Crowdlaw and open data policy: A perfect match?

 at Sunlight: “The open government community has long envisioned a future where all public policy is collaboratively drafted online and in the open — a future in which we (the people) don’t just have a say in who writes and votes on the rules that govern our society, but are empowered in a substantive way to participate, annotating or even crafting those rules ourselves. If that future seems far away, it’s because we’ve seen few successful instances of this approach in the United States. But an increasing amount of open and collaborative online approaches to drafting legislation — a set of practices the NYU GovLab and others have called “crowdlaw” — seem to have found their niche in open data policy.

This trend has taken hold at the local level, where multiple cities have employed crowdlaw techniques to draft or revise the regulations which establish and govern open data initiatives. But what explains this trend and the apparent connection between crowdlaw and the proactive release of government information online? Is it simply that both are “open government” practices? Or is there something more fundamental at play here?…

Since 2012, several high-profile U.S. cities have utilized collaborative tools such as Google Docs,GitHub, and Madison to open up the process of open data policymaking. The below chronology of notable instances of open data policy drafted using crowdlaw techniques gives the distinct impression of a good idea spreading in American cities:….

While many cities may not be ready to take their hands off of the wheel and trust the public to help engage in meaningful decisions about public policy, it’s encouraging to see some giving it a try when it comes to open data policy. Even for cities still feeling skeptical, this approach can be applied internally; it allows other departments impacted by changes that come about through an open data policy to weigh in, too. Cities can open up varying degrees of the process, retaining as much autonomy as they feel comfortable with. In the end, utilizing the crowdlaw process with open data legislation can increase its effectiveness and accountability by engaging the public directly — a win-win for governments and their citizens alike….(More)”