Towards 50 states and beyond

OpenGovernment is a freeĀ and open-source public resource website for government transparency and civic engagement at the state and local levels. The site is a non-partisan joint project of two 501(c)3 non-profit organizations, the Participatory Politics Foundation and the Sunlight Foundation. OpenGovernment is independent from any government entity, candidate for office, or political party. The information contained on OpenGovernment pages, wherever applicable, is cited to a primary source– while we aggregate many different data sources, we do not edit or manipulate government data in any way before presenting it here. Read more about us, our data sources and the community-driven Open States Project from Sunlight Labs.

OpenGovernment is currently in early open-source development, with a planned public beta launch later in 2010 and updates continuing to roll out over 2011. Ever since we conceived of OpenCongress in 2004, we’ve realized that the model of combining government data with social wisdom in order to facilitate civic engagement can and should be applied to other levels of government: state legislatures, city councils, neighborhood associations, international institutions, the other branches of the federal government (Executive and Judicial), public-mission institutions such as schools & hospitals, foreign countries with more-or-less democratic systems, and more. We’re working towards a future in which the public at large can conveniently access the best available info about all public actions at every level of government, then organize civic actions of their own in response and in dialogue with their elected officials.

Towards this end, we’re working with our partners at Sunlight Labs on the community-driven Open States Project, with the goal of establishing a data standard and collecting machine-readable data streams for all 50 U.S. State Legislatures. These data streams will provide official government info to GovKit, the open-source application that combines it with other publicly-available data sources and social wisdom from around the open Web. GovKit, in turn, will power the OpenGovernment website: essentially, free and non-partisan versions of OpenCongress for all fifty state legislatures and a dozen major cities, with even more local versions planned. We’ll continue to encourage volunteers to remix the code for city, county, or municipal governments. Along the way, we’re working to make our code more modular and better-documented, in order to make it possible for volunteers to make their own versions of OpenGovernment with an emphasis on the issues they and their communities care about.

Our code has always been 100% open, but now we have an even better answer to the question, “How do I make an OpenCongress for my (state, city, town, or country)?” OpenGovernment is the new solution. Overall, we have a good start on a more transparent government, but we’ve just begun — we need more resources to take OpenGovernment to the next level and enable more powerful civic engagement. If you are in a position to contribute to our non-profit work, or for more detailed information, please contact us.

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