Code for America Salon: Build Collaborative Open Government

Dan is the Deputy CTO at Granicus. He was previously the founding CTO of Code for America and an entrepreneur in SaaS solutions for health and economic development in local government. 


I recently attended the first Code for America Salon with guests Ellen Miller, Executive Director of the Sunlight Foundation, and Tom Steinberg, Executive Director of MySociety.

If you haven’t heard of Code for America, it’s like a peace corps for geeks. Designers, developers, product managers and technologists serve a fellowship for a year and help ‘reboot government’ by building new and innovative open source/platform solutions for city governments. This year, they have teams of three to four fellows in eight cities, including several Granicus clients: Chicago, Honulu, Austin, Philadelphia, and New Orleans. The CFA Salons are monthly gatherings of thought leaders in the Gov 2.0 space who share interesting insights into their work.

Tom Steinberg leads MySociety, a decade old nonprofit working on transparency and open government in Britain. Collectively, their projects serve over 250,000 people a year. Some of the group’s projects include:

  • – a FOIA request system that residents can submit their questions, and everyone can see the resulting documents, emails and outcomes of the request.
  • FixMyStreet – A reporting tool for citizens to register problems with their local street scapes with over a 1000 requests per month.
  • –  A notification system for updates on UK’s Parliament and activities.

Ellen Miller founded the Sunlight Foundation and shared some of their amazing projects around government data collection for the federal and state level. Collectively, their APIs have been accessed over 100 million times sine January 2012 alone. Very Impressive! Some of their projects include:

  • Open States – An open source database built by over a 100 developers that pulls in state level legislative data and makes it searchable.
  • OpenCongress – A tool to get updates and search activities from the congressional record.
  • Influence Explorer – You can search companies and understand their lobby spending as well as contracts they receive.

Both speakers highlighted the growing impact of open and transparent government data. In the last five years, governments have made huge leaps in releasing data prompted by community organizers seeking to improve their governments. The idea of online collaborative governing, referred to as ‘we gov’ by Miller, is becoming more and more possible by the commitment of NGOs, citizens and government working together to release and improve open civic data.

Tom and Ellen agreed that the next five years will be exciting and innovative as the space of civic leaders and data openness builds.  At Granicus, we’re very excited to be part of the open government and transparency movement and applaud both Sunlight and MySociety for pushing the Gov2.0 movement to new heights.

codeforamericasalonJen Pahlka speaking at the Code for America Salon.

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2 Responses to “Code for America Salon: Build Collaborative Open Government”

  1. depends on the skill/talent/working knowledge of the coder, and the amount of features being added.
    you could have a very very basic bare bones page in an hour or two with someone who has the language in their head and doesn't have to refer to documentation a lot.


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