I’m delighted to participate in this group blog and even more pleased to have an opportunity to talk about Accountability 2.0 with such a distinguished group of colleagues at the conference this week. I thought that before making the journey to Athens that I would give the readers of this blog a short overview of Sunlight’s work here in the U.S.
Sunlight was founded in January 2006 with the nonpartisan goal of using the Internet — the new information technologies and social networks — to enable citizens to learn more about the work of our government and to create a more positive and interactive relationship with their elected officials. Initially we focused exclusively on the U.S. Congress, but we already extending our work to focus on the U.S. government at large.
From the beginning, our work has focused on shedding “sunlight” as a way to help reduce corruption, to ensure greater accountability by government and to foster a public trust in the vital institutions of our democracy. Sunlight is unique in the U.S. in that technology and the power of the Internet is at the core of all of our efforts.
All of our work — websites, databases, visualizations, lobbying — is based on the premise that the collective power of citizens to demand greater accountability is the clearest route to a real democracy and that transparency can make a huge difference in building public trust in the institutions of governance. Transparency can stop bad things from happening, for starters. It can allow citizens to become their own watchdogs, and it can give NGOs the fuel they need to create more effective advocacy campaigns.
Sunlight’s work serves as a catalyst to enable citizens to better understand, monitor and hold elected officials accountable; help investigative reporters, bloggers and citizen journalists do the research necessary to better inform the public; help citizens interested in following and hsaping politics to more easily inform themselves (and their readers and social networks) and get engaged; and push and pull our government into a much more expansive relationships with the public. We’ve launched numerous innovative websites, databases, and tools to that end.
I’m very much looking forward to sharing more details with our fellow panelists on Saturday afternoon an to learn more about how others are using the social web in their work.