Model Local Open Government Directive

In December, Kevin Curry, Alissa Black, Scott Primeau, and I began working on a model open government directive while at Citycamp Colorado.  After a flurry of work over the last month, we, with the help of a few dozen additional open government advocates, are able to bring you the model directive for local government.  This directive will help municipalities and state governments bring about open government in their communities.

As we state in the comments to the directive’s introduction:

The model Local Open Government Directive is intended to be an executive initiated order or directive to the local government under the executive’s legal authority.  An executive leader, such as a mayor, should use this model to adopt a directive for the city to help institutionalize open government principles within the city government.  This model may be tailored to meet the needs of the particular locality.


We modified, tailored, and improved the Federal open government directive for local government.  I encourage you to share this model directive with leaders in your communities and to lend support to our global open government efforts.  In partnership with OpenPlans, we are hosting the directive at  In the next couple of days, you will find multiple versions of the directive to fit your needs for sharing the directive with others.

In addition, our friends at the Sunlight Foundation have created a site where you can sign up to show your support for this effort.  Please sign up at

Finally, 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.  Together we can make transparency, participation, and collaboration possible in our governments.  If you are interested in getting more involved, please join the Open Government Initiative group.  

In addition to Kevin, Alissa, and Scott, I’d like to particularly thank Philip Ashlock, Nicole Aro, and Sean Hudson.  I am forgetting a number of people, but thanks to everyone that participated in the Open Government Initiative group.

Why CityCamp?

Why CityCamp? Given the organic enthusiasm for CityCamp that emerged in 2010 this might seem like an academic question to readers of this blog. But even dedicated CityCamp organizers wonder about the limits of what we can achieve. In this reflective time that marks a year since the first CityCamp, it make sense to consider this question more deeply than perhaps we’ve allowed ourselves thus far.

We’ve always claimed that local is where citizens connect most directly and often with government. Community organizations, too, play key roles in what happens where we live. Most people, even those unfamiliar with terms like “Gov 2.0,” recognize that the Web has a powerful ability to transform the way we conduct and interact with governments and within communities. Given the speed at which transformations tend to occur on the Web, it’s only reasonable to assume that people everywhere are struggling to keep pace. It does not seem far fetched, either, to assume that the range and diversity of interactions, and therefore need and opportunity, are greatest at the local level.

CityCamp deals directly in this space.

But, what are these so-called “needs” and “opportunities” and what can an “unconference” and “online-community” possibly do to address them?

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.

CityCamp One Year Later

Today and tomorrow, January 23 & 24, mark one year since the first CityCamp in Chicago, Illinois.  As is customary, it’s time to take time to reflect on what has transpired in the year since that fateful weekend.

Here’s a little CityCamp “By the Numbers”:


The number of cities that have held a CityCamp


Roughly the number of people who attended CityCamps last year.  (About twice as many registered, which means they at least visited our pages.)


The combined number of members in CityCamp forum at e-democracy and group at GovLoop. (956 Facebook fans.)


Posts in the forum

Why Manor?

The other night I was chatting with GovFresh founder Luke Fretwell about the upcoming manor.govfresh event, happening in Manor, TX in less than two weeks.  He asked me a simple, obvious question:  why am I going?  I gave him some reasons off the top of my head.  Eventually the conversation turned to other topics.  But it got me thinking more about the event and why it’s significant.

Last I checked there are about 30 government attendees signed up for manor.govfresh.  They represent about two-thirds as many different government organizations.  Almost all of them are from local governments.  That’s about how many came to the inaugural CityCamp.  That’s a big deal.  Manor.govfresh is different from CityCamp in that the latter is more about sitting down at the table and working through issues.  For the most part, manor.govfresh will be about orienting and educating people who are just starting to learn about Gov 2.0 at the local level.  I like to think of events like manor.govfresh and sf.govfresh as a “stimulate” complement to CityCamp. So I want to see how local governments will respond to what they will be learning in Manor.

Part of manor.govfresh is also fascinating and worthwhile experiment in “making over” another small town in Texas called DeLeon.  Imagine Extreme Home Makeover for local government IT.  Try as they might, it seems nearly impossible for even willing governme nts to make the improvements everyone agrees are needed.  Budgets aren’t just tight. They are disappearing.  99% of the time IT is a support function; not the mission itself. So Dustin Haisler, playing the part of (a surely subdued) Ty Pennington is showing up with an expert team of Gov 2.0 implementers to give the deserving town of DeLeon the lift it needs to move into the online 21st century.

There are many other reasons why I’m glad to be going to Manor.  It’s a great opportunity to meet in person with many of the outstanding professionals with whom I’ve been collaborating in this space; Alissa Black from Code for America, Ben Berkowitz from SeeClickFix, Andy Krzmarzick from GovLoop, Chris Metcalf from Socrata, Dustin from City of Manor, and Luke from GovFresh.  It’s sure to be fun and I know it will have Luke’s sense of style that I have come to appreciate.

There was something else special about the GovFresh event Luke put on in San Francisco, too.  At the end of the event San Francisco CIO Chris Vein took questions from the audience.  For about an hour he had an open dialog with his core constituency; the coders, journalists, designers, and community organizers who are interested in San Francisco’s open government initiatives.  Where else does that happen? No where. Who else makes that happen?  No one. I regret that I wasn’t able to attend the GovFresh event in San Francisco so there’s no way I’m missing Manor.

Здравствуйте CityCamp St. Petersburg, Russia

Through the gift of Google Translate, we give you CityCampSPb:

“In the 20 century we have done everything to accommodate a city car, now needs to be done so that it becomes convenient for people’s lives. The problems of the city – it is our problem, the potential of the city – our potential.

CityCamp – this anti-conference on innovation for the city. We will invite local authorities, representatives of the Administration of the city, famous people, programmers, and it-Schnick, designers, active citizens, bloggers, so they can share ideas, concerns, visions and perspectives. At the conference we will discuss and create solutions that can be used in cities to improve the lives of people of the city, using as a basis for open information technology and the Internet.”

CityCamp St. Petersburg is October 23-24, 2010.

3 Local Examples

I’m spending a lot of my CityCamp time these day on two things, 1)  talking to people in different cities about hosting camps and 2) building out the infrastructure for making CityCamps recognizable and repeatable for anyone to use.  In thinking about what describes the essence of CityCamp, including the 4 Goals, I’ve realized that most important to me, personally, is the 4th Goal:  Create outcomes that participants will act upon after the event is over. I want to witness conversations converted into actions.  That seems like a tremendous task given a relative lack of awareness and understanding of Gov 2.0 at the local level among anyone but early adopters in big, urban markets.  But it’s not a tremendous task if we talk in concrete terms among people who are positions to enact change.  Here in my city of Virginia Beach, Virginia I can think of 3 specific examples of what this means. Continue reading