President Obama has made openness a high priority in his Administration, committing his Administration to an “unprecedented level of openness in Government” on his first full day in office. Secretary Donovan also shares that commitment writing in the Department’s Open Government Plan, “Our Democracy depends on citizens having access to information that allows them to participate more fully in public life, helps them determine priorities for public spending, ensures equal access to justice, and encourages Americans to hold their public officials accountable.”
Since that first day, the Administration has:
- disclosed more information requested under the Freedom of Information Act;
- made voluminous information available on government websites;
- used technology in innovative ways that harness government information to improve the lives of ordinary citizens.
As President Obama today signs the Open Government Partnership declaration, the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) is proud to highlight some of the ways that we have advanced America’s domestic open government agenda and created a more efficient and effective government through greater transparency, participation, and collaboration.
- Implemented HUD Ideas in Action, powered by a tool called UserVoice, allowing people to come together, share ideas in response to a question, discuss those ideas, and vote the best ones to the top for consideration. The tool was initially used to solicit ideas that further HUD’s FY 2010-2015 Strategic Plan and as a forum for HUD employees and the public to share their ideas for improving HUD. As HUD embarked on the FY 2010-2015 Strategic Planning process, it became clear that employees and the public had countless ideas on ways to transform our organization.
- Implemented the HUDdle, HUD’s new, interactive bi-lingual (HUDdle en Español) blog. The HUDdle enables readers ‐ including HUD employees ‐ to post comments and engage in a conversation with one another. The HUDdle was designed to enable interaction with the public, our stakeholders, and our grantees like never before. Another big improvement of The HUDdle is that it’s now much easier to share information. From regular bloggers, to guest bloggers, to video blogs, and special behind‐the‐scenes at HUD content – The HUDdle is the go‐to place for news, information, and dialogue about all of the great work HUD is doing in homes and communities nationwide.
- Launched the Sustainable Urban Housing: Collaborating for Liveable and Inclusive Cities competition. This competition was launched in anticipation of the 2012 Summit of the Americas, and in support of President Obama’s Energy and Climate Partnership for the Americas (ECPA). It was funded by the Rockefeller Foundation, and was a joint effort of the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, the U.S. Department of State, and the American Planning Association.
An open and good government is much more than releasing information. It is about harnessing the skills and talents of the American people, establishing greater collaboration among Federal agencies, and ensuring that the taxpayer’s money is wisely spent. To that end, today, HUD is recommitting itself to the principles that the President announced on his first day in office and exemplified in our work since then. We will:
- Establish an Innovation Lab that will benefit HUD through the incubation of novel and unique ideas that improve its interactions with customers, increase mission efficiency and efficacy, and reduce duplication of effort.
- In collaboration with the Veterans Administration (VA), continue to assume a proactive leadership role in the Administration’s efforts to combat homelessness by endeavoring to develop a new and innovative set of tools and processes. The Department’s effort is unique in that it seeks to predict the future course of homelessness in a community, allowing HUD and VA to proactively allocate homelessness resources.
The President’s Open Government Initiative represents a major change in the way Federal Agencies interact with the public. HUD recognizes that open government is about more than new technologies and programs-it is about leveraging new ideas to improve the way the Department serves its customers. Whether through the creation of unique partnerships with other Agencies or the timely dissemination of HUD’s data, the Department has identified ways to utilize the principles of transparency, engagement, and collaboration to increase mission efficiency and efficacy.
Stan Buch is the Director of Innovation and Open Government, Office of the Chief Information Officer.