CityCamp Colorado drafts model local Open Government Initiative

Anyone looking for a set of first principles for open government has a new resource to consult: OpenGovernmentInitiative.org.

These principles resulted from a collaborative, distributed project that included representatives from CityCamp, Colorado Smart Communities, Code for America, the Sunlight Foundation, OpenPlans and others. These open government policies shared there could be adapted to the needs of city, state or national government. There are 3 broad principles laid out in this model initiative:

  • Transparency: “Making government information available to the public is a requirement for an informed citizenry and an accountable government.”
  • Participation: “Democracy requires opportunities for participation and collaborative problem solving whenever possible; this is at the core of democratic governance.”
  • Accessibility: “A government serving all its people needs policies which provide maximum information accessibility and maximum inclusion in participatory processes.”

More Open Government Initiatives from around the world can be found on the Civic Commons wiki, including specific policies or open data initiatives.

The new site includes a model open government directive that a mayor or governor can adopt immediately. The men and women behind this draft emphasized, however, that “some elements of the directive are critical to the success of any open government initiative.” Key principles in that model directive include publishing public information online, creating and institutionalizing a culture of open government, and creating a policy framework that supports these goals.

The role of CityCamp

CityCamp Logo

The idea for the model Open Government Initiative came out of CityCamp Colorado, an unconference held in December of 2010. Brian Gryth explained a bit more at the CityCamp blog about how they improved the federal open government directive to adapt it to local government. “Over the next few weeks and months, we intend to continue to create supporting materials and to draft model open government legislation to help institutionalize open government at all levels,” he wrote. “Together we can make transparency, participation, and collaboration possible in our governments.” Readers that are interested in getting more involved can join the Open Government Initiative group.

CityCamp itself has grown steadily over the first year of its existence. Since it was founded on January 23-24th, 2010, there have been 6 cities that have held a CityCamp, with more than 900 attendees. There are now at least 504 combined members in the CityCamp forum at e-democracy and group at GovLoop, along with nearly 1000 Facebook fans.

Why CityCamp? Let founder Kevin Curry explain it in his own words:

Cities are not very smart. Experts are usually needed to extract even the most basic information about cities. Given all of the resources available to us, it’s shocking that we, all of us, can’t access answers to basic questions about our cities. It’s not at all shocking, however, that answering basic questions about any city is not simple. People, processes, and technology all intervene. Negotiation of each of these elements individually is not trivial.

Our ignorance about our cities costs us money, wastes our time, and makes us unhappy. We need our cities to be smarter. Smarter cities save money. Smarter cities create opportunities. Smarter cities are safer.

To understand how we can achieve smarter cities we need to sit down to the table, both proverbially and literally.

We should promote conversations between citizens, communities, and governments across multiple media. We should use the Web as a platform to unlock information from artificial containers and open new channels. We should foster connections that lead to novel collaborations. We should educate ourselves about our surroundings so that we can manage them more effectively.

We can’t achieve any of this without communicating, hacking, collaborating, and participating.  This is why I urge you to thinking about what Gov 2.0 needs and opportunities exist where you live and what you can do to address them. CityCamp is a vehicle for Gov 2.0 at the local level. Depending on where you live CityCamp can be about direction, orientation, training, implementation, or whatever you think fits with the goals of CityCamp.

About Alex Howard

Alexander B. Howard is a DC-based a technology writer and editor. Previously, he was the Washington Correspondent at O'Reilly Media, where he covered the voices, technologies and issues that matter in the intersection of government, technology and society. If you're feeling social, you can follow him on Twitter, like him on Facebook or circle him on Google Plus In addition to corresponding for the O’Reilly Radar, he has contributed to the Huffington Post, Govfresh, Mashable, ReadWriteWeb, National Journal, The Atlantic, CBS News and Forbes. He graduated from Colby College with a bachelor's degree in biology and sociology. Currently, he is a resident of the District of Columbia, where he lives with his greyhound, wife, power tools, plants and growing collection of cast iron pans, many of which are frequently used to pursue his passion for good cooking.