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From Unconference Session to Open Data Policy

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Here at Sunlight, we embrace the idea that brilliant work can grow from seeds sown during organically constructed, discussion-driven sessions -- the foundation of any unconference. Our own unconference, TransparencyCamp, has itself yielded the creation of the Brazilian civic hacking group Transparência Hackers  and CityCamp, and has served for the launch pad for Waldo Jaquith’s OpenVA, a hub for new data and APIs for Virginia, AbreLatAm, an open data unconference in Uruguay, and even inspiration for Josh Tauberer’s “Open Data is Civic Capital: Best Practices for ‘Open Government Data'”.

But what happens when the seed you are trying to plant is legislative change? How do open government unconference attendees (a mix of engaged residents, city officials, and other civic players) help make a legislative seedling grow? What next steps should be taken? Moreover, how can engaged citizens help to promote open data?

We've been thinking about these questions since Alisha Green and Rebecca Williams of Sunlight’s municipal team and Open States lead, James Turk, had the opportunity to sit in on an open data policy brainstorming discussion at CityCampNC in Raleigh, North Carolina, lead by open government guru and Code for America brigade captain, Jason Hibbets, and Raleigh Open Data Manager, Jason Hare. The “Statewide Open Data Policy” session was a popular and well attended one, and took place in every unconference’s coveted spot: the big room. Attendees included software developers, government staff members, members of local civic organizations, and civic hackers. It was a pleasure to see a session focused on open data policy-making because not only would the creation of such a policy directly support the work done at unconferences like CityCampNC, but because such a policy would have the chance to be made stronger by having so many of Raleigh’s relevant open data stakeholders assembled in one place at the same time. Below, we explore some of the strongest takeaways and lessons learned from approaching policy making in an unconference (or similar) setting.

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Start your engines: GOP makes first 2014 ad buys against Democratic House members

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(Updated: 2:25 p.m.)

The National Republican Congressional Committee is making its first ad buy of the 2014 season with a blitz against seven vulnerable House Democrats.

Sunlight's Ad Hawk, which allows mobile phone users identify the sources of political advertising, picked up new spots aimed at the incumbents overnight. The early ads underscore the already-intensifying battle for the House, which President Barack Obama has vowed to put back in Democratic control. The president is travelling to the West Coast today for a series of fundraisers benefiting the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee. Read the details on Political Party ...

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OpenGov Voices: Book preview: The Foundation for an Open Source City

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Disclaimer: The opinions expressed by the guest blogger and those providing comments are theirs alone and do not reflect the opinions of the Sunlight Foundation or any employee thereof. Sunlight Foundation is not responsible for the accuracy of any of the information within the guest blog.

Jason Hibbets is the project manager at Red Hat and lead administrator for opensource.com. He has been applying open Screen Shot 2013-02-25 at 3.40.01 PMsource principles in neighborhood organizations in Raleigh, NC for several years, highlighting the importance of transparency, collaboration, and community building. Follow the rest of his thoughts at @jhibbets. My latest writing project has been quite challenging. At the beginning of 2013, I wrapped up the first draft of a book I’m writing about the open government movement in Raleigh, North Carolina. The City of Raleigh has made a lot of progress over the last two years, which is part of the inspiration for collecting Raleigh’s story. The movement towards a more open and transparent government started to accelerate after the city council unanimously passed an open government policy. Raleigh is on the verge of defining their open data policy and a draft of their open data standards is currently posted on Open Raleigh. From my conversations with Jason Hare, the Open Data Program Manager for the City of Raleigh, the city is about to strategically release a bunch of open data. All this is in preparation for an upcoming Triangle Datapalooza, a region-wide event rumored for later this spring that aims to excite the entrepreneurial community about open data and discover new opportunities. This is all very exciting for civic geeks and hackers in the Triangle area. I’m excited because I saw an opportunity to collect Raleigh’s open government and open data story. I’m in the final stages of finishing the book. The first round of editing is complete and my editors and I are finalizing the latest changes. I plan to self-publish the book (paperback and eBook), and I’m considering starting an IndieGoGo campaign to help crowdfund the initial round of publishing. I am also crowdsourcing ideas for the book cover on my personal blog. Open Source City  

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Open Source Initiatives Can Strengthen Cities’ Downtown Revitalization

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Disclaimer: The opinions expressed by the guest blogger and those providing comments are theirs alone and do not reflect the opinions of the Sunlight Foundation or any employee thereof. Sunlight Foundation is not responsible for the accuracy of any of the information within the guest blog. Jennnifer Wike is an Editor and contributor for Opensource.com, a community service website of Red Hat dedicated to highlighting the ways in which the 'open source movement' is shaping government, law, education, science and technology, and other areas of life. Jen also helps other businesses develop their content strategies and blogs about growth in downtown Raleigh, NC where she lives. Follow her on Twitter or you can contact her at jenn.wike@gmail.com. The open government movement in our country is well underway, though still brand new in terms relative to the pace of the workings of government. Change tends to be delivered slowly, as evident during President Obama’s re-election campaign this year when many of us had to remind ourselves that though some change has trickled down over the past four years, much of it has yet to come to pass due to the inherent processes of government bodies. And yet, it still astonishes me how quickly ‘open’ ideas are being accepted, built and implemented into city governments from the east to west coast.

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Citizens United: North Carolina’s possible response

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The Supreme Court’s decision in the Citizens United v. FEC case has rendered 24 states' election laws unconstitutional. The 5-4 ruling in favor of Citizens United reversed a provision of the McCain-Feingold act that prohibited any electioneering communication—defined as advertising via broadcast, cable or satellite that is paid for by corporations or labor unions. Many states have acted fast to counter corporations’ ability to spend unlimited amounts of money to influence elections by passing laws that force disclosure of all independent expenditures in near real time. The Sunlight Foundation Reporting Group has decided to report what each of ...

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