We’re a tiny 501(c)3 non-profit organization that seeks grants from charitable foundations to pay for our public-benefit work. Support our free & open-source work on the projects below.
PPF’s current project is Sludge, an independent newsroom producing investigative journalism on money in politics. Read more about our work, our impacts, our community, and donate online to support our accountability reporting. Sign up for our free newsletter, follow us on Twitter and Facebook, subscribe on Substack to get the full text of our stories delivered to you over email, and join our muckraking Patreon.
Your city council, demystified. Councilmatic is the leading non-profit project for transparency and engagement with city councils. Local participation is where our work has been pointing since 2006, after OpenCongress at the federal level and OpenGovernment at the state level.
Councilmatic, launched on Sept. 30th, 2015, is a unique non-profit project for city engagement:
- creates brand-new open data for city government info and local legislation,
- makes it searchable and browsable in a user-friendly, responsive web interface,
- adds helpful explainers on how individual city governments work, for local engagement
- and can run a public comment program with community groups, for wider particiaption.
Contact us to bring Councilmatic to your area – we’re working to roll out Councilmatic to U.S. cities nationwide. If we can reach at least half of the cities with active Code For America Brigades, we’ll connect hundreds of thousands of site visitors to their local elected officials and community groups.
A version of the White House’s “We the People” platform, but for every elected official, candidate, and verified Twitter account. AskThem is a free & open-source website for questions-and-answers with public figures. A much-needed tool for public accountability.
Users ask public questions, which gather signatures towards a threshold, and are then delivered for a public response. Over 80 elected officials nationwide have signed-on to participate, including the mayors of Austin, Kansas City, and Oakland, as well as Chris Hayes of “All In” on MSNBC and Glenn Greenwald of The Intercept.
AskThem is different from commercial petition sites or social media services:
- We suggest visitors enter their street address to auto-find their elected officials at the federal, state, and where possible, city levels of government – or to browse all elected officials by state
- We allow visitors to ask a question to any verified Twitter account, so not just elected officials, but also government agencies, media companies, and more
- As a non-profit project, we not only support open data and open standards for more government information, but we liberate our analytics about popular questions and issue areas on the open web.
AskThem has a public wish-list, to make it easier to find public figures to question – developers, help enhance our tools for public dialogue.
AskThem has innovative, free widgets for visitors to ask questions without leaving the pages of other websites – for example, news publishers and issue groups – developed with support from the Knight Foundation Prototype Fund. Help us with design time and encourage their use – for example, in questions asked to 2016 federal election candidates.
AskThem has a partnership program to promote your issues for a public response – contact us to discuss how we can reach our members with your campaign.
Transparency, with real-world context. OpenGovernment.org is PPF’s open-source version of OpenCongress for government at any level, initially launched in 2011. We seek charitable funding support to re-boot this unique app for a greater degree of public knowledge about how government works.
Crucially, PPF’s OpenCongress worked to aggregate official government data with campaign contribution information, news and blog coverage, public comments, and more. The official legislative responsibilities, such as committee membership, wasn’t enough on its own to give visitors the immediate, best-available info display of what’s really happening in Congress.
Similarly, OpenGovernment can work to combine the following:
- official government data in federal, state and city government
- with campaign donations and intelligible top-line analysis
- issue group ratings,
- social media conversations,
- public meeting schedules,
- and open-data contact tools.
This was the function of our unique open-source GovKit Ruby gem in 2010 – now we need support to carry it forward, for useful transparency through all levels of government.
The unique open data of the Open States Project is valuable, but it doesn’t display campaign contribution info on the same pages as elected officials or bills – visitors have to click off-site. What’s more, additional research & analysis is required for visitors to understand where a given legislator stands in the mix – his or her seniority, campaign coffers, priority issues, and groups supporting or opposing signature legislation. We can especially foreground the most-productive ways to contact or arrange a meeting with legislators’ offices, to emphasize engagement.
Contact us to see how far down the chain of government we can bring bulk open data, real-world context and free participation tools – for transparency “with teeth”.
Proposal: Open Data Standards for Constituent Communications
Heading into 2016, we’re still missing a huge amount of #opengov infrastructure for civic engagement. In my nine years’ experience, here are the three major areas of need in the U.S. space. Help us build these for the commons on the open web – for all the popular new tools and innovative apps yet to be developed.
- Open data for every U.S. elected official and government entity
- Available both in bulk and via an open API
- Down to the city government and local levels
- Open data standards for communicating with government entities
- Like 311, standards can deliver issues into government as structured data, towards an official resolution
- Acknowledged receipt of petitions, public legislative initiatives, questions, expertise, volunteer offers, and more
- Open CRM’s for constituent communications
- Free & open-source software for municipal governments that intakes open data standards and transparently addresses public issues, with helpful context to get more people involved
- Making possible visualizations and analysis of public priorities for a continual conversation with government
For more detailed info, contact me for a copy of our non-profit funding prospectus. Until U.S. government entities can provide and support this open data, it’s up to the civic tech movement, and it won’t exist unless someone funds it. For example, covering the top 50 U.S. cities by population with contemporary open data – around 50 million Americans, 15% of the nation – could be achieved in six months for around $250,000. Covering the top 500 U.S. urban areas – around 250 million Americans, 81% of the population – could be achieved for a total of $1 million over two years. Much more of the remaining 19% would be invited to join the Open Civic Data standard and open-data community, towards over 90% coverage for city government information. Get in touch for the 50 or 500 city project!
On open data standards for constituent communications – 311 apps are often cited as a success story for civic engagement. They work in part because they’re delivered on an open data standard into government entities, acknowledged and placed in a relatively-transparent public queue to progress towards an official resolution. Any message – to Congress or City Hall – can be like a 311 issue! Petitions, legislative text, questions, volunteer offers, expertise – we have an open data standard for it to be delivered-in, and analyzed back out. Help us spread it to participating government offices.
OpenCongress was conceived by the Participatory Politics Foundation in 2004. OpenCongress was initially built and launched publicly in 2007 with the Sunlight Foundation as founding and primary supporter. PPF grew the site into the most-visited not-for-profit site for tracking the U.S. Congress, operating it into 2013. On Oct. 29, 2013, PPF announced it had agreed to have OpenCongress acquired by the Sunlight Foundation in a cash transaction. More info on OC Blog.
OpenCongress combines official government data with news and blog coverage, social networking, and participation tools to give you the real story behind what’s happening in Congress. Read more about the project and its public mission; how to use its info; and our free resources. Visit the most-viewed bills, hot bills by issue area, and the most-active bills with our user community. Read our user-friendly Blog, contribute to our publicly-editable Wiki, and see what’s happening in your state and district.
Developers: read more about our code, visit our transparent (yes!) wish list, and contact us to get involved. We seek to add new data sources about money in politics, add valuable educational material, and expand our non-profit web development team to better meet the needs of our large user community. With more resources, OpenCongress can become radically more useful, and quickly. We have big plans — help us build amazing new open-source features on OpenCongress.
PPF will create the first-ever centralized, query-able and shareable repository of congressional scorecards created by issue groups, on OpenCongress.org. Scorecards are invaluable sources of information because they contain descriptions and positions on individual votes written by subject matter experts from established positions. While these issue groups spend a great deal of time and money creating these scorecards, they are generally locked up in PDFs or other difficult-to-share formats in difficult-to-find locations, leaving this wealth of information inaccessible to the public and forcing bloggers, reporters, researchers and citizens to duplicate their research and reinvent the wheel every time they want to know what a particular vote was about.
PPF’s project will enable everyone to view, download and share this information and access it either by politician or vote, providing a constellation of views within which everyone can triangulate their own personal truth. And we will do this with cooperative, community labor. Read our grant application to Creative Commons.
The RaceTracker project on the OpenCongress wiki tracks every 2010 election for the U.S. Senate, U.S. House of Representatives, and state governor. The power of the fully sourced and open-source wiki project comes from the citizens across the country researching, writing and fact-checking the information here. All information on RaceTracker is required to be referenced to an outside news source, and no partisan information is included. Here’s what you can find:
- Candidates for each seat and their status
- Campaign contribution information
- District maps, past election results, and more
RaceTracker serves the common interest of knowing everyone running to represent us in our government. All structured data available for query via semantic MediaWiki.