Radical transparency is a management method where nearly all decision making is carried out publicly.
All draft documents, all arguments for and against a proposal, the decisions about the decision making process itself, and all final decisions, are made publicly and remain publicly archived.
The only exceptions to full transparency include data related to personal security or passwords or keys necessary for physical access required to carry out publicly negotiated decisions. Any technical actions which are perceived to be controversial or political are considered to lack legitimacy until a clear, radically transparent decision has been made concerning them.
Got a Minute? Set Some Government Data Free With TransparencyCorps
Read Write Web has a blog post about Sunlight Foundation's project- TransparencyCorps: http://www.readwriteweb.com/archives/transparencycorps_lets_you_perform_small_tasks_for.php
Transparency: One Size Does Not Fit All
February 09, 2010 (Bradford Smith is president of the Foundation Center. In his previous post, he introduced the center's Glasspockets initiative and made the case for why foundations need to be more transparent.)
Posted by Allison Fine on November 2, 2009
Lucy Bernholz, in her usual smart and insightful way, has written a terrific post on philanthropy and transparency, Downsides of Transparency. She is riffing on an article that Larry Lessig wrote for the New Republic entitled, Against Transparency.
Radical transparency versus accountability
Radical transparency is much more transparent than accountability. It requires decision making to be transparent right from the beginning of the decision making process, while accountability is a process of verifying the quality of decisions or actions after they have been taken. This difference implies that while accountability generally implements some sort of punishment mechanism against individuals or institutions judged to have taken poor quality decisions or actions, after those decisions have been taken or actions carried out, radical transparency encourages corrections and improvements to decisions to be made long before poor quality decisions have the chance to be enacted. Hence, radical transparency potentially helps avoid the need for punishment mechanisms.
The potential of radical transparency to allow corrections and improvements to decision making is likely to be higher when the decision making method is either a consensus decision making method or a democratic decision making method. However, even when the decision making method is authoritarian (unilateral), radical transparency may still encourage the decision maker to make better decisions.
This method has been implemented in many free and open source software projects, the Indymedia network, and many similar Internet related projects. It could arguably be claimed to exist outside of the Internet in small cohesive social groups where information is rapidly exchanged and difficult to conceal, although the cumulative transmission error of oral communication of information in these communities leads to less transparency than digital communication.
A partial form of radical transparency has existed in many national parliaments since the beginning of the modern parliamentary system; e.g., in parliaments of the Westminster system, full records of discussions in parliament are recorded and published and referred to as Hansard, and the texts of proposed laws and final laws are all, in principle, public documents.
Since the late 1990s, many national parliaments decided to publish all parliamentary debates and laws on the Internet. However, the initial texts of proposed laws and the discussions and negotiations regarding them generally occur in parliamentary commissions, which are rarely transparent, and among political parties, which are very rarely transparent. Moreover, given the logical and linguistic complexity of typical national laws, public participation is difficult despite the radical transparency at the formal parliamentary level. In other words, radical transparency is necessary, but not sufficient, for public participation in political decisions.
Meyer Memorial Trust's Marie Deatherage posted a blog entry about this subject on 11/6/08: http://www.mmt.org/weblog/archives/way_better_than_reality_tv.php
Nten's Holly Ross posted ablog entry about transparency in the Obama campaign/administration and in nonprofits on 11/10/08 here: http://nten.org/blog/2008/11/10/transparency-stupid