Started in 2005 by the News Leaders Association, Sunshine Week is now widely celebrated around the US. Public agencies and news organizations will spend the week highlighting the importance of access to public information through special communications and events. We here at NextRequest are celebrating, too! It’s our mission to strengthen trust in digital communication between public agencies and private citizens.
Sunshine Week’s motto is “Open government is good government,” and that ideal is enshrined in the laws of the United States. The Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) and state records laws give citizens the right to request information and public records controlled by the government. Businesses, news media, and private citizens exercise this right every day, with private citizens making up about 20% of records requests annually.
The week takes its name from Florida’s Government-in-the-Sunshine Law, which requires that all public records be preserved, regardless of physical form. Government agencies and educational organizations are tasked with preserving and fulfilling all records requests. And it’s gotten increasingly difficult – as the number of channels used to share information and the amount of information to share increased, so have the number of records requests.
More active lines of communication between the government and its citizens is a good thing, but public entities need to be equipped with the right tools to handle these increases. NextRequest helps them stay on top of records requests by creating clear workflows and sending automatic reminders. It also empowers customers to proactively publish frequently requested documents.
Proactively publishing documents with NextRequest promotes transparency and efficiency – requesters can find what they’re looking for online. This reduces the number of duplicate requests received over time. Redaction tools reduce the risks associated with sharing documents, ensuring sensitive information is kept safe. Keyword alerts also help redirect requesters to existing resources or other agencies if they are the custodian of record.
Making information easily accessible to citizens and improving request response efficiencies help public entities govern in the sunshine!
The Department of Justice has observed Sunshine Week since 2010. They recognize the hard work of FOIA officials across the government and discuss FOIA best practices. They’ll be holding their annual event on March 14, and you can attend virtually. Check their blog for more information.
You can celebrate Sunshine Week from your own home with even more virtual events this week, and the News Leaders Association keeps a calendar of events here. You can also join the conversation on social media by tweeting @SunshineWeek or using #SunshineWeek.
We’re celebrating every day by helping our customers manage their records requests and share information! We’re committed to helping government agencies and educational organizations stay compliant and build trust with their constituents.
NextRequest and its parent company, Optimere, are purpose-built to improve transparency. In addition to traditional channels, public agencies’ social media accounts and websites are also subject to public records laws. Optimere’s web and social archiving solution, ArchiveSocial, automatically records and stores social media and website content. A searchable archive of these online records makes it easy for public employees to locate what’s relevant to a request from a concerned citizen.
Whether you call it FOIA, Public Records, Open Records, Sunshine, or any other name, a government's process of releasing information to the public should be easy, repeatable, and measurable. We love Sunshine Week because it illuminates what works and what doesn’t, and it helps everyone share ideas on how to make things better. We’re proud to be included in this conversation.
NextRequest and Optimere’s web and social archiving solution, ArchiveSocial, work together to save even more time and headache responding to records requests. It records and stores social media content in near-real-time, putting it at your fingertips with easy filter and search functions.
We also know that transparency means transparency to everyone, so accessibility and clear communication are critically important. Optimere’s web governance product Monsido offers tools for web accessibility, website quality assurance, brand and content compliance, user consent management, social and web content archiving, and more.