Government Transparency, specifically at local levels has become a bit of a buzz word over the past several years. So what does it really mean? Unfortunately, it means different things to different constituent groups.
A quick search of Google for a definition turns up over 93M suggestions for the meaning of the word Transparency. Wikipedia describes it as, “operating in such a way that it is easy for others to see what actions are performed.” Some readers may be old enough to remember this definition from businessdictionary.com, “A see-through, clear piece of acetate used for projecting data, diagrams, and text onto a screen with an overhead projector.” Wikipedia goes on to describe Open Government as “the governing doctrine which holds that citizens have the right to access the documents and proceedings of the government to allow for effective public oversight.
Whatever your definition, Government Transparency is more than posting agendas and minutes to the town’s website after the meeting. These days, people want to know more than just what final decisions were made. They also want to know the process of how decisions were made, who made them, and who may have influenced or provided input as items move through the myriad of informal and formal review and revision meetings prior to final adoption.
One such way, many organisations are adopting to solve this is live streaming their council meetings.
While the minimum threshold of Government transparency may be mandated by law; in today’s online socially connected world, leading governing bodies are embracing transparency as a core operating philosophy vs a compliance requirement.
Like with anything start small and build from there. Perhaps improving the quality of content available in digital format through your website, to make sure it’s easily searchable and meets evolving accessibility standards. Consider starting to video stream meetings to the public, both live and archived with links to related content and member details, like attendance and voting histories.
This post has been edited in October 2017.