Open Data Policy + Practice

Building Open Data Policies

Interested in working on an open data policy in your community or exploring how other cities are incorporating open data principles? Browse our key resources on basic open data policy best practices and strategies for implementation.


Public Policy for Public Data

Public Policy for Public Data is a step-by-step playbook for creating an open data policy for your city. It’s an animated checklist of our work with city halls, covering everything from why a policy is important and where to start to what to do after your policy has passed.

Open Data Policy Guidelines

The Sunlight Foundation created this list of guidelines as a framework to present a broad vision of the open data challenges that dedicated policies can actively address. These Guidelines are not ranked in order of priority, but organized to help define key elements of any legislation, executive order, or policy seeking to institute open data principles.

Comparison Of Open Data Policies

View a collection of current municipal and state policies in the United States analyzed against our Open Data Policy Guidelines. See actual legislation text compared to the guideline it successfully addresses.

Open Data Policy Wizard

We’ve created a wizard to help local governments envision the backbone for their city’s legislation based on our open data policy firestarter. The original firestarter is a living document and a standardized text example of what a good open data policy looks like.

Open Data Policies Map

Want to know where all the open data policies are in the United States? There’s a map (and a list) for that. This site also includes links to full policy language, which we encourage new cities to incorporate into their own open data policies.

Open Contracting Data Policy Guidelines

Sunlight and the Open Contracting Partnership (OCP) developed a set of guidelines to help cities make public contracting data easily accessible and useful to all. Sharing contracting information openly can help governments build public trust, improve the effectiveness of their own agencies, and empower the private sector to make wiser investments.

Publishing Open Data

U.S. City Open Data Census

The U.S. City Open Data Census is a benchmarking tool that gives city staff and residents an understanding of what datasets are available in their city, and how their city compares to others across the country when it comes to open government data.


As part of our exploration of best practices for open data generally, we also examine the potential impact of opening specific kinds of information. Our “Deep Dives” take the magnifying glass to priority data for different communities, highlighting the current state of this data across the country, crafting recommendations for how its disclosure could be improved, and sharing demonstrations of just what happens when this information is made available and accessible.

Asset disclosure

Asset disclosure can help answer questions about the basic integrity of government officials. Learn More


Lobbying might evoke images of power brokers in Washington, D.C., but lobbyists are also influential at the local level of policy. Learn More

Campaign Finance

Campaign finance disclosure is an essential public accountability mechanism. Providing public access to this kind of information about the flow of money in politics empowers oversight and accountability in the government decision-making process. Learn More


Zoning impacts the most physical elements of our communities and daily lives — from the location of your local supermarket (and what you can purchase there) to the size and height of your home. Learn More


Crime impacts every community. The information generated from incidents of crime fuels a wide variety of news stories and apps that keep people updated on important public safety issues. Learn More

Further reading

Open Data 101

Educational Materials

Community Building