6. Legislative and Executive Participation (Third Sector)

Sunlight Foundation


Sunlight Foundation is a successful example of how the third sector can work with the government to encourage popular participation and social control by using technology. Created in April 2006 in the United States, the foundation's objective is to increase the transparency and accountability of America's legislative and executive levels. Its initial focus was to monitor the role of money in American politics and propose changes aiming toward open government.

Today the foundation also contributes with international forums that discuss government transparency. Sunlight has three main fronts: a political team that coordinates actions within and outside the US Congress to propose changes in legislation; a team of journalists specializing in data who generate and publish reports on the state of American transparency; and a technology laboratory that develops tools from open data aiming to increase the participation of citizens in government and enable other developers to build applications with public information.

The Sunlight Foundation carries out the systematic organization of various US government databases. Because the databases are sure to be published consistently and regularly in an open format, this has allowed the Foundation to develop a number of tools that bring citizens closer to public administration:

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This is a smartphone application that displays information about congressional representatives and senators, allowing citizens to contact them and track their activities. You can read the latest laws passed, view the list of activities in the House, navigate through votes, and stay on top of upcoming committee hearings and their audiences. The application was developed using databases opened by the US government and is freely distributed. Its source code is open and anyone can download it.

Influence Explorer


This is a website that tracks political donations at the state and federal level, allowing anyone to track the level of influence per politician, business, or individual. The tool provides an overview of campaign finance, lobbying, parliamentary funds, irregularities in hiring, and federal government spending.

Capitol Words


This tool lets you explore the contents of the speeches of all US senators and congressional representatives since 1996. You can search by state, date, or legislator. The service allows you to compare terms and phrases, displaying the results with graphs, and rankings of the legislators and their parties. Capitol Words also serves as a large database so that other developers can create applications that depend on it.

Take a look at other tools (English website) developed by the Sunlight Foundation.

Among the companies and organizations that use Sunlight Foundation services are Wikimedia Foundation, which manages Wikipédia; Greenpeace; the If This Then That, quesite that lets you create, among other things, instant cellphone notifications on the progress of laws in the US Congress; and Barack Obama campaign team.