Project Madison to expand, backed by the Knight Foundation


Some of our more tech oriented readers may remember Project Madison, a technology tool that allows users to collaborate on writing legislation. The Project was first introduced through Representative Darrell Issa (R-Ca.), who also founded the Open Gov Foundation, to involve people in the debate about online piracy legislation. It was eventually successfully used to get input on the Online Protection and Enforcement of Digital Trade Act (OPEN Act), an alternative to the proposed laws known as SOPA and PIPA.

Now, the project has moved out of the federal government and into a fully open source project backed by the Knight Foundation. The foundation will be providing $200,000 in additional funding. “This is another example of our commitment to open government,” Michael Maness, Knight VP of Journalism and Media Innovation tells CivSource. “We were aware the of the project before and began working with them after they set up the foundation.”

Maness announced the funding at the Knight-sponsored Forum on Communications and Society (FOCAS) hosted by the Aspen Institute, currently underway in Aspen, Colorado.

The funding will expand the tool to two communities where Knight invests and will allow the OpenGov Foundation to combine the web-based tool with in-person events to rally discussion and action around a specific issue, as a way to encourage adoption. It will also expand on OpenGov Foundation’s recent work on, a searchable publication of Maryland state laws. A version of Project Madison will be launched in Maryland and Baltimore. Project leader Seamus Kraft says the goal of this first launch is to extend the software to state and local government.

“We recently did six hours of focus groups to get feed back from both tech savvy, and non-technical users that we will then use to build out the project. We will be releasing the raw data as well,” Kraft says.

Kraft was also involved in the Knight Foundation’s recent Open Government News Challenge and says that he got valuable feedback about improving his own civic startup there. “It was great to see people’s presentations, even the ones that got sent back to the drawing board, and get a better understanding of what makes a strong organization.”

Beyond the project launch into Maryland and Baltimore, Kraft says that he will be looking to make new hires and find partners in the future.