Tactical Data Engagement

Cities across the United States are making public data more open and accessible to their residents. Mayors and city staff are improving their policies and technical offerings to make more and more information about how local governments function available online. These developments represent a sea-change in our societal norms and expectations about the public right to government information. We believe Tactical Data Engagement is the next step in that cultural movement toward transparency and accountability. While open data policies and portals are invaluable components of improving local governments’ outcomes, the ultimate goal of all government work — including open data — is to improve the day-to-day lives of the people in a community.

Now, we’re excited to help cities take the next step in their open data work. Governments can go beyond making public data accessible, and proactively work with residents to put open data into use. Tactical Data Engagement is the Sunlight Foundation’s approach to making that happen.

A Guide to Tactical Data Engagement

This guide lays out our four-step process for cities to facilitate opportunities for the community use of open data to improve residents’ lives. This guide will help you Find a general focus area by observing community information needs; Refine information use cases by interviewing stakeholders; Design a plan by coordinating with target data users; and Implement an intervention by collaborating with actual users. Read the guide ››

TDE Resources

The following resources can help you as you start a project using the TDE approach:

Worksheet: “Understanding the ‘Who, What, and Why’ of an open data opportunity”

Looking to launch an open data project? To make sure your work is grounded in your community’s needs, you’ll need to investigate “Who” is out there, “What” they might need, and “Why” they care. Here is a list of research methods that will help. See the worksheet ››

Quiz: “Does your open data project match community needs?”

If you’ve already done some of the methods on our worksheet, you can take our self-assessment to see if you have learned enough to launch your open data project around a clear focus area. After filling out the form, you’ll receive a report letting you know how in-touch you are with your community’s needs. Take the quiz ››

Playbook: Data User Groups

Data user groups give open government data providers a chance to hear feedback from residents about how to make data more applicable and usable. User groups also give community members a chance to learn about data, express their information needs, and collaborate around local issues in a non-intimidating, community-oriented environment. In this playbook, the first in a new series looking at TDE tactics in more depth, we explore how city residents can come together, meet, share ideas, and collaborate on new projects through data user groups. Learn more and read the guide ››

TDE Pilot Projects

Sunlight’s Open Cities team has been researching and piloting best practices in facilitating community use of open data to continuously develop our TDE framework.

In March 2017, we released the beta version of our TDE guide and began reaching out to What Works Cities to gather feedback on the guide’s instructions for city officials. As a result of those productive conversations, we found opportunities to start piloting the framework itself with cities in the What Works Cities partnership.

In beginning to pilot the approach, we hoped to confirm our framework’s relevance to city open data goals, iteratively improve the TDE model to ensure our process is replicable and intuitive enough for cities to use on their own, and to develop new case studies to demonstrate the types of tactical approaches that we believe will facilitate the community use of data. Read more about our TDE pilot projects:

Development Services in Glendale, Arizona

Sunlight worked with Glendale on a TDE pilot project to get permit and development data into the hands of real estate decision-makers and resident activists as part of an open data program that radically values stakeholders’ information needs. Read more ››

Open contracting in Glendale, Arizona

Our first TDE pilot project was helping the City of Glendale, Arizona improve Development Services information. The more Glendale staff considered what’s possible with open data, however, the more opportunities they saw. So our second TDE pilot project has also been with Glendale, helping the city make its procurement practices more effective and efficient. Read more ››

Equitable and Complete Neighborhoods in Madison, Wisconsin

After working with Sunlight and the Johns Hopkins Center for Government Excellence in 2016 to refine its open data governance, Madison’s open data team wanted to take their work to the next level by trying to directly connect with and address residents’ information needs. Around the same time, the city was in the process of creating a new comprehensive plan, including a goal that all Madison residents have equitable opportunities to live in and be part of strong, complete neighborhoods. To unite these separate city processes, Madison became the third pilot project of Tactical Data Engagement. Read more ››

Get involved

Tell us about your Tactical Data Engagement

Have you used the ideas in our guide, or are you working on a problem that could benefit from a Tactical Data Engagement approach? Tell us about it! We want to hear your successes and are here to answer questions.

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