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Looking for a better way to teach public records? Read what we’ve learned in Make FOIA Work

MuckRock: “A new field guide on bringing transparency into communities from the Engagement Lab at Emerson College, the Boston Institute for Nonprofit Journalism, and MuckRock Last August, with support from the Online News Association, we partnered with the Engagement Lab at Emerson College and the Boston Institute for Nonprofit Journalism to explore new ways of teaching public records to students and the broader community. Five workshops, four articles, and a hundred public records requests later, our partners at the Engagement Lab have put together a new website, Make FOIA Work, and downloadable guide on what we’ve learned, ideas to make Freedom of Information work more exciting and accessible, and a blueprint for others to build on. Part of what made this project so exciting for us was that it tackled public records from a very different perspective than we usually see. Instead of the focus being on exemptions, appeals, and the tradecraft of requesting, we instead spent a lot of time talking with the public about what they wanted to see out of their government — and then helped them get answers. User-centered design was at the heart of the entire project, from talking with people about what issues they cared about to help develop the project’s focus on gun purchasing and campaign financing to participatory workshops that invited people to file their first requests or help sift through documents that lay at the heart of the project…”

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