Published on May 22, 2013

Open data, participation and democracy – a call for case studies

By Sarah Borwick

Sarah is a Research Intern at Involve.

blog imageInvolve has recently started a new project, looking at the relationship between open data, participation and democracy. We are looking to understand the extent to which public organisations are currently engaging with citizens and community groups using open data and to develop some recommendations for how this relationship could be improved.

Government ministers have stated that they believe open data will empower citizens and have spoken a number of times about their vision of “armchair auditors” holding government’s feet to the fire. However, at this stage there has been relatively little research into the extent to which this is actually happening. With our focus on participation and democracy at Involve, we are particularly interested in the extent to which public organisations are listening to and building relationships with citizens and groups using their data, for their own purposes or to hold government to account.

We are therefore looking to collect a series of case studies of citizens and community groups using and/or producing data. Do you know of:

  • any citizens or community groups using open data to hold government to account?
  • any citizens or community groups using open data for unexpected purposes?
  • any public organisations engaging (well or badly) with citizens or community groups using open data?
  • any citizens or community groups collecting their own data?

If you are aware of any examples of the above, I would be very interested to hear. Equally, if you have any thoughts about the project in general – perhaps with regard to useful literature or angles you feel it should tackle, I would be very grateful to hear from you.

Please contact me at or +44 207 7336 9443.

Image credit: RasMarley


11 Responses to “Open data, participation and democracy – a call for case studies”

  1. May 22, 2013 at 2:41 pm

    see my blog post on small data linked above



  2. May 22, 2013 at 2:44 pm

    Hello Sarah,

    Great to see this research project getting underway.

    Through the Open Data Research network we’re collating a shared bibliography at which might be useful. The current top item there is a survey report from the LGA in 2012 which provides some interesting brief examples of civil society engaging with local authority data.

    In terms of frameworks for public bodies engaging well (or not) with re-users of their data, the 5 stars of open data engagement could perhaps be useful.

    And hopefully at we’ll soon have some shared research methods tools for tracking use of data… we’re working on these over the coming weeks.

    • May 24, 2013 at 10:34 am

      Hi Tim,

      Thanks a lot for this – I will definitely have a look at the LGA site and keep a look out for updates from the network.


  3. Sarah Borwick
    May 22, 2013 at 3:38 pm

    Thanks William, I look forward to reading this.


  4. Alexander Furnas
    May 29, 2013 at 5:34 pm

    Hi Sarah,
    It’s great to see that Involve will be doing some case study work around these important questions. I think there is a real desire for this kind of impact evaluation and data use research the Open Gov/ Open Data/ Transparency community right now. I’m a researcher at the Sunlight Foundation, working on a case study project of our own that we recently began: We are specifically focusing on technology enabled transparency policies, looking at disclosures and platforms made available by governments in a variety of issue areas (things like procurement, political spending, asset disclosure etc.). You can read more about the thinking behind our research here. Would you be interested in scheduling some time to chat about our respective research, and how we can learn from and benefit from each other’s thinking?

    Alexander Furnas

    • Simon Burall
      May 31, 2013 at 5:13 pm

      Sorry your post took so long to appear, missed it in comments pending. Really appreciate the time you took and I’m sure Sarah will be in contact soon.

  5. June 25, 2013 at 1:06 pm

    Hello Sarah

    I have had the recent privilege of been the lead facilitator for a deliberative process with a recruited community panel on advising a local Council on how it should participate in child care. Further info can be seen at

    Happy to chat more.
    Speak soon

    • June 27, 2013 at 10:25 am

      Thanks for this Keith, it’s really interesting. I will be in contact to talk further.


  6. January 10, 2014 at 1:39 pm

    Think this may be a bit late, but I wonder if this project qualifies: We’re looking into the ways a street, an ordinary street in Cambridge (UK), might start making use of data. We’re not thinking exclusively of open government data, but any kind of data. We’re curious about how local people and local needs might sit alongside all the rhetoric around (big) data and the difference it’s going to make to everyday life. The project will run for at least a year and hopefully result in some more nuanced understandings of the relevance of data to local, civic life, and what difference data in this context might make to community/civic participation.

    • Tim Hughes
      Tim Hughes
      February 13, 2014 at 6:35 pm

      Hello Alex
      Many thanks for your message and sorry for our slow response! The publication of the research report has been delayed a little due to other projects we’ve got on the go, but I’m going to be picking it back up again soon to get it finished. I’ll certainly have a look at your project and keep it in mind as I finalise the report. It sounds very interesting.

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