The Sunlight Foundation, a well-respected, early pioneer of open government and transparency has sent shock waves through the civic-tech world this week by announcing they may have hit the end of their road.
The reason this is shocking to many but not surprising from my point of view is that Sunlight’s original purpose was mainly to shout, “Listen up, this is important.”
This wasn’t easy for them to do and by most measures they were very successful at it, but as hard as it might have been, starting this conversation was the easy part.
Sunlight’s pioneering role was needed and necessary to start the conversation, and along the way they even learned that they also needed to do something about it. Sunlight Labs was created to develop tools that “do something.”
The challenge is that those efforts sent budgets into the stratosphere because software developers command salaries significantly higher that most non-profit employees. And this creates the dilemma all civic tech organizations face: how do we make these efforts sustainable?
Our HealthAround.Me program, as an example, brings significant social good through open community health data but also adds value that helps a company’s bottom line.