Sunlight, local politics, and information in the internet era

Last week, I was very flattered to receive an invitation from the Sunlight Foundation to participate in a working meeting about local politics and information in the internet era at the Berkman Center.

Nisha Thompson of the Sunlight Foundation emailed me to say:

Today the Internet provides access to candidate information which was unimaginable a decade ago, and yet citizens still have trouble finding the basic information they need concerning candidates in their districts. The problem is a result of data that is scattered or difficult to understand, and when a good resource does in fact exist, it cannot be found easily. Your work in making this knowledge accessible is exemplary, and we would like to take the time to discuss methods with others in the field.

Actually, I would say that my work in this area is hopelessly goofy and idealistic, rather than exemplary. Still, I do care very deeply about deepening civic engagement, promoting inclusiveness in discourse and decision-making, and using technology to increase knowledge in the public interest. In the last few years, I've greatly enjoyed belonging to and volunteering my time with the Commonwealth Civic Round Table, the civic engagement advisory group of the "What's Next?" seminar series, the "Hello Boston" campaign, and the Ethos Roundtable. However, I have to admit that while I'm all for supporting civic engagement by taking public information online, I'm not that much of an expert on local politics.

I'm ready to assist the Sunlight Foundation and others with internet strategies, if it means that we'll all be better informed and more deeply engaged in local politics, but I'm a little vague when it comes to having a platform or a slate of candidates to call my own. In this, I feel some kinship in to W.H. Auden, who apparently said, "We are here on earth to do good for others. What the others are here for I don’t know."

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This item is based on an article that was originally posted to my blog, "Technology for the Nonprofit and Philanthropic Sector.")

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