Code for America recently launched Engagement Commons to bring together information and solutions from across the country on innovative new strategies for government engagement with citizens.
The landscape of tools and strategies for engaging citizens is changing rapidly, as more and more governments implement new ways for citizens to make their voices heard in the governance process.
The envelope gets pushed when public sector leaders employ collaborative technologies to make government processes more inclusive and participatory. And those doing the envelope pushing are increasingly putting open data at the center of their efforts.
In Philadelphia, Mayor Michael Nutter recently signed a sweeping Executive Order that will require city agencies to release government datasets to the public. It establishes oversight and a governance structure for the city’s open data efforts and calls for the appointment of a Chief Data Officer.
“The Open Data Policy puts in place the necessary framework, structure and governance that will increase collaboration among City departments and bring citizens closer to their government.”
– Philadelphia Chief Innovation Officer, Adel Ebeid
Philadelphia’s action follows closely on the heels of similar action taken by New York City to implement an open data policy that will guide how city agencies format and release data for citizens, journalists, and developers.
One of the first milestones in the implementation on NYC’s new law is the establishment of policies and technical guidelines for city agencies. In keeping with it’s leadership role in the open data movement, New York City’s Department of Information Technology and Telecommunications (DoITT) is employing a novel approach in developing these standards – citizen engagement.
DoITT has established a publicly accessible, interactive wiki to encourage input and suggested text for the new open data policy. This unique approach is a first among cities with open data policies or legislation, as is the follow up policy hacking event which will bring together “policymakers, technologists, civic hackers, app developers, academics, journalists and data enthusiasts” to further develop the policy.
DoITT’s approach in engaging a wider audience to provide input into the wording and direction of city policy is reminiscent of the approach taken by the new Consumer Finance Protection Bureau (CFPB) in developing its open source policy.
The CFPB – which Code for America was thrilled to host recently for a meetup in our San Francisco office – is using their open source policy as an opportunity to try an innovative way of soliciting input from the public – they are hosting it on GitHub.
CFPB’s open source policy is hosted in the same software sharing site as their open source software tools. Developer and other interested parties can leverage the widely used Git software version control system to fork, modify, and merge changes to the CFPB policy.
It’s a completely novel and very exciting way to manage a government policy, and we’re eager to see what developers – some of whom have already forked the CFPB policy – can do with it.
Not only are cities putting open government data at the center of their citizen engagement strategies, some of them are using their open source and open data policies as engagement tools in their own respect.
Stay tuned to the Engagement Commons site as we add the valuable lessons provided by these bold experiments for other governments to leverage.
Three cheers for transparency! Hats off to Code for America – have you seen Jennifer Pahlka’s amazing Ted Talk on Code for America and what they have been able to do with technology in government? It’s AHMAYZING!