The Documenters Network: Civic Infrastructure for Connected Communities

Stronger Democracy Award
City Bureau

The Documenters Network is a national, people-powered network that trains and pays those most impacted by public policy to document government meetings and build a community around democratic participation.

Last Updated: January 2024
Competition Participation
Stronger Democracy Award logo square version
Stronger Democracy Award
  • Illinois, United States of America
  • Michigan, United States of America
  • Minnesota, United States of America
  • Ohio, United States of America
  • California, United States of America
  • District of Columbia, United States of America
  • Georgia, United States of America
  • Missouri, United States of America
  • Pennsylvania, United States of America
  • Economically disadvantaged people
  • Victims and oppressed people
  • 10. Reduced inequalities
  • 16. Peace, justice and strong institutions

Executive Summary

Public meetings are workshops for democracy, where members of a community can witness, learn about, and act on the systems that impact their lives. But as local journalism collapses, many local government meetings happen with no oversight or input from the public—a systemic failure of our civic information system, and a critical missed opportunity for genuine democracy.

City Bureau’s Documenters Network has supported organizations in 11 cities to organize, train, and pay more than 2,000 people who attend and annotate government meetings. Documenters are a diverse and intergenerational group sharing trustworthy information in their communities and building new infrastructure for democratic participation from the ground up.

The growth of the Documenters Network will have transformative impacts on American democracy. Tens of thousands of Documenters connected and enabled with training and technology will create a more equitable foundation for local media, more accountable policymaking, and a groundswell of participation in local government.

Organization Details
Lead Organization

City Bureau

Organization Headquarters
Chicago, Illinois, United States of America
Organization ID
Number of Full-time Employees
10 to 25
Annual Operating Budget
$1.0 to 5 Million

Charity, fund, non-governmental organization, religious institution, school, or other entity

Organizations may provide budget and employee data based on this proposal or the organization as a whole. For more information on this proposal or organization, please email us.


After one year of operating with the support of the Stronger Democracy Award, City Bureau’s Documenters Network has built a strong foundation for growth, establishing solid technological infrastructure and robust central support systems for sites and staff nationwide. We accomplished and surpassed our year one goals and have begun deep strategic planning to ensure that the Documenters Network becomes a foundational piece of our democracy.

Over the past year we’ve hosted two in-person network convenings, expanded our network to 11 sites nationwide, and made critical hires to help support strategic planning and growth. To date more than 2,000 people have registered for accounts, and they have collectively covered nearly 6,000 meetings across the network.

By the end of 2023, we expect to complete the first strategic plan for the network, laying the foundation for a sustainable infrastructure that builds connected communities across the country.

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