Tonight, the Oakland City Council unanimously approved Councilmember Libby Schaaf’s Open Data Policy, requiring Oakland’s public data to be proactively made available in useable formats, which will empower the citizens of Oakland to better access information and work to improve government.

“This is an important step forward in making ‘public information’ actually public,” said Councilmember Libby Schaaf. “Public information and government data belongs to the people of Oakland. By doing a better job of sharing it, government can engage and empower citizens to join us in solving problems, delivering services, and improving our residents’ lives.”

The Open Data Policy itself was drafted in a unique, open, and collaborative manner. Over the summer, Schaaf reached out to the Urban Strategies Council, an organization working to eliminate poverty through education, opportunity, safety, and justice. Urban Strategies organized a public roundtable and an online Google Hangout, and invited experts and interested parties from around the country to join and participate in developing the Open Data Policy.

The collectively written draft was then uploaded and shared as a Google doc, and anyone interested was invited to edit the document and comment on it. The community created draft was also included as part of the finalized proposal that was presented to the City Council, to illustrate the community’s instrumental role in drafting the policy, and make transparent what the Council had changed from the original draft and why.

“The actual process of creating this open data policy was itself truly open and community-oriented,” said Steve Spiker, Research and Technology Director at the Urban Strategies Council, who originated the concept of a community drafted open data policy. “It was inspiring to see how committed the people of Oakland are to making government more transparent, accountable, and collaborative.”

Laurenellen McCann, National Policy Manager at the Sunlight Foundation, an organization working to make government accountable through data, policy, and journalism, said, “Strong, sustainable open data policies get to the heart of how communities share knowledge and decision-making power. Oakland’s collaborative policy-drafting was a strong demonstration that tapping into this potential can have great benefits, even at the start of a community’s open data journey, and we hope other communities will take notice.”

Schaaf also recently joined the Sunlight Foundation to lead a webinar hosted by the National League of Cities about how Oakland successfully put together its Open Data Policy.

“The sometimes cumbersome and obscure bureaucratic processes of Oakland’s City Hall can make us feel that our government is neither by the people nor for the people,” said Schaaf. “This Open Data Policy is a big step in the right direction towards changing that, and I hope other local governments will look to what Oakland has done as a model for how their cities can be more open and accountable.”