Since the beginning of the What Works Cities initiative, the Sunlight Foundation (Sunlight) has worked to expand access to public data nationwide. We have helped nearly 40 U.S. cities enact open data policies. We have also tracked and analyzed open data policies in over 100 cities, counties, and states. Sunlight’s efforts have fostered democratic access to government data across the nation.

Cities are now going beyond making data simply accessible. To fully engender openness and to get the most out of their open data programs, governments need to build upon this infrastructure of access and work with residents to use data to solve community challenges.

Tactical Data Engagement is designed to help cities go beyond open data policy and even open data portals, to facilitate opportunities for the community use of open data to improve residents’ lives.

Sunlight believes that information is power and that all residents of a democracy have the right to power through the access and use of public information. Community leaders need public data and information to build an evidence base for addressing local challenges. Governments should capitalize on the opportunity to facilitate community problem solving through the use of open data.

Our vision is that city halls and other governments will use Tactical Data Engagement to facilitate the use of open data in all communities. In particular, we hope city leaders will use this framework to take action in marginalized communities that often go overlooked as audiences for civic technology, open data, and transparency. Tactical Data Engagement presents a uniquely valuable opportunity for city halls to empower residents from systemically disenfranchised communities who need open data and public information to address local challenges.

This guide’s approach to facilitating the community use of open data is, at its core, about radically valuing residents’ information needs as well as the outcomes governments and residents can achieve together when those needs are placed at the center of a city’s open data program. This guide encourages readers to ask: What can governments do to actively facilitate opportunities for open data use in communities? Where are information gaps that governments might help to close? And how can government become an equal partner with residents in leveraging open data for community impact?

We hope this guide helps communities everywhere answer those questions.

“No other expertise can substitute for locality knowledge”

Jane Jacobs

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