Foundation Brings 'Sunlight' And TransparencyCamp To Cleveland

Cleveland. (Tony Ganzer / ideastream)
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On Oct 14-15 Cleveland will host an “un-conference” dedicated to government transparency and accountability.  An unconference is a kind of looser, collaborative event to promote a grassroots approach to information sharing. 

This event is dubbed a TransparencyCamp, sponsored by the Sunlight Foundation, a Washington, D.C.-based non-profit.  ideastream's Tony Ganzer spoke with the foundation’s Kat Duffy about what kinds of things participants might hear at an unconference:

DUFFY: “In the past, you’ll see everything from people who are developing new technological platforms to make it easier for citizens to understand government data, all the way over to we need to think at a fundamental level about how we connect citizens to government information throughout the country.  So it really runs the gamut.”

GANZER: ”Why did you pick Cleveland, of all places? You say on your website you’re breaking out of the Beltway, and ending up in Northeast Ohio…”

DUFFY: “How could we not pick Cleveland...”

GANZER: ”Good answer!”

DUFFY: “...Cleveland is fantastic.  We really wanted to do our TransparencyCamp this year with a focus on open government and governance issues at the state and local level.  And we wanted to find a town where we could do TransparencyCamp that had a really active and vibrant community of people who are supporting open data and open government.  We also really wanted to find a town with an incredible library system because libraries are hubs for innovation, for bringing communities together, and for sharing information. Felton Thomas, the director of the Cleveland Public Library, has been our partner throughout this process. He’s been extraordinary, and we’re excited for people from all over the country to see your incredible library, and the gorgeous renovation, and the MakerSpace, and the community spaces, and the digital infrastructure—it’s a stunning library.  And we’ve also been working with the Cleveland Civic PET Collaborative, with Open Cleveland, Councilman Brian Cummins has been wonderful as well, we’re working with some local businesses…we have just found Cleveland to be the sunlight-iest environment for TransparencyCamp.”

GANZER: ”And Northeast Ohio has had a past involving government corruption, and there have been many lawsuits and indictments revamping the system.  Did that go in to your decision at all, or is it past that era?”

DUFFY: “I wouldn’t say we’re past the era anywhere of needing to think more carefully and more holistically about how citizens are informed about government activity, and how they are made a part of government decisions, and how they are able to hold local governments or state governments or the national government accountable.  Obviously one of the big issues right now in transparency and accountability is in how we think about the actions of the police and criminal justice system reform as well, so that’s something we hope we’ll be discussing.  But I think what’s really important, not just for Cleveland but for so many communities around the country is creating a space where people with different understandings of the problem can come together and have a safe space for a couple of days and really talk to each other.”

GANZER: ”This is an annual unconference that you’re bringing to Cleveland, but we are in an election year.  Do you expect that to season this experience a little differently than normal?”

DUFFY: “At TransparencyCamp certainly people are thinking about voting, voting applications, electoral transparency, voter reform—one of the reasons we really wanted to focus this particular TransparencyCamp at this time on state and local issues is that even with changes in government that are coming in November, these are systemic problems that we need to think about and that we need to find solutions for.”


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