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Open North's Winter Newsletter 2015

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We’ve had a busy Fall! Here’s a quick update about some of the things that we’ve been working on and what’s coming up this winter:

What We’ve Been Working On

Federal Elections

  • Advocacy Campaign. The advocacy letter addressed to all federal party leaders that Open North helped coordinate with Open Data BC and the Open Data Institute (Toronto) was supported by more than 20 organisations and received some media coverage.
  • Represent API. For the election, we collected all candidates’ contact information and made them available through our Represent API, with some help from volunteers to fill in the gaps and a much appreciated Google sponsorship. More than a dozen online get-out-the-vote and voter education initiatives, such as Vote Together and Vote Savvy, used it. Read our guest blog post How can code keep government accountable?

Engaging the New Government

  • New Leadership at Treasury Board. Like many Canadians and open government experts, we read the Prime Minister’s President of the Treasury Board of Canada Mandate Letter with great interest. We look forward to supporting the Honourable Scott Brison in his new role as President of the Treasury Board and his open government team, especially in developing Canada’s next OGP National Action Plan in 2016.
  • Data-Driven Policy Making. Open North participated in a panel organised by National Resources Canada’s (NRCAN) Innovation Hub on using data to power policy innovation. We’re excited about further contributing our expertise.

International Engagement

  • International Open Data Charter. Building on our involvement in the Open Government Partnership’s Open Data Working Group, we became Stewards of the International Open Data Charter and members of the implementation working group. The Charter’s principles are important for governments at all levels of jurisdiction.
  • Fiscal Transparency. As an acknowledgement of our contribution to development of fiscal standards, including Open Contracting, we’ve also been invited to become members of the advisory group for the Global Initiative for Fiscal Transparency, along with the World Bank, the IMF and Open Knowledge Foundation.
  • Open Government Partnership Summit. Thanks to the support of the National Democratic Institute, we attended the Annual Open Government Partnership (OGP) Summit in Mexico and delivered a presentation on legislative monitoring best practices in Canada.

Citizen Budget

  • Business development. As the trend towards online budget consultations gains momentum Citizen Budget online simulator continues to go from strength to strength. This past month we hit a major milestone with over 50 North America cities’ budget consultations now benefitting from Citizen Budget! Used coast-to-coast and internationally, Citizen Budget provides nearly 6 million people with an innovative, easy and convenient way to be involved in their city’s budget process.
  • Free customizations. In celebration of this milestone, we are offering a free customization ($1,000 value) to our clients on their 4th Citizen Budget consultation. Langley, British Columbia, as one of our oldest clients, is the first city to take advantage as it launches its 4th consecutive consultation this year!
  • Research and Development. Open North is always looking to improve Citizen Budget to provide new and innovative ways of engaging residents. As part of the first phase of improvements we’re adding a few functionalities based on client feedback, including complete mobile adaptability and AODA compliance. In 2016 look for new features and exciting customizations to be introduced, design upgrades to the front and back-end and a brand new website!

What’s Coming Up

Parliamentary Budget Officer. We were once again selected by the Canadian federal budget watchdog to customize its online budget simulator to be used at the federal level. Judged a “smash hit” by MPs last year, ReadyReckoner is a first of its kind in Canada and estimates the potential revenue impacts to the federal treasury that would arise from adjusting various federal tax rates, credits, and brackets during the calendar year. The upcoming next phase will see further expansion of the tool’s capabilities to calculate expenditures impacts.

Ma mairie. Stay tuned for the launch of our website designed to support Montrealers explore their municipal institutions and discover the inspiring stories of civically engaged residents. Thank you FFunction for your top notch work!

Scaling our Activities in Ukraine. Following the successful online budget consultation pilot in Kiev, Open North will continue its’ collaboration with local partner Social Boost and NDI to scale its activities to foster greater transparency and civic engagement in budget decision making.

OPORA, our local election monitoring partner, will also be launching (and potentially scaling) a Ukrainian version of Open Australia Foundation’s vote tracking website They Vote For You, that OAF built with our support.

Connexité. In partnership with the Chantier de l’économie sociale, Open North and F&co’s data-driven incubator was deployed to support the development of innovative solutions to tackle challenges affecting Montreal’s food system. Consult the projects and our video from our pitch night at ConnexiDay. Teams will further develop their projects in coming months leading up to the final pitch night in February. We’re establishing partnerships for future Connexité cohorts in 2016.

Open North is Growing

New Board Members.

  • Henri-François Gautrin, a Quebec politician and scientist, was a prominent member of the Quebec political scene throughout his career. M. Gautrin served as Assistant House Leader and Online Government Minister.

  • Dr. Tracey P. Lauriault is an Assistant Professor of Critical Media and Big Data in the School of Journalism and Communication, Communication Studies, at Carleton University in Ottawa, Canada. Well known to the Canadian open data community, she will be a welcome addition to our team!

New Product Development Manager. Laurence Harvey Leclerc will be overseeing Citizen Budget’s projects and looking for new opportunities to customize our tool to strengthen civic engagement with Citizen Budget in Canada and internationally.

Interested in contributing to Open North’s mission? Building on our open data and civic tech track record, we’re in the process of setting up a range of new and exciting projects in 2016. If you have Ruby on Rails experience, get it touch with us to learn more about these opportunities.

Happy Holidays and Stay in Touch!

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