistence and scale of FOI challenges. Progress, however fitful, is being made.” (Columbia Journalism Review)
  • A new report endorses police body camera programs. The National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers released the report, Policing Body Cameras: Policies and Procedures to Safeguard the Rights of the Accused, after two years of research. The report “endorses the continued and wider use of body cameras as long as they are implemented with NACDL’s policy recommendations,” which are also laid out in the paper. (NACDL)
  • Data analytics are worth the work they entail for local governments. “Cities worldwide are having a data and analytics-driven moment, and it’s one that is likely here to stay. Thanks to advances in computing, code-sharing, and mindsets around accessing government data, it has never been a more affordable, accessible or effective time to start harnessing analytics capabilities to improve local government services.” (Data-Smart City Solutions)
  • One last chance to celebrate Sunshine Week with the Sunlight Foundation. Don’t forget that our event is happening tonight at 5:30 at our office in Washington, DC. Sign up to attend here.

Transparency in Trumpland

  • Danielle Brian, Executive Director of the Project on Government Oversight wrote an open letter to the President. In it, she urged President Trump to make transparency and openness a cornerstone of his administration, noting areas where President Obama fell short of his transparency promises that the Trump administration can tackle. (POGO)
  • Sunlight’s executive director John Wonderlich went on C-SPAN to talk about the state of open government. “C-SPAN asked John for our views on the Trump administration’s approach to date on open government.” He responded with a number of examples from the campaign and first few months of Trump’s presidency.  You can read more and watch the full video here.
  • Former Bush and Obama ethics counsels keep up the good fight. Norm Eisen and Richard Painter, former ethics advisers to Presidents Barack Obama and George W. Bush, respectively, “have teamed up to become two of the most vocal critics of President Donald Trump’s conflicts of interest. They not only sued the president within days of his inauguration, they have also appeared regularly on TV news and testified on Capitol Hill on all manner of legal minutiae.” (Roll Call)


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