Open Government Dashboard "Leading Practices" for Agency Open Government Plans


  • These "leading practices" will be used to help highlight aspects of initial agency Open Government Plans published on April 7 which go beyond meeting the Directive and actually exceed the Directive.
  • They are not meant to be version 2.0 of the Directive. They are meant to be "stretch goals" for the plans -- each quite difficult to achieve, each defined to be "above and beyond" what the Directive requires, and each one worth celebrating.
  • These "leading practices" have been driven and drafted by a cross-agency volunteer team with representatives from Defense, Education, General Services Administration, Health and Human Services, Labor, National Archives and Records Administration, Nuclear Regulatory Commission, Small Business Administration, Social Security Administration, Transportation, and Treasury. They also reflect a significant amount of helpful input provided by open government advocates.
  • We have formulated "leading practices" across four major categories of plan content:
  1. Leadership, Governance, and Culture Change
  2. Transparency
  3. Participation and Collaboration
  4. Flagship Initiative
  • For the purpose of the Open Government Dashboard v. 1.0, we propose that these "leading practices" be used in the following way:
  • We propose that each agency articulate and celebrate each "leading practice" hit by its Open Government Plan in the "Evaluating Our Progress" section of its Open Government webpage.
  • If an agency's plan successfully hits a majority of the "leading practices" in any given category, its plan should be recognized as a leading one in that category with a "bonus badge" (e.g., a "Participation and Collaboration" icon recognizing that agency's plan for being a leading one on that topic). To receive a "bonus badge" for a given category, it should of course be the case that the plan needs to meet the core requirements of the Directive itself .
  • As the Open Government Dashboard moves forward with communicating agency execution of plans, it will be important to assess and communicate the extent to which agencies follow through on the implementation of each "leading practice" outlined in their plans.
  • These "leading practices" are meant to be utilized for the initial versions of agency Open Government Plans debuting on April 7. They can be used to help guide the evolution of Open Government Plans over time. And these "leading practices' should themselves be updated on an ongoing basis – with the benefit of continuing feedback from open government experts and the public.

1. Leadership, Governance, and Culture Change

A. Employee engagement/culture change:

The plan demonstrates that the agency has developed an infrastructure to stimulate and support employee execution of open government activities at all levels of the organization. If the infrastructure is not currently in place, the plan shall describe with detailed milestones how the infrastructure will be developed. An employee engagement infrastructure will empower agency employees to execute actions that promote transparency, seek opportunities to increase citizen engagement, and collaborate with others across the government and outside the government. At a minimum, this infrastructure should include:

  • Incentives such as internal distinctions and financial awards
  • A central location for information that enables employees to find relevant open government information (i.e., policies, standards, tools, training, handbooks, etc.) easily
  • Agency-provided training or commitment to enroll employees in training provided by others, such as Web Manager University and New Media Talks provided by GSA, on open government-related subjects (i.e., FACA, FOIA, Sunshine in Government Act, Federal Records Act, etc.)
  • Demonstrated commitment to open government by executives, including a communication plan for the open government message to be consistently communicated from top leadership

B. Sustainable Open Government governance structure:

The plan describes the agency's leadership approach in developing the open government plan and how leadership and momentum will be sustained into the future. The plan specifically describes the new governance councils that will be created or the existing governance bodies that will be formally charged with driving and overseeing open government efforts on an ongoing basis – ensuring that open government remains a priority and is integrated into the mission of the organization. Resources for continued efforts have been identified. The plan clearly delineates leadership responsibilities for open government processes. In addition, accountable officials for open government are named on the agency's Open Government webpage.

C. Alignment with strategic goals:

The plan is clearly aligned with the agency's strategic plan, including its goals, outcomes, performance measures and risks. Strategic goals are considered in the proposals for new transparency initiatives, participation and collaboration activity, the flagship initiative, and all open government efforts. The plan doesn't tout openness solely for openness's sake, but ties it to the mission and strategic goals of the agency. Furthermore, the plan clearly states the mission and strategic goals of the agency's Open Government initiative, including statements on the ways in which transparency, participation and collaboration can help agencies achieve better results in its mission areas.

D. Performance measures:

The plan includes a performance measures framework for open government initiatives that is aligned with the agency's overall performance framework and enables specific open government activities to be assessed. For example, specific measures for a given open government initiative may focus on volume of participation and improvements in program results as an outcome of the initiative (e.g., improved timeliness, quality, cost of an agency service, etc.). Aggregate measures should also be identified. The agency should post the agency's performance score/results from the White House Open Government Dashboard on the agency's Open Government webpage. In addition, the agency commits to evaluate the effectiveness of the policies and practices developed pursuant to the Directive on a regular basis.

E. Cross-agency transferability:

In the areas of transparency, participation, collaboration, and flagship initiative, the plan outlines how agency efforts will be shared across government to avoid duplication across agencies and to improve value/outcome of efforts. To qualify as hitting this stretch goal, agency plans should manifest cross-agency transferability in at least two significant ways – with examples including but not limited to the following:   

  • Make training available to other agencies by opening up classes/webcasts to other agencies; providing slides, video and/or audio after the training; and posting on an e-learning platform.
  • Name an advocate who gets the word out about what the agency has to share and invites other agencies to contact that person to learn from him or her.
  • Design procurements for enterprise (where government is the enterprise) or in such a way that what is created can be shared across government at no cost.
  • Develop and post code so it can be shared with other agencies (open source or the contract written such that the government owns the code).
  • Share platforms utilized by the agency with other agencies at no cost.
  • Create participatory events across agencies with related missions.
  • Collaborate on projects and challenges with the public and with the private sector in partnership with other federal agencies that have similar missions.
  • Share all materials, results, tools, training, etc. that could be transferable to other agencies with the Interagency Working Group as an efficient central dissemination mechanism.

2. Transparency

A. Ongoing data prioritization and release process:

The plan documents and commits to implementing a permanent process for continuous, proactive identification, preparation, and release of data on an ongoing basis -- a pipeline which is explicitly incorporated into the strategic planning, IT planning, and budget formulation processes of the agency. The data release process clearly outlines how security, privacy, quality, and confidentiality risks will be managed before release. The data prioritization process describes the criteria used to determine if data is prioritized for release. Criteria may include value of the data with respect to a number of specific dimensions, FOIA requests for data, public interest in the data, resources required to release the data, timeliness of the data, etc. The process may also provide for a mechanism for agency employees to suggest high-value data sets.

B. Truly new, high-value data sets and information holdings:

The plan commits specifically to publishing at least 5 new "high-value" data sets (on or information holdings (e.g., government records, publications, videos, etc.), to be released on the agency's website, which have never before been made available to the public. "High value" data or information is defined to be that which can be used to increase agency accountability and responsiveness, improve public knowledge of the agency and its operations, further the core mission of the agency, create economic opportunity, or respond to need and demand as identified through public consultation. The plan should describe why each of the data sets or information holdings released is high value.

C. Cross-agency data release:

The plan makes a specific commitment (data sets and deployment date) to execute at least one joint data release initiative with another federal department(s). This could be an integrated cross-agency data set or the coordinated release of complementary data sets. Emphasis should be placed on connecting with other agencies with common areas of intersection with members of the public. 

D. Monitoring, stimulation and incorporation of innovative uses of data:

The plan lays out how the agency will monitor and stimulate public uses of its data that expose new insights, create useful visualizations, enhance service delivery, or otherwise benefit the agency's mission and the public. This should include proactive programs to "market" and disseminate the agency's data, explicit "data challenges" set forth by the agency to members of the public to come up with beneficial uses of the data (motivated by prizes or other special recognition), or other programs which go beyond what the Directive requires. The plan should establish a mechanism that facilitates public discussion of barriers to innovation using the data (e.g., data format, lack of metadata, etc.). The plan should identify a long-term strategy for incorporating the most innovative uses of government data (e.g., insights, visualizations, tools) into the agency's processes and offerings, so that all members of the public can benefit from these innovations regardless of whether they are primary consumers of the data that enabled them.

E. Excellence in FOIA administration:

The plan demonstrates high-level agency commitment to ensuring that the President's directive regarding the presumption of disclosure is being applied to all decisions involving the FOIA, including through increased proactive disclosures and discretionary releases (consistent of course with the legal responsibility to protect national security, personal privacy, privileged records, and other protected interests). In addition, the agency plan should reflect concrete steps taken to reduce backlogs and improve timeliness in responding to requests, such as:

  • Conducting a systemic review of the entire FOIA process within the agency to identify roadblocks and to improve timeliness and transparency
  • Analyzing the workload involved in responding to FOIA requests and determining the appropriate resource levels and then ensuring that those resources are allocated
  • Setting up regular meetings between FOIA professionals and the agency Chief FOIA Officer to ensure an established dialogue between those officials, so that the Chief FOIA Officer can troubleshoot problems and facilitate timely responses

The plan should also demonstrate that, in addition to FOIA personnel, the agency is consulting with a broad range of senior-level agency personnel, including Congressional Affairs, Public Affairs, legal and policy staff, relevant subject-matter experts, and the public to identify material for proactive release. The plan should describe the steps being taken to ensure that the agency otherwise provides for public feedback and that the agency's website remains up-to-date and includes records that have been released in response to FOIA requests. The plan should undertake to post online the agency's key FOIA processing metrics (size of backlog, FOIA requests received, processed, number of full disclosures, number of partial disclosures, etc.) and otherwise to take advantage of technology to achieve improvements at the processing level. The plan should include a statement of commitment to cooperate with the new Office of Government Information Services' FOIA mediation efforts. The plan should state whether the agency's FOIA regulations are up-to-date and, if not, what measures will be taken to update them.

3. Participation and Collaboration

A. Creation of multiple participation channels based on feedback sought:

The plan creates multiple means of engagement that can be deployed by agency employees based on the type of feedback desired – e.g., "We do X if we want ideas from a broad spectrum of the public, Y if we would like a mechanism for reaching targeted, critical stakeholders, and Z if we need a collaboratively edited document."  The plan articulates how security, privacy, and confidentiality risks will be managed for these mechanisms and outlines a methodology to evaluate the efficacy of the various participation/collaboration mechanisms in use to demonstrate the value-added of each.

B. Impact of participation:

For each new participatory opportunity outlined in the Open Government Plan, the agency commits to implementing at least one of the ideas emerging from public consultation. Examples of public impact on agency activities should be collected centrally by the agency for analysis of successes, with key examples posted on Open Gov webpages and publicly acknowledged within the agency. In addition, the plan commits to provide the public with feedback about which ideas are adopted (and which ones are not), and why.

C. Ongoing public participation:

The plan commits to incorporating public input and collaboration into the agency's core decision making processes (e.g., considering opportunities for public input and collaboration with other entities as standard practice at the beginning of new programs or the redevelopment of existing ones, soliciting public input on key decisions, gathering ongoing public feedback on service delivery quality along with suggestions for improvement, etc.). The plan outlines how the agency will execute outreach to key stakeholder communities, including press, to inform them of participation opportunities available.  

4. Flagship Initiative

A. Specifically furthers one or more of the agency's primary strategic goals:

One or more of the agency's flagship initiatives outlined in the plan clearly and directly advances a top priority strategic goal of the agency overall .

B. Performance measurement:

The plan outlines a set of specific performance metrics for the flagship initiative that are both executional (process metrics) and strategic (outcomes metrics that reflect the agency strategic goal(s) targeted by the flagship initiative).

C. Cross-agency benefit:

One or more of the agency's flagship initiatives generate intellectual capital, platforms, and/or tools that the agency commits in its plan to make readily transferable to other agencies at no cost.