OpenNorth has had an impact in a variety of local contexts internationally, with projects focused on using applied social science research to deliver impactful results for municipal officials and their citizens.
“I think the process that OpenNorth led was the beginning of a longer conversation about Toronto’s future of open data and open government. So the first impact of the plan would be the process got people talking and now, as the City of Toronto starts to implement, the plan provides clear strategic direction about next steps.”
Pamela Robinson, Associate Dean for Graduate Studies and Strategic Initiatives in the Faculty of Community Services at Ryerson University, about OpenNorth’s work on the Toronto Open Data Master Plan
“Our partnership with OpenNorth to identify lessons from city pioneers worldwide in opening up data highlighted a number of important recommendations for officials to encourage trust in government, improve the provision of services, and stimulate economic growth. This work is a clear example of a crucial role they play globally in supporting governmental capacity to create the cities of the future.”
Ania Calderon, Executive Director, International Open Data Charter
“Represent API is a service that allows anyone to find their elected officials and electoral districts based upon their location. And it’s the largest database of its kind. The API is used to perform millions of these lookups every year by dozens of organizations that we know from all sides of the political spectrum.”
James McKinney, Head of Data Products and Services at the Open Contracting Partnership and Co-Founder and former Executive Director of OpenNorth
“It’s not how much how it has been used, or how it is perceived, but the fact that it may mean internally that people will know that every single contract they are giving will be accessible to a larger audience including journalists.”
Stéphane Guidoin, Acting Director, Smart and Digital City Office for the City of Montreal, on Vue Sur Les Contrats
“OpenNorth, through Jean-Noé Landry, was a founding member and an integral contributor to Canada’s Open Government Multi-Stakeholder Forum in its inaugural year of 2018. OpenNorth’s deep open government experience and global perspective proved invaluable during the growing pains of this innovative and potentially transformational forum. OpenNorth also helped the Forum navigate the complex relationships government departments have with civil society and each other.”
Rob Davidson, Senior Data Scientist, Information and Communications Technology Council
“Both citizens and elected officials appreciated the outreach and educational aspects of Citizen Budget, to better understand the budget and the difficulties in making decisions to achieve a balanced budget. It is no longer a question of spending hundreds of thousands of dollars over three years in order for a small select group to vote on how to spend one or two million dollars.”
Richard Ryan, Councillor, Plateau Mont-Royal
To support the efforts of cities to open up their data, Open North, and the Government of Canada have developed a do-it-yourself open data toolkit for municipalities. This toolkit has been presented at the Federal-Provincial-Territorial Working Group on Open Government, used by the province of Yukon, and formed the basis of peer-to-peer learning exchanges with like minded organizations in Europe and South and Central America. It even inspired Open Data Durban in developing its own. The toolkit is aimed at municipalities that have not yet begun an open data project but need some guidance on how to implement one. Find out more about the do-it-yourself open data toolkit.Learn more about the Do-It-Yourself Open Data Toolkit
Led by the Partenariat du Quartier des Spectacles, we are developing and facilitating a multi-stakeholder shared data governance working group with cultural industry stakeholders. Quartier des Spectacles, which coordinates engagement strategies and initiatives in Montreal’s foremost arts and entertainment district, includes the major cultural venues in the area, research institutions, and provincial government partners. Based on our work, the Quartier des spectacles also established a new not-for-profit organization to improve urban quality of life and we continue to apply this method to other urban development issues, like homelessness and food security. The sharing governance model includes: data life cycle management procedures, joint data ontologies and standards, technical capacity building, a common policy framework and prototypes and tools to demonstrate the value added of shared data collaboration (e.g. market research and analysis, business development, data visualization). This work builds on our experience initiating the Province of Quebec’s multijurisdictional open data portal.
We worked with the City of Toronto’s open data team to design and coordinate an internal and external multi-stakeholder engagement process culminating in the City’s Open Data Master Plan and implementation roadmap. Specific deliverables that had impact for the city included a thematic, focused cluster engagement model on city resilience and smart city issues to identify the value added of open data with targeted stakeholders. The City’s Master Plan and Roadmap are based on best practices from leading international examples and open data maturity models based on the Open Data Charter. We continue this work in helping the City of Montreal to develop their own plan, and through our new programs to support government strategic planning capacity locally and globally.Learn more about the Toronto Open Data Master Plan
As Steward of the Open Data Charter, we supported the City of Edmonton in becoming the first city in Canada to adopt the Charter. Building on its participation in the international Charter Implementation Working Group, OpenNorth is advising the Province of Ontario in implementing the Charter as part of a multi-stakeholder working group and integrated the 6 Charter principles in the development of the City of Toronto’s open data master plan and roadmap and stakeholder engagement process. The Open Data Charter was founded in 2015 and updated in 2018 (with help from OpenNorth) and involves collaboration between governments and experts working to open up government data. More than 70 governments and organisations have joined the movement. OpenNorth’s study of how government open data policies and programs could align with the open data policies of cities and provinces in Canada helped document the potential for adoption of the Charter in Canada (see report).Learn more about the Steward of the International Open Data Charter
Through Represent API, we make open data into public infrastructure by enabling citizens to use it to contact their elected officials. Our open source resource uses this infrastructure to connect individuals with their municipal, provincial and, federal representatives and provides information about the electoral district. By entering a postal code or geocoded address, citizens can find out who represents their riding and how to reach them. Access to this information enables individuals to build “email your representative” campaigns and other community-based advocacy initiatives, amplifying their voices, and ensuring their perspectives are heard by political candidates and elected members of government. Because of the simplicity in its data structure, Represent API can scale to almost any political jurisdiction worldwide and already counts over 30 Canada-based organizations amongst its users. For social justice organizations, unions, and nonprofits, this tool helps organizers map their existing supporters to specific electoral districts.Learn more about the Represent API
We explored the following question for the PCO: How can we make qualitative consultation data more reusable for the Federal Government? The goal was to examine variations in the structure of qualitative consultation data and its potential to be used in analysis tools. Our examination included four consultation datasets from the Government of Canada’s open data portal (and one internal consultation dataset) and prototyped a workflow to process and analysis qualitative consultation data.
This involved processing qualitative data (e.g. individual respondent answers) into structures that would ease the process of automated content analysis (e.g. Natural Language Processing [NLP] and sentiment analysis). From this exploration, recommendations were made on a data model that captures the intricacies of dialogue between government and stakeholders. Resulting code from the project can be found in its own Github repository.Learn more about the Privacy Council Office (PCO) Project
We designed Popolo to be data standards that create interoperability within the civic tech community by standardising data structure on political events and entities. This eases the process of modelling objects such as government institutions, elected officials and events to enable anyone to applying data to real urban problems. Creating interoperability also allows for better monitoring platforms and exchange of data within the civic tech community. Popolo has been used in platforms such as AskThem, which allows citizens to search for their elected officials, submit questions, and receive a response. Popolo’s simplicity allows platforms to easily connect to one another to enable the querying of elected officials from any number of political jurisdictions. Popolo is an underlying standard for the Poplus civic tech ecosystem, which supports the development of reusable open source software components that can be used by civic app developers around the world.Learn more about the Popolo
In 2015, we developed an API that enabled the City of Montreal to open up a large portion of its contractual data by launching “Vue sur les contrats,” a visualization tool that allows users to dive deep into this information. Thanks to OpenNorth’s involvement, this visualization tool uses only data structured in open contracting format. With OpenNorth expertise, the initiative led by the City of Montreal’s Smart City Office demonstrated the benefits of standardizing data, but it also highlighted the challenges associated with data quality and design choices that are inherent to such projects. Using a standard format and open source software allowed us to create a model, which other organizations can adopt, to transform data that is publicly available, but difficult to access, into a vehicle for more transparency and better informed citizens. For more information about this project, please consult the Open Contracting Partnership’s blog post.Learn more about the Vue sur les contrats
We have co-led a group of Canadian civil society organizations in lobbying for the creation of a Multi-Stakeholder Forum. This collaborative platform allows government and civil society, as partners, to co-create their Open Government Partnership (OGP) action plans and oversee their implementation. These action plans are created every two years, with Canada and more than 75 other countries required to develop action plans outlining their openness and other commitments over the upcoming two years. The OGP requires members to engage in public consultation in preparing and implementing its plan and this forum strengthens dialogue between the Canadian government and civil society to support a more open and transparent government. Canada has assumed its seat on the OGP Steering Committee, making it even more important for robust action by its civil society to hold the government to account.Learn more about the Canadian Open Government Partnership Multi-Stakeholder Forum
Working with the City of Montreal’s brough Plateau-Mont-Royal in 2013, we developed a user-friendly and fun online budget simulator to increase civic participation in decision-making and support elected representatives in better representing the interests and priorities of local residents. Over 100 cities have used Citizen Budget to broaden the budget engagement of their entire community, and we have seem an average of 15 percent increase in participation in municipal budget meetings while also educating residents on the budget process. This makes Citizen Budget Canada’s leading budget engagement tool. Unlike a regular survey or data visualizations, Citizen Budget is an interactive platform with three modules (Tax Impact, Balanced Budget, and Dollar Allocation) that show the financial impacts of participants’ choices in real time, educating them about the trade-offs and constraints faced by their local government. It has been used by more than 80 cities across North America (including the cities of Edmonton, Ottawa, and Regina). Citizen Budget represents a clear improvement over public meetings which involve travel, time, child minding and other accessibility constraints. Revenue generated by Citizen Budget helps sustain OpenNorth’s mission and operations.Learn more about the Citizen Budget