Collaboration in Civic Spheres

Help Us Crowdsource Local Government Coverage

by Matt Rosenberg December 1st, 2010

Would you like to help digitally crowdsource coverage of your city council, local school district, and county council – here in the domain of Pugetopolis?

It can be as easy as spotting and forwarding to me a link to a newsworthy document from your city council’s online public meeting agenda. To help feed the Public Data Ferret’s database of synopsized government documents and databases and searchable by jurisdiction and topic, we’ve got freshly updated government resource pages at this companion blog Social Capital Review for residents of King, Snohomish and Pierce counties.

Each resource guide contains links to agenda pages for city councils, school boards and county councils. We’ve separated out the ones which provide individual links to individual agenda items, because they are modeling best practices. Bloggers, social media users, stake holders are not going to to be able to zero in on an agenda item if it’s buried in a 150-page pdf file of an entire meeting agenda packet. This practice is still common. And if there’s no text at all provided online of current agenda items – well, let’s just call that opaque, rather than transparent.

Here’s what you do. Spot something that would matter to local residents – like Shoreline’s 2010-2011 city government goals and work plan, in Edmonds a new homeless ordinance, in Redmond a mayoral memo detailing a bicycle wayfinding program, or in Kent a plan to alter local parking fees – and send the link to me, matt (at) publiceyenorthwest (dot) org. We’ll look it over and give you a shout-out if we use it.

Or take it up a notch.

Want a training on how to produce by-lined material for Public Data Ferret? Know students who might like to help, or classes that’d like a demo and a conversation about participatory democracy and the new media eco-sphere, where we’re all contributors? Let me know.

It ain’t rocket science, but it matters. We’re building a knowledge base – drawn strictly from objective public-sector sources – on key policy issues that shape our family budgets and quality of life. Let the bloviators bloviate and package their “facts.” This is about community, commonality and real conversation about politics and policy, starting with objective data.

Not only can you search by local taxing body. State, county and federal materials are also in the mix at Public Data Ferret. If human rights or budget issues, energy, environment, transportation, public health or education grab you, we’ll give your link-tips a good look too.

Our parent organization Public Eye Northwest is now a Washington state registered non-profit corporation and will soon be applying for federal tax-exempt non-profit status. We’ve got a detailed work program to build digital civic literacy through content co-creation and distribution partnerships, and to advance “voluntary open government” best practices by working with the public sector. Today we sent in our application to the Knight News Challenge grant program, just one piece of our fundraising effort.

Stay tuned. And let me know if you want to connect.

RELATED: “Darkness Can Be A Costly Proposition.”

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