Open Government Grants Work

NFOIC awards open government and transparency grants to strengthen and foster the growth of state coalitions and member organizations and support a broad range of open government and government transparency endeavors across the United States.

Below, you'll find information about some of the most recent completed projects, including members who received the grants, descriptions of projects, and work products.

Additional questions regarding specific requirements and guidelines for NFOIC's Project and Sustainability Grants (application deadline for which is August 3, 2012) should be directed to:

  • Lara Dieringer
    Program Coordinator, NFOIC
    Missouri School of Journalism
    101C Reynolds Journalism Institute
    Columbia, MO 65211
    Phone 573.882.4856
  • Email 

Categories:

Coalition Development  |   Open Government Training  |   Technological Development  |   FOIA Audits & Public Surveys  |   Legal Tools & Services  |  

 

COALITION DEVELOPMENT

from Connecticut Foundation for Open Government (Connecticut) in 2009

Project Description:  Hire a "virtual executive director" to help grow the organization and coordinate all of the coalition's activities. The director also coordinates a successful fundraiser and seeks renewed memberships. The project was designed not only to aid the Connecticut Foundation for Open Government but also to test the viability for other small volunteer-led FOI organizations to make similar arrangements if necessary.

See http://www.ctfog.org/ for more.

 

from Georgia First Amendment Foundation (Georgia) in 2009

Project Description:  To help keep workshops going and to continue with aggressive educational programming, including the reprinting of standard freedom of information and access materials. The coalition continues its training for newly elected municipal and county clerks in Georgia. The Georgia attorney general and other state constitutional officers often call upon the coalition for help. (The coalition also drafted an Amicus brief on an important legal issue.)

See http://www.gfaf.org/ for more.

 

from Georgia First Amendment Foundation, Inc. (Georgia) in 2010

Project Description:  The project continues operations and provides aggressive educational programming throughout Georgia including Open Government Training, Web support for "Legislative Watch" analysis and updates; telephone hotline; portion of reprint of a Law Enforcement brochure; reprint of Georgia's Sunshine Laws: A Citizen's Guide to Open Government.

See http://www.gfaf.org for more.

 

from New England First Amendment Coalition (office in Rhode Island) in 2010

Project Description:  New England First Amendment Coalition (NEFAC) seeks to reach a new level of visibility and capability to conduct educational outreach and provide legal assistance to citizens and members of the press who wish to enforce FOI; also includes setting up chapters and conducting trainings. Actions include: authoring first amicus brief on a right-to-know case in New Hampshire, inaugurating Stephen Hamblett First Amendment award, and launching a First Amendment Institute in collaboration with Northeastern's Initiative for Investigative Reporting.

See http://knownewengland.org/ for more.

 

from New Jersey Foundation for Open Government (New Jersey) in 2009

Project Description:  Hiring a part-time administrator to conduct member outreach, fundraising, and developing and implementing annual conferences and educational seminars. The annual conferences and educational seminars average 40 people in attendance. The administrator also responds to member inquiries, publicizes the conferences and seminars, and continues membership development through the website and educational venues.

See http://www.njfog.org/ for more.

 

from New Mexico Foundation for Open Government (New Mexico) in 2010

Project Description:  Hire a full-time executive director to organize or participate in more than two dozen open-government trainings in 2010/2011. Coalition also will launch two major new initiatives, a review of open-government complaints to the state and a daylong FOI seminar geared toward citizen activists. Improvements in communication with members and the public through regular press releases, email updates, blog and Twitter posts, and a newsletter. The coalition will continue its telephone hotline, legislative lobbying and legal work.

See http://www.nmfog.org for more.

 

from North Carolina Open Government Coalition (North Carolina) in 2010

Project Description:  Maintain long-term sustainability and reap return on a recently raised endowment. Sustain activities in North Carolina that will raise the Open Government Coalition's (NCOGC's) profile and demonstrate how member groups, citizens and state benefit from open access to government. Grant provides outreach and educational materials, regular programming and communication, improvements to the website, responses to citizen questions and growing membership that will then help extend reach. Create print and DVD materials on issues of open governance and education materials for K-12 and for public officials and open government stakeholders in North Carolina. Host annual Sunshine Week conference.

See http://www.elon.edu/e-web/academics/communications/ncopengov/ for more.

 

from Washington Coalition for Open Government (Washington) in 2010

Project Description:  Empower citizens to make long-term gains opening government records and meetings, hold a half-dozen forums across the state and a statewide open government conference, provide training and support for local government officials, inspire and train students to use and advocate for open government laws. Provide Web, social media and email resources, including a new e-newsletter, to expand Web access to public records. Increase communications via email, Facebook, and the newsletter. Legal Committee involved in precedent-setting litigation and advocacy filing numerous amicus briefs.

See http://www.washingtoncog.org/ for more.

 

from Washington Coalition for Open Government (Washington) in 2009

Project Description:  The project's goal is promoting open government laws while informing and engaging the citizenry by organizing and participating in public events. There will be a Sunshine Week Town Hall event. The coalition continues to conduct trainings and forums in local communities across the state and distribute frequent bill status reports on legislative priorities vigorously pursued by the coalition. Actions include authoring and distributing annual Candidate Questionnaire to 735 candidates for state and local positions, and setting up a Speakers Bureau to offer coalition speakers to various associations.

See http://www.washingtoncog.org/ for more.

 

from D.C. Open Government Coalition (Washington D.C.) in 2009

Project Description:  The goal of the project was to create and organize a District of Columbia-based freedom of information coalition, which serves the residents of D.C. and organizations based therein. The creation of such a coalition is vital because it is the only one of its kind in D.C. Coalition organized two public events to bring together open government advocates to discuss increasing access to information in the District. The project sought to develop educational materials and resources, to participate in public policy discussions pertaining to open government laws, and to defend citizens' rights to an open and accountable government. Also part of this grant was the Coalition's distribution of the "Know Your FOIA Rights" brochure.

See http://www.dcogc.org/ for more.

 

 

OPEN GOVERNMENT TRAINING: TOOLS & METHODS

FOI Training Sessions from First Amendment Coalition (Arizona) in 2010

Project Description:  The grant, in partnership with the Society of Professional Journalists, provides FOI training sessions across the United States with stops including SPJ chapters, news organizations, open government coalitions and community groups. The two-hour sessions focus on the value of access to public records and practical strategies for acquiring them. Access Across America tour stopped at 56 locations in 32 states serving more than 1,000 journalists and citizens. The tour lasted 45 days in Spring 2010 presenting 2-hour training sessions to 28 SPJ chapters, four open-government coalitions and two dozen small news organizations.

See this about Access Across America and this YouTube presentation for more.

 

Guide to Public Records and Private Information in California from Californians Aware (California) in 2009

Project Description:  This comprehensive guide to all California law providing or restricting access to government and judicial records focuses on the California Public Records Act, but also covers the statutes providing access to records of the state Legislature, case and administrative records of the trial and appellate courts, records of the California Judicial Council, the Commissions on Judicial Appointments and Judicial Performance, the State Bar, and locally adopted sunshine ordinances. The guide analyzes each statutory provision as well as its interpretive case law and attorney general’s opinions, and includes the full text of each statute and court rule.

See http://calaware.org/store for more.

 

Poster: "Open Government Bill of Rights" from First Amendment Foundation (Florida) in 2009

Project Description:  The project aims to expand the variety of educational materials the Foundation offers by providing public agencies a poster with open government information. The poster content contains the "Open Government Bill of Rights" that was issued by executive order by the Governor of the State of Florida. The poster provides agencies and the public important information about accessing public records and meetings and permits the prominent and colorful display of this information. Prominent display of this poster should help to educate both employees and members of the public regarding the availability of public records, thereby impacting freedom of information in a positive manner.

See http://www.floridafaf.org/ for more.

 

FOI Training Sessions from First Amendment Foundation (Florida) in 2010

Project Description:  The project is a highly interactive, web-based, online forum using training materials, testing and certification, social media, blogs, and information exchange to educate and train citizens, journalists, lawyers, and government officials and employees on Florida's open government and Sunshine laws. The objective is the creation of a network of trained individuals who are educated about open government issues who can share experiences and strategies for ensuring access to records and meetings. Also included are plans for submitting a request for continuing education requirements to the Florida Bar and other professional organizations requiring continuing education for their members.

See http://www.floridafaf.org/continuing-professional-education-courses for more.

 

Webinar: FOI Training Sessions from Iowa Freedom of Information Council (Iowa) in 2010

Project Description:  A series of three FOI webinars focused on training the custodians of public records. Presenters include the executive secretary of the Iowa FOI Council; representatives of the city, county and school associations, and for the session on working with the media, two former journalists who currently work for government agencies. Nearly 500 people registered for the three webinars. Webinars are archived for future access at http://www.inanews.com/.

See Public Records Open Meetings for more.

 

Seminars and Publications from New Jersey Foundation for Open Government (New Jersey) in 2010

Project Description:  Hosted or co-hosted and implemented 14 educational seminars statewide to educate the public about the NJ Open Public Records Act (OPRA) and Open Public Meetings Act (OPMA). Expanded OPRA and OPMA online help service. Provided a listserve on how to address OPRA and OPMA issues in their communities. Produced a brochure: "Open Records and Meetings: A Citizen's Guide." Educated nearly 600 citizens at the educational seminars. Distributed the "Open Records and Meetings: A Citizen's Guide." Increased the number of citizens using the coalition's online help service.

See http://www.njfog.org/page.asp?ID=456 for more.

 

Brochure: "Keys to Open Government" from Tennessee Coalition for Open Government (Tennessee) in 2009

Project Description:  The "Keys to Open Government" is a 10-page reference guide for citizens and journalists to better exercise their rights under Tennessee's records and meetings laws. The coalition is developing a single website home for the Tennessee Coalition for Open Government that will incorporate social media for all coalition projects. The coalition will distribute 25,000 copies of the "Keys to Open Government." The goal is to establish and grow the coalition to be the go-to organization for open government issues in Tennessee.

See http://www.tcog.info/ for more.

 

Light of Day from Freedom of Information Foundation of Texas (Texas) in 2011

Project Description:  The goal is providing journalism students practical, hands-on experience using the Texas Public Information Act to gather data and develop investigative articles and packages for their college papers and other publications. The coalition collaborated with The Texas Tribune (a nonpartisan, nonprofit media organization) and several Texas university journalism professors. The collaboration resulted in a complete redesign of the Light of Day website, a professional marketing/recruitment video and a "how-to" video for interested college professors and instructors. Not only does the project benefit students and professors, but the marketing video also is used to educate the general public and journalists on the merits of this project.

See http://lightofdayproject.org/ for more.

 

FOI Training Sessions from Virginia Coalition for Open Government (Virginia) in 2010

Project Description:  The coalition held statewide seminars and workshops on FOIA and records management. FOI seminars instruct citizens, the media and government employees about how to use Virginia's Freedom of Information Act (FOIA). The records management seminar is geared towards government employees and advances the principle that the better managed one's records are, the easier it will be to comply with citizen FOIA requests.

See http://www.opengovva.org/ for more.

 

FOI Training Sessions from Washington Coalition for Open Government (Washington) in 2010

Project Description:  Six free public forums were offered statewide on public records and open meetings laws wherein over 180 people attended including government officials, private citizens, and the media. Local media, display ads, press releases, and op-ed pieces publicized the forums.

See http://www.washingtoncog.org/ for more.

 

Media Grant: Production from Washington Coalition for Open Government (Washington) in 2010

Project Description:  The project's goal is to help with production expenses associated with TV/video, e-newsletter, social networking, and other educational programs. Video has been gathered from past events including public forums, open government conferences, Sunshine Week and other coalition events. In addition, interviews with key government officials regarding open government issues have been videotaped. One video of an appropriate length for airing on television and one of an appropriate length for YouTube and television spots will be distributed widely to heighten citizens' awareness of open government issues and rights under the Washington Public Records Act and Open Public Meetings Act.

See http://www.washingtoncog.org/events.php for more.

 

 

TECHNOLOGICAL DEVELOPMENT

OpenGov app for Smartphones from First Amendment Coalition (California) in 2010

Project Description:  The coalition made use of the First Amendment's smartphone apps (one for the iPhone, the other for Android phones) in successful collaborations with other organizations. These included creating an iOpenGov app “Sunshine Week Coast to Coast” with the NFOIC, a database of listings for Sunshine Week events in coordination with listings supplied to NFOIC by its members was installed, as were other events and news items in conjunction with the week-long celebration of government transparency and the First Amendment. Applications can be replicated by other groups, as well.

See http://bit.ly/AndroidiOpenGov for more.

 

Website Improvements from First Amendment Foundation (Florida) in 2010

Project Description:  The First Amendment Foundation upgraded its website and can now offer the first e-edition of the Florida sunshine manual as well as a searchable database of all 1,000+ exemptions to Florida's open government laws. The information provided and ease of use will enhance access to government information in Florida. Primary goal is to offer citizens, reporters and government officials easily accessible and readily available information about Florida's open government and Sunshine laws.

See http://www.floridafaf.org/electronic-sunshine-manual for more.

 

Website Improvements from Georgia First Amendment Foundation, Inc. (Georgia) in 2010

Project Description:  Updating the Georgia First Amendment Foundation's website with the goal to be more search engine friendly and interactive. Updates include moving website to a more flexible WordPress blogging platform and optimizing content and site overall for purposes of improving SEO (Search Engine Optimization). Twitter and Facebook activated and an active presence on both.

See http://www.gfaf.org for more.

 

Website Improvements from Maine Freedom of Information Coalition (Maine) in 2010

Project Description:  Site will serve as a one-stop destination for information about Maine's Freedom of Information Access law, and will also provide links to federal and other New England states' laws involving public access to documents and meetings. The hope of the MFOIC was to provide a single entry point for people who wish to access Maine government information, along with annotated explanations of what each site provides.

See http://www.mfoic.org/index.asp?mid=73 for more.

 

Website Improvements from New Mexico Foundation for Open Government (New Mexico) in 2010

Project Description:  NMFOG launches new website in July of 2011. The new format provides infinite opportunities for the expansion of content and the building of new tools — including a searchable law library and an automatic records-request generator. People can now easily and quickly find answers to frequently-asked questions, NMFOG training materials, recent court opinions, links to public information online and other resources.

See http://www.nmfog.org for more.

 

Newsletter Upgrades from Virginia Coalition for Open Government (Virginia) in 2009

Project Description:  The grant was used to underwrite the Virginia Coalition for Open Government's existing newsletter, to add an additional print newsletter, and to expand the newsletter's circulation reach and use as a marketing outreach tool. The newsletter upgrade is a more modern tool for sharing information about and drawing attention to the organization. PDF and HTML copies of the newsletter are posted on the coalition website and distributed through email and social networks, achieving the coalition's goal of expanding the reach of the newsletter and the information contained therein. The print publication is also an important tool to serve those who have not yet embraced the electronic version of the newsletter.

See http://www.opengovva.org/ for more.

 

Website Improvements from Virginia Coalition for Open Government (Virginia) in 2010

Project Description:  Project upgrades the security and structural basis of the coalition Web site. It added new features, created adaptability to current technological standards and visitor preference, and flexibility for future upgrades. The coalition's website is the first point of contact for many state citizens and government employees when going online for information about Virginia's Freedom of Information Act, and features a comprehensive archive of opinions interpreting Virginia's FOIA, as well as updated news articles, full text of the law, blog posts, videos, Twitter feed and annual General Assembly bill charts. The coalition also provides registration for conferences and seminars, newsletter sign-ups and a popular "ask-us-a-FOIA-question" feature.

See http://www.opengovva.org/ for more.

 

 

FOIA AUDITS & PUBLIC SURVEYS

Sacramento Area Public Education Audit from Californians Aware (California) in 2009

Project Description:  This public information audit assesses public education compliance with California’s public record laws. The purpose of these audits is to identify common misunderstandings of the law in order to improve awareness. They draw attention to common misconceptions regarding open government laws in California and heighten interest in better enforcement and improvements in the statutes themselves, and provide an education to the public who may not be aware of their rights to ask for and receive public information from these agencies.

See https://www.calaware.org/audits/pub_ed/sac.php for more.

 

Social Media and Smartphone Policy Audit from Florida Brechner Center for Freedom of Information (Florida) in 2010

Project Description:  The Florida Social Media and Smartphone Policy Audit is to ascertain what policies, if any, local governments in Florida have regarding the capture and retention of public records on social media platforms (e.g., Facebook, Twitter) and mobile devices (e.g., text messages, Blackberry PIN messages). We also want to determine whether existent policies permit government-related communications via social media and/or mobile devices.

See http://vivo.ufl.edu/display/n2074762967 for more.

 

County Sheriff's Offices Audit from Missouri Sunshine Coalition (Missouri) in 2010

Project Description:  The coalition audited the Sheriff's Offices in all 114 Missouri Counties. It co-sponsored an open-government event during Sunshine Week 2011 where trainers from Investigative Reporters and Editors led optional hands-on classes in finding, downloading and using state and local government data. It also named two Sunshine Heroes. The coalition is planning another audit and conducting public meetings in six cities. It establishes a partnership with the University of Missouri law school for a Sunshine Law hotline staffed by law school students. Part of this grant was utilized for a coalition development grant to help in the formation of the Missouri Sunshine Coalition. Primary focus will be advocating for compliance with the state Sunshine Law and for efforts to strengthen the requirements of the law in order to enhance government transparency in the state.

See http://missourisunshine.org/ for more.

 

Survey: Public Awareness of FOI Issues from New England First Amendment Coalition (office in Rhode Island) in 2009

Project Description:  The coalition conducts a survey of 600 individuals around New England to see the level of awareness about freedom of information issues in the public at large. This poll provides a baseline so that the coalition can assess its public awareness campaign and how it affects the awareness of the general public on freedom of information issues.

See http://www.northeastern.edu/firstamendmentcenter/ for more.

 

 

LEGAL TOOLS & SERVICES

Legal Tools for Transparency from First Amendment Coalition (California) in Spring, 2010

Project Description:  The project provides legal consultation service to journalists, citizens, and government officials. Urgent questions are addressed the same day by phone. Other questions are answered in 2-5 days in writing with citations to legal authorities. Answers are later anonymized and published on FAC's website as a legal database. Additionally, the goal of the Quick Response Initiative is to file test-case lawsuits that are handled by law firms representing FAC on a pro bono basis. Resulted in successfully overcoming access denials through means short of litigation, including phone calls to government officials, letters, and the filing of further record requests. Upgraded website by creating a mobile version of the site and adding a Google Site Map to make the website more accessible to search engines.

See http://www.firstamendmentcoalition.org/ for more.

 

Legal Services and Tools for Journalists and Citizens from First Amendment Coalition (California) in Fall, 2010

Project Description:  The project provides legal services and tools for journalists and citizens by initiating FOI and 1st Amendment lawsuits, using in-house litigation counsel as well as pro bono firms; it provides one-on-one legal consultations to journalists & citizens. Written answers are also archived on the Web and distributed broadly via email, Twitter, Linked-in and Facebook. Note: The Legal Hotline service provided answers to approximately 1000 legal questions in 2011, half by email and half by phone.

See http://www.firstamendmentcoalition.org/legal-hotline/ for more.