Created in May 2011, Open North is a Canadian nonprofit organization that creates online tools to educate and empower citizens to participate actively in Canadian democracy. Although not an advocacy group, it develops tools for civil society and governments to reduce the barriers to effective participation and to help others advocate for themselves. Open North does this through two main strategies:
- Improve access to government information
- make it easily available by pulling it out of dark corners of government websites, taking it out of PDFs, and making access to information requests;
- make it accessible by providing context to numbers, explaining legislative jargon, and using language everyone understands; and
- make it relevant by letting citizens find information specific to their community, interests, and situation.
- Make participation easy, fun, and meaningful
- work with governments to design new participatory processes and to ensure citizen’s voices are heard;
- increase the number of ways citizens can engage with elected officials and government information; and
- help citizens connect with each other and organize around issues they care about.
- James McKinney Executive Director
205-400 Avenue Atlantic
Outremont QC H2V 1A5
Area of Expertise
- Access to information
- Civil society participation in government processes
- Participatory budgeting
Major Current Activities
Open North works with governments, civil society, and citizens to achieve the promises of open government. Of the Open Government Partnership’s four commitments, Open North focuses on increasing "access to new technologies for openness and accountability." On the one hand, this involves creating innovative online tools to help civil society engage citizens online on important issues, to help governments involve citizens in decisions, and to give citizens the online tools they need to participate effectively in democracy. On the other hand, this involves educating others about open government, its benefits and potential, hosting workshops to train citizens to make effective use of open data, providing feedback to governments on their open initiatives, and guiding civil society organizations in their adoption of open data and its principles. For example, collaborating with Québec Ouvert, our “Hackons la Corruption” event drew 200 citizens to learn to create new tools to fight corruption. Designed & licensed by Open North, Citizen Budget is an interactive budget simulator that involves residents in the budget-making process and demonstrates a municipality's commitment to citizen engagement. Citizen Budget has been deployed by six municipalities across Canada and the United States. This tool lets leaders put citizens in their shoes and encourages residents to learn about the tradeoffs involved in any budget process. Municipalities use Citizen Budget to ask residents to rebalance the budget according to their priorities by modifying the amounts allocated to municipal services and activities. In 2012, three municipalities collected over 1,000 proposed budgets to better inform their budget choices. Three more municipalities are already registered to use it in 2013. Also, Open North is working with nonprofit organizations who are interested in launching the budget simulator at the subnational (provincial) level. One of organization's goals for 2013 is to find organizations in developing countries who could benefit from reusing the tool and even re-license it themselves to generate revenue to be able to promote open and transparent government initiatives like open budgeting.