If you don’t already read Beth’s Blog (I’m sure you all do, since it was on my blog roll–ha!ha!), you really should. She seems like a really cool person, very committed to helping nonprofit organizations use emerging technologies to enhance their missions. And she has a wide variety of content to help–I read her blog pretty much first thing every morning.
One of her entries last fall prompted me to investigate the Sunlight Foundation. And I really like what I found. Most of their work relates to efforts to bring greater transparency to government operations (certainly a laudable goal), but I’m even more interested in the possibility of bringing similar efforts to nonprofit organizations, which are often considerably less transparent in their operations than I (and, I imagine, their employees and clients) would like. It’s important in and of itself, because our constituencies deserve access to our decision-making processes, and as a model and moral authority on transparency among other sectors (because we have limited credibility on this issue as long as we continue to fall short of true transparency ourselves).
I am no longer surprised but still disturbed by the number of students who tell me every year that they are not allowed to observe Board meetings at their practicum agencies, that they don’t even know who the Board members are, that they have to ask repeatedly for budget information, that (in some cases) they can’t even obtain the information they need for required class assignments.
What do we think we’re hiding? And why must it stay hidden? What exactly are we afraid of? Even the comments on this particular blog post were instructive–with a lot of preoccupation about what can stay ‘secret’, where to draw the line…pretty much technical concerns, when, really, transparency is about a culture change. It’s an attitude of openness that, while not requiring complete disclosure, adopts a posture of collaboration and mutual sharing. It errs on the side of truth; it believes in people’s fundamental right to information about their own lives; it is bold and courageous and generous rather than timid and suspicious and stingy.
It’s about transforming our own organizations (and, yes, that of the governments that serve us) in order to transform the lives of those with whom we work.
Let the sun shine in.