Crowdlaw

More than 100 cities across the United States have committed to more transparent and accountable government by passing open data policies. Many are applying these same principles to the policymaking process itself by working with residents to draft, review, and weigh in on open data policies. This process is called crowdlaw.

Crowdlaw can be used for any type of policy or legislation, but it is uniquely suited for open data policy. Both crowdlaw and open data are rooted in the principle that democratic government is a participatory and collaborative exercise, and that the role of government staff is not to make decisions themselves but to facilitate community decision-making whenever possible.

That means successful crowdlaw processes require more than simply posting draft policy language online. City staff must also proactively invite collaboration from residents, encouraging robust participation from diverse constituencies in a given municipality. While crowdlaw provides the framework for collaborative policy-making, it’s up to community leaders and government decision-makers to demonstrate that they value co-creating policy with residents. This process isn’t always straightforward, but we’ve found that it almost always results in stronger policies that are community-supported from day one.

To help more cities succeed with a crowdlaw approach we’ve created a number of resources to help city staff think about the crowdlaw process comprehensively, from drafting a policy, posting it online, and inviting diverse collaboration from community members, to completing comments, reporting back, and enacting the final policy.

Participatory Open Data Policy: A how-to guide for crowdlaw approaches

This guide outlines how to run an outstanding crowdlaw process for open data policies. It is designed to help city staff think about the crowdlaw process comprehensively, from drafting a policy, posting it online, inviting diverse collaboration from community members, completing comments, reporting back, and enacting the final policy. Throughout the guide, you will find templates that you can use as the starting point for your own planning and communications materials. Read the guide ››

Crowdlaw for open data policy tracker

Want to know how other cities have used a crowdlaw approach? Sunlight keeps track of every city that has used crowdlaw for open data policy.

Give us feedback

Can we improve these resources in any way, or answer questions about them? Email us any time at opencities@sunlightfoundation.com.

Since crowdlaw hinges on listening to and understanding potential open data users, it shares similarities with Sunlight’s Tactical Data Engagement (TDE) approach. We encourage cities interested in crowdlaw to also see our resources on TDE for further guidance on collaborative approaches to open data practice as well as to policy.

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