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Fork our unconference: Open sourcing TransparencyCamp

Saturday, October 15, 2016 13:47
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By The Sunlight Foundation

Bill Hunt present at TCamp16. Sunlight’s Bill Hunt encourages attendees to host their own TransparencyCamp.

One of Sunlight’s most loved and well-known initiatives is TransparencyCamp, our annual unconference focusing on open government. What if it was held more often?

There are so many people and organizations who are passionate about government transparency and open data, some who have attended past TransparencyCamps and some who have yet to experience its awesomeness. Let’s empower them.

We have a detailed, publicly available set of instructions on how to run your own TransparencyCamp, thanks to the hard work of Laurenellen McCann and other former Sunlighters.

We’re happy to announce that we’ve now added these to GitHub. Just like our tech tools, it’s open source — go ahead and fork it!

Here at Sunlight, we are big believers in driving change from the ground up. The unconference format itself already represents a participant-driven model. The open source nature of TransparencyCamp is taking it a step further. You can run the TransparencyCamp you want to see. (And yes, you can use the “TransparencyCamp” name.)

TransparencyCamp started in 2009, drawing inspiration from other unconferences like Foo Camp and BarCamp. The ecosystem of unconference “camps” has expanded since then. In 2011 — inspired by TransparencyCamp and CityCamp OpenPlans started TransportationCamp, an unconference focusing on the intersection of urban transportation and technology.

My colleague Stephen and I traveled to New York for TransportationCamp in late September, and I attended one in Massachusetts in April. What amazes us about TransportationCamp is the frequency of events. There have been 10 TransportationCamps so far this year, with another planned for November.

TransportationCamp started in 2011 with a pair of events in New York City and San Francisco, thanks in part to support from the Rockefeller Foundation. Another was held in Montreal later that year, followed by one in Washington, D.C., the next year. Since then, TransportationCamp — whose coordinator has changed from OpenPlans to Mobility Lab — has rapidly expanded, with three events in 2013, four in 2014, six in 2015 and 11 in 2016.

The large number of TransportationCamps is thanks to its structure: Each event is proposed and managed by its own local organizers, who deal with staffing, fundraising and logistics. Mobility Lab’s role is largely limited to electronic communications, like the website and Twitter account.

We love how well TransportationCamp has spread organically around the country and the world thanks to local groups taking the charge on organizing their own — and we’d love to see the same happen for TransparencyCamp.

We’re already off to a great start this year. In March, Lucas Cioffi organized TransparencyCamp Online; as the name implies, it was held online via video chat. In June, Open State Foundation and the Presidency of the Council of the European Union ran TransparencyCamp Europe in Amsterdam. (Neither event was officially affiliated with Sunlight.) While most of our past TransparencyCamps have been here in Washington, D.C., we just wrapped up a successful TCamp16 in Cleveland. We hope to see more TransparencyCamps in cities all over, just like TransportationCamp we can’t wait to see what you come up with.

The Sunlight Foundation is a non-profit, nonpartisan organization that uses the power of the Internet to catalyze greater government openness and transparency, and provides new tools and resources for media and citizens, alike.


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