Welcome! The Open Meeting Toolkit helps community-based teams, such as Code for America Brigades, to evaluate and improve the openness of local public meetings while engaging civic technology volunteers.

Public Meetings in the Carolinas

Map of Public Meetings in the Carolinas. Yellow markers show fixed meeting locations. Pink markers are placeholders for meetings with no fixed locations. The map is not maintained regularly. Confirm meeting details before attending.


Do you wish it were easier to participate in your local government? This website provides a Toolkit to support a team of volunteers working to improve access to public meetings in their North Carolina community. Resources include instructions for mapping public meetings, a checklist for doing an environmental scan of local community features that affect public meetings, forms for taking structured notes about public meetings (before, during, and after), guidance on synthesizing observations, and examples of ways to recommend improvements through feedback, policy change, and partnerships.

The Open Meeting Toolkit for the Carolinas builds on the Open Meetings Policy project by Sunshine Request and Code for Asheville. Volunteers in Asheville attended local government meetings, observed barriers to participation, synthesized their findings, developed a policy proposal, gathered support, and presented that proposal to their local government. Code for the Carolinas volunteers realized the potential in their project to improve access to local government statewide and to engage civic technology volunteers with a variety of skills and backgrounds. Code for America recognized this scaling project as a Summer 2022 Impact Sprint.

Getting Started

While no specialized technical knowledge is needed to use the Toolkit, at least one member of your team should be proficient with the Google Suite. All Toolkit resources are hosted by Sunshine Request on their GitHub and Google Workspace. A team leader should create a Google Folder for your team's files related to the Open Meeting Toolkit and contact Sunshine Request at records@sunshinerequest.com to be added as a Collaborator on the Google Forms. GitHub knowledge will only be needed if your team chooses to host a local copy of the map.

Local Scan

Start by getting to know more about your community and the public meetings your local government holds. The Toolkit's local scan includes two activities to help you prepare: a map of public meetings and an environmental scan, called a STEEPLE analysis. Consider hosting one or more kickoff events for your team to do these activities as they prepare to use the Toolkit.

Add Meetings to the Map

The Public Meetings in North Carolina map is a tool to visualize and learn about public meetings in North Carolina.

  • Adding meetings to the map is a jump-right-in activity that lets any new volunteer contribute to the project.
  • The map can be a compelling visual for outreach to engage new participants.
  • The map can be useful to local teams planning to evaluate meetings.
  • Neither Sunshine Request nor Code for the Carolinas has committed to completing or maintaining a statewide map. Your team also has no obligation to complete or maintain a local map. If you identify a local community organization with a long-term interest in open government, you may want to consider making a local version of the map for that partner organization to host and maintain.

North Carolina’s public meetings law, Article 33, Meetings of Public Bodies, states: “If a public body has a Web site and has established a schedule of regular meetings, the public body shall post the schedule of regular meetings to the Web site.” This section explains how your team can collect data on county or city meetings and provide that data to Sunshine Request so it can be added to the Map of Public Meetings in the Carolinas.

The process of adding your community's meetings to the map has four steps:

  1. Find the relevant information for the city/county.
  2. Decide whether to collect data manually or through web scraping.
  3. Collect the information.
  4. Add the information to the map.

This process requires spreadsheet software skills and internet search skills. Web-scraping requires some programming skill.

A local team leader should read the complete instructions to prepare for the activity. There is also a document with more detailed instructions you could use adapt for use as a handout for team members, the Sample Kickoff Event Map Activity Instructions.

A local team leader should read the complete instructions to prepare for the activity. There is also a document with more detailed instructions you could use as a handout for team members.

Step 1: Find Information

Put the county or city name, the state, and terms like “boards” or “commissions” (for example, “alamance county north carolina boards commissions”) into a search engine. Include the state to avoid confusion when there are places with the same name in multiple states. One of the top links will usually be a page that lists several boards and commissions.

Step 2: Decide How to Collect Information

If your team does not have someone with programming skills, you will collect information manually. You can skip the rest of this step.

Examine the main page that lists multiple boards and commissions.

If the page contains information about many meetings arranged in a standard format, and your team has someone with programming skills who wants to try web scraping, web scraping may help you collect data more quickly.

If the information about meetings is not provided in a consistent format, web scraping probably wouldn’t save you time over manual data collection. Both manual and web scraping processes are described in the next section.

Step 4: Collect Information

There are two ways to collect the data: manual and web scraping.

Manual data collection means examining the information listed on local government websites for and completing the relevant fields for individual meetings in a spreadsheet. If you are doing it this way, open a workbook in any spreadsheet program that can export a CSV file. Make sure that the columns in the workbook correspond to the fields listed below in the Data Dictionary.

Web scraping can save you time if the pages that list public meetings on local government websites are sufficiently well-structured. Web scraping involves writing or modifying a script to automate the data collection and to produce a CSV file. The fields in the CSV file you output should match those listed in the Data Dictionary.

We provide some sample web scraping scripts in C# and Python. These can be used for reference on future web scrapers. Within the GitHub repository openmeetingtoolkitdata is the “publicmeetings/Scrapers” directory. The README file in that directory contains more information on the scrapers themselves. The directory contains two groups of files: some county-specific scrapers using Python’s BeautifulSoup library, and a C# scraper designed to handle multiple counties, as well as automating some other parts of the process (particularly getting the latitudes and longitudes of the meetings).

If you prefer a different programming language for web scraping, you can use your preferred language to write a script that provides output as a CSV file with the fields from the Data Dictionary.

Meetings pages are often somewhat incomplete or irregularly structured. Some amount of manual data collection and data cleaning will probably still be necessary. All of the web scraping operations using the code mentioned above did require additional manual work.

Data Dictionary

Field Definition Format Example
Government Local government for which the meeting is held, such as a city or county. Include the word “County” for each county. Do not include words such as “City of” or “Town of.” Text Asheville, Buncombe County
Public body Local government board or commission holding the meeting. Text Asheville Planning Board
Location Public place or building for which the meeting is held Text City Hall
Address Postal address of the meeting location Text 123 Address Street, City, ST 54321
Latitude Distance north or south of the equator Numeric 35.05118986
Longitude Distance east or west of the zero meridian Numeric -78.87702582
Schedule Days on which the meeting is regularly held. Can also be specific dates for the coming year if the meeting schedule is not regular. Text 2nd Tuesday of the month
Start time Time at which the meeting starts Time 0.541666667
End time Time at which the meeting ends Time 0.625
Remote options Description of options to attend the meeting online Text Zoom
Source Webpage of the government and public body holding the meeting. If possible, this should be the official government page rather than social media or another unofficial source. URL https://www.buncombecounty.org/transparency/boards-commissions/default.aspx
ID Unique identifier for the meeting. See below. text 100, chatham100
Placeholder Indicator for a meeting with no fixed location. binary 1
ID Field

The ID field must be a unique string. Meetings currently on the map use integers as IDs. To make sure your team’s IDs are unique, we recommend you use the form countyx, where x is a unique integer that you assign to each meeting record.

Latitude and Longitude

Latitude and longitude will almost certainly not be included in the data. There are many tools that will provide latitude and longitude based on a street address. A complete address including zip code is extremely important for these tools to return the correct latitude and longitude. Google Maps works well to confirm the location of individual meetings. The US Census Bureau geocoder offers an API for batch geocoding. Both services can return latitude and longitude information about the location. Please check the results that you get from these services, as there have been some instances where the returned coordinates were in another county or were otherwise incorrect.

Some common issues that have been seen in the data:

  • The meeting location or time is given as “varies” or something similar.
  • Sometimes only a location is given, without an address. If you want to include the meeting, you may need to do further research to find the address.
  • End times may not be listed. Sometimes this is replaced with an estimate of the meeting length.

Use your judgment in resolving these data issues, keeping in mind the map’s role as an activity for learning and exploring. However, please only provide verified locations to Sunshine Request. If a meeting has no fixed location, put a 1 in the Placeholder column.

Once the information has been fully collected, save or export the spreadsheet as a CSV file.

Step 4: Add Information to the Map

Provide your CSV file to Sunshine Request and their team will add it to the map. Email the file to records@sunshinerequest.com . Allow about a week for the Sunshine Request team to update the map with your meetings.

Complete a STEEPLE Analysis

The STEEPLE Analysis helps you get to know your community in ways that will help you identify barriers to participating in public meetings. When the Code for the Carolinas team shared this part of the Toolkit with Sunshine Request and Code for Asheville, they said that this type of up-front analysis would have made their work a lot easier! As you work on the STEEPLE Analysis, keep in mind that it is a learning activity. Focus more on learning and incorporating multiple perspectives than on getting all of the answers "right."

The STEEPLE Analysis comes from a tool called the PEST analysis. It was developed by Harvard Business Professor Francis J. Aguilar, in his 1964 book Scanning the Business Environment. The main idea behind this process is to get a general impression of the community where you will be evaluating public meetings. We are using a version of the tool from management training firm Professional Academy, which asks questions about the Social, Technical, Environmental, Economic, Political, Legal, and Ethical characteristics of the local community. The letters have been rearranged to STEEPLE so it is easier to remember and also organizes related concepts in a more logical order for our topic (example: political next to legal).

STEEPLE Analysis Instructions:

Plan to bring your team together for about one to two hours to complete the STEEPLE Analysis. You will do this analysis to help your local team prepare to evaluate local government meetings. The analysis can be done online or in person. We do recommend that you bring team members together to work on the analysis at the same time. As a local team leader, you should read the complete instructions in advance to prepare for the activity.

Decide how your team wants to work on the STEEPLE Analysis. Here are two things to consider as you plan for the activity:

  1. Does your team know each other? Lead a round of synchronous or asynchronous introductions to get acquainted before you start work on the STEEPLE analysis.
  2. How will you collaborate? You may choose to collaborate in person or online in a videoconference, in an Etherpad, or using some other method. Consider using a brief icebreaker that invites participants to share about their connections to the community, like "Compare [your community] to another place you have lived or visited." or "How would you describe [your community] to someone who just moved here?"

Access the Google Form

  1. A local team leader should access the Open Meeting Toolkit Folder in the Sunshine Request Google Workspace and make a copy of the Open Meeting Toolkit STEEPLE Analysis form in your own Google folder.
  2. Click on the Send button at the upper right of the form. Use the Email or Get a link option to share a link to the form with a local team member.
  3. Provide the link to the team member who will complete the form for your team. This can be yourself or another team member.

Fill in STEEPLE Analysis Questions

The STEEPLE analysis has seven parts. The full text of the questions are listed below so all team members can easily refer to them. You may also want to review this STEEPLE Analysis Example for Cumberland County. Keep in mind that there is no single right answer to many of these questions. Plan to spend no more than about 10 minutes on each section. There is a text box at the end of the survey where you can include any additional information or clarify your responses. The form is set to automatically save your responses as they are entered. You can always go back and adjust your responses in the Responses section of the Google Form. To maximize learning as a team and as individuals, work on all parts of the analysis together as a team. Ideally all team members will help with the STEEPLE analysis, with one person entering the team's answers into the form. There are some time-saving suggestions for breaking up the work in the Political and Legal sections. It is especially valuable for the whole team to work together on the Ethical section.

  1. List the name of the community where your team will evaluate the local public meetings. This will usually be a county, city, or town. Throughout this activity, the words "your community" refer to the community you list here.
  2. Tell us about your community.
    • Use the search box at Quickfacts from the US Census to look up your community. Look over the factsheet, and then enter 3 to 5 important facts about your community. If you're not sure what to include, start by comparing some values for your community to the US and to North Carolina.
  1. Use the Census Quickfacts to look up how many households in your county have a broadband internet subscription at home.
    • Over 80%
    • 70-80%
    • 60-70%
    • Under 60%
  2. Try to find information about the next meetings of the county commissioners, city council, and school board in your community. How easy was it to find this information?
    • Very easy
    • Somewhat easy
    • Not easy
  3. From the perspective of someone taking public transit to attend a local government meeting, how would you rate public transit in your community? Consider factors like: stops in convenient locations, frequent service, accessible stops and vehicles, and information about schedules and routes that is easy to find and use.
    • Good
    • Fair
    • Poor
  4. The public transportation question is based on the following resource: De Oña, Juan, and Rocio De Oña. "Quality of service in public transport based on customer satisfaction surveys: A review and assessment of methodological approaches." Transportation Science 49, no. 3 (2015): 605-622.

  1. Do any of the following weather conditions sometimes make it hard to go to meetings in your community? Mark all that apply.
    • heavy rain, thunderstorms, tropical storms, hurricanes, or floods
    • snow or ice
    • extreme heat, fire, smoke, or air pollution
    • none of the above
  2. Do any of the following features of your community sometimes make it hard to go to meetings? Mark all that apply.
    • traffic
    • mountains
    • bodies of water
    • none of the above
  1. In 2020, the poverty level for a family of 4 was about $26,500. What percentage of people in your community live in poverty?
  2. What is your local government's budget?
    • If you find a budget document online, please include a link.
  3. List some of the main companies or industries where people in your community work:

You may find the North Carolina local elections page and the North Carolina State Board of Elections site helpful for questions in this section.

Optional time-saving tip: Divide the research for questions 2, 3, and 4 among different parts of your team.

  1. When are the next elections for your community?
  2. According to NCPedia, "By law, each county in North Carolina has a board of commissioners. These boards vary in size, term of office, method of election, method of selecting the chairperson, and administrative structure." Research your county's board of commissioners and summarize 3-5 key points.
  3. Research the largest city or town in your community. Summarize 3-5 key points. Use the North Carolina League of Municipalities website to understand how cities, towns, and villages are governed in North Carolina.
  4. Research other relevant officials, such as the city manager, sheriff, or school board. Summarize 3-5 key points.
  5. Do you know of other local groups advocating for open meetings?
  6. What are some current controversial political issues in your community? Focus on issues that involve your local government rather than state or national issues. Local news media can be good sources for this information.

Public meetings in North Carolina are governed by Article 33C in the State Law, "Meetings of Public Bodies." If you want to understand the legal context of public meetings in North Carolina, we suggest "Open Meetings and Other Legal Requirements for Local Government Boards" by Frayda S. Bluestein at the UNC School of Government.

  1. Locate the Code of Ordinances for your county. Paste the link here for reference.
  2. Local governments can have additional policies about public meetings that go beyond state law. Skim the code of ordinances and describe any local policies you find about public meetings.
  3. Locate the Code of Ordinances for the largest city in your county. Paste the link here for reference.
  4. Local governments can have additional policies about public meetings that go beyond state law. Skim the code of ordinances and describe any local policies you find about public meetings.
  5. Locate the bylaws for one or more boards or commissions in your community. Paste the links here for reference.
  6. Boards and commissions can have policies about public meetings that go beyond state law. Skim the bylaws and describe any policies you find about public meetings.

You've made a lot of progress on the STEEPLE analysis. You're almost done! Take some time to look over what you have learned about your community. Be sure to bring as many team members as possible together for this section, where you reflect on ethical topics related to your team evaluating access to public meetings.

  1. What characteristics does your team share with this community? Examples: age, education, income, health, race, etc.
  2. Are there characteristics from your community that aren't represented by your local team?
  3. How can your local team make sure that marginalized voices are recognized as you use the Toolkit to evaluate meetings?
  4. Have there been safety issues associated with public meetings in your community?"Safety issues" could include threats to public officials or community members, or other events that might make people scared to participate in public meetings.
  5. Add any additional comments you'd like to include here.

Click Submit to submit your STEEPLE Analysis. Your team's responses will be available on the Responses tab to the local team leader who shared the form. You will refer back to them in the analysis phase of using the Toolkit.

Meeting Marathon Plan

When your team has completed the local scan, it's time to plan which meetings you will attend. Look over meeting data for your community on the Map of Public Meetings, on the meetings data file your team prepared, or on the website of your local government. We recommend that you create an initial plan to observe meetings over a period of three months, then begin to analyze your evaluations as a team.

For fun, you can use this Meeting Marathon Signup sheet to organize your team's plan around the theme of a Meeting Marathon. Because some of the most common races are 5K, 10K and marathons (26.2 miles), challenge your team to pledge to attend 5, 10, or 26 meetings! Make a copy of the Google Document, complete the table with the date, public body, and team member for each meeting. Don't forget to allow a week before the meeting and a week after the meeting to check information for the Before Meeting and After Meeting evaluation forms. Keep the template for your records so you can follow up with teammates and encourage them.

Meeting Evaluation

Our meeting evaluation tools are based on Code for Asheville's summary of their observations, resources on plain language from the U.S. government, Accessibility Beyond Compliance, and other sources on usability. The Meeting Evaluation form helps you observe and record whether you observe similar challenges to participation in your own community.

Sunshine Request and Code for Asheville Observations

When people from Sunshine Request and Code for Asheville attended public meetings, they noticed the following challenges with public participation and described them in their proposed Open Meetings Policy:

  • The ever-changing processes for public comment makes it unclear how the public can participate in public comment, and difficult to know what to expect from the process.
  • Public comment and other opportunities for feedback are not provided at every meeting - there should be consistent, ongoing opportunities for public input.
  • Public comment is not allowed for all agenda items, and the criteria under which comment is allowed varies between public bodies.
  • The current public comment process requires a burdensome advance sign-up process that requires disclosure of unnecessary personal information.
  • Due to technical or process issues, residents have been disconnected or skipped during public comment periods. We lack a fair process to ensure these residents are provided an opportunity to participate.
  • Meeting materials are not posted online in advance of meetings on a clear, consistent schedule. Meeting minutes are not consistently posted in a timely manner after meetings.
  • Meeting materials do not contain a clear indication of updates or modifications to documents that were posted previously.
  • Local government entities publish meeting information on a variety of platforms and websites, making it difficult to know which source of information is the official (and most up-to-date) source of information. This creates additional work for staff and board members as any updates need to be posted in multiple locations.
  • Basic board information, such as membership, contact information, meeting schedules, and bylaws are not posted or updated consistently for all public bodies.
  • Local government entities lack data-driven metrics of public participation, such as the number of comments or the methods under which they were provided. As a result, it is challenging for staff, elected officials, or the public to analyze how changes to the public meeting process increase or decrease public participation.
  • Due to a lack of consistency in the process for public participation, it can be difficult to evaluate public support or opposition to measures considered by public bodies.

Access the Meeting Evaluations Google Form

  1. A local team leader should access the Open Meeting Toolkit Folder in the Sunshine Request Google Workspace and make a copy of the Meeting Evaluations form (in the Forms folder) and of the Meeting Evaluation Analysis Spreadsheet.
  2. Place these copies in a folder in your Google Workspace.
  3. Set the Google Form to send responses to the Analysis Spreadsheet. On the Responses tab of the form, access the three dot menu and choose Select response destination. Use the option to send responses to an existing file. Select the Analysis Spreadsheet.
  4. Make any changes you would like to make to the Meeting Evaluation form. For example, you might rename the file and/or add your location to the top of the form. Our project team put a lot of work into writing and testing questions, but you are free to adjust, add, or delete questions to make the process work better for your team.
  5. Share the form with your team members. Click on the Send button at the upper right. Use the Email or Get a link option to share a link to the form.
  6. Make sure all team members have access to the Meeting Evaluation form link.
  7. Team members who are evaluating meetings should start the Before Meeting evaluation one week before the meeting date. Check to see if a meeting agenda that lists the topics that will be covered is available online. Complete the remaining questions on the Before Meeting form at your convenience any time before the meeting. Complete the During Meeting form as soon as possible after the meeting. Complete the After Meeting form one week after the meeting, to allow time for meeting information, such as recordings and minutes, to be posted online.

    Full text of all evaluation forms is provided below so you can easily refer to the questions. It is a good idea to read over the questions in advance. It is OK to skip questions. The end of each section provides space for comments and clarifications.

    Before the Meeting

    1. Select the name of the public body holding the meeting. A public body could be a board, commission, council, or other group.
      • County Board of Commissioners
      • City Council
      • Other
    2. Date of the meeting?
    3. A meeting agenda lists the topics to be discussed during a meeting. When was the meeting agenda available?
      • At least one week in advance (for example, on Monday for a meeting the following Monday)
      • At least 48 hours before the time of the meeting
      • Fewer than 48 hours, but before the start of the meeting
      • No agenda was available before the start of the meeting
    4. Which of these types of location information are you able to find? Mark all that apply:
      • Meeting street address
      • Meeting location (room name or number)
      • Remote attendance instructions
      • Parking information
      • Public transit information
    5. Before attending the meeting, which of the following, if any, were you able to locate? In this question, the word “board” refers to the board, commission, council, or other group holding the meeting. Mark all that apply:
      • Board membership
      • An email address or telephone number to contact the board
      • Email addresses or telephone numbers to contact individual board members
      • Name of at least one local government staff member who works with the board
      • Board meeting schedules
      • Board bylaws (may also be called something else, such as rules of order or policy manual)
    6. Which of these types of access information are you able to find? Mark all that apply:
      • Accessibility considerations that will be provided, including foreign language translation or interpretation
      • Instructions on requesting accessibility measures
      • Instructions for submitting questions or comments before the meeting by phone or voicemail
      • Instructions for submitting questions or comments before the meeting by email or web form

      Web Accessibility Evaluation

      The Open Meeting Toolkit helps you focus on identifying barriers to participation, especially barriers that exclude people who are frequently left out of local government decisions. The questions in this section have been developed to help you learn about assistive technologies and tools to identify website accessibility problems. These questions help you center empathy for people who use these websites and give you practical tools that you may find helpful in your own work.

      When answering these questions, consider all of the web pages where you found information for the previous questions. Be sure to allow enough time to familiarize yourself with the resources at the links in the questions, especially for your first Before-Meeting evaluation. You may also find it helpful to use the free Axe Browser Extension for Accessibility Testing or a similar automated tool to review the web page.

    7. Cognitive, learning, and neurological disabilities. People with cognitive, learning, and neurological disabilities may use assistive technology that changes the colors, spacing, or size of text to make it easier to read. They may be affected by visual flickering or long sections of text. Mark Yes or No for all of the following website features:
      • 7a. Text written in plain language (short, clear words and sentences)
      • 7b. Text content structured using logically-nested heading tags and lists when appropriate
      • 7c. No distracting animations or sound like popup ads and autoplay slideshows
      • 7d. Meaningful visuals like photos, graphs, and icons to supplement text
      • 7e. Multiple ways to find content like search and menu navigation
    8. Physical disabilities. People with physical disabilities may use assistive technology like ergonomic keyboards, joysticks, or voice recognition to navigate web content. Mark Yes or No for all of the following website features:
    9. Visual disabilities. People with visual disabilities may have customized settings that adjust screen colors or enlarge text. They may also use a screen reader or navigate websites by keyboard. Mark Yes or No for all of the following website features:
    10. Provide any additional information you think is important here.

    During the Meeting

    1. Select the name of the public body holding the meeting. A public body could be a board, commission, council, or other group.
      • County Board of Commissioners
      • City Council
      • Other
    2. Date of the meeting?
    3. How did you attend the meeting?
      • On site
      • Online
    4. Was your attendance at the meeting tracked?
      • There was a registration process that asked me to confirm my identity.
      • There was a registration process that asked for my name.
      • My attendance was countable, but not tracked to me personally.
    5. Did attendees have to pass through screening to enter the meeting? Mark all that apply.
      • Bags were screened.
      • People had to pass through a scanner or metal detector.
      • People were physically screened (patted down).
      • People were asked to show identification.
      • There was an online registration process.
      • No screening was required to enter the meeting.
    6. Did the agenda show how and when public comments can be made by community attendees?
      • Yes
      • No
    7. Were you able to participate in the meeting by making comments or questions? Participation may be spoken or written.
      • Yes, and the meeting included a clear explanation of how to participate.
      • Yes, but the meeting did not include a clear explanation of how to participate.
      • No, attendees could listen but not participate.
    8. Which of the following accessibility considerations did you see? Mark all that apply.
      • Foreign language interpretation
      • Live transcription speech-to-text
      • Sign language interpreter
      • Verbal description or explanation of images such as charts
      • Reserved spaces for people with disability parking placards (on site only)
      • Near public transit (on site only)
      • Clear signs to help people find the meeting (on site only)
      • Meeting room could be accessed without using stairs (on site only)
    9. Was the meeting disrupted by technical problems? Mark all that apply.
      • No, at most minor technical difficulties that were quickly resolved.
      • Yes, the public body holding the meeting had technical problems.
      • Yes, my device or connection had technical problems. (online only)
    10. Did the meeting follow an agenda that was available at the start of the meeting?
      • Yes
      • No, the meeting did not follow the agenda
      • An agenda was never provided
    11. During the meeting, I learned that some of the previously posted information was not current. Mark all that apply.
      • Board membership
      • Elected officials
      • Contact information
      • Meeting schedules
      • Meeting bylaws
    12. Provide any additional information you think is important here.

    After the Meeting

    1. Select the name of the public body holding the meeting. A public body could be a board, commission, council, or other group.
      • County Board of Commissioners
      • City Council
      • Other
    2. Date of the meeting?
    3. Were participants informed of where records like meeting minutes or recordings would be posted after the meeting? Mark all that apply.
      • Yes, participants were told at the meeting
      • Yes, participants were given written information at the meeting
      • Yes, participants were notified by email after the meeting
      • No, participants were not informed about where to find records after the meeting
    4. After attending the meeting, which of the following records were you able to find? Mark all that apply.
      • Meeting agenda
      • Meeting minutes
      • Meeting video recording
      • Meeting transcript
      • Contact information page
      • Last time contact information was updated
    5. Were you informed about ways to provide additional comments about topics discussed during the meeting? Mark all that apply.
      • Email
      • In writing, postal mail
      • Online form
      • Voice mail
    6. Were you informed about ways to provide additional comments about how the meeting was conducted? Mark all that apply.
      • Person to contact by phone
      • Person to contact by email
      • Online form or survey
    7. Web accessibility for auditory disabilities People with auditory disabilities and English language learners may use captions and transcripts to help them understand multimedia content. Mark all that apply.
      • 7a. Does the multimedia content have captions?
        • Multimedia content has accurate captions (also known as subtitles) that describe audio information, including non-speech audio like music descriptions.
        • Multimedia content has automatic captions that have not been proofread to match audio content.
        • Multimedia content has no captions.
        • No audio or video content.
      • 7b. Does the multimedia content have transcripts?
        • Multimedia content has accurate transcripts that describe both audio and visual information.
        • Multimedia content has transcripts that may not be accurate or complete, such as automatic or audio-only transcripts.
        • Multimedia content has no transcripts.
        • No audio or video content.
    8. Provide any additional information you think is important here.


You are welcome to analyze your team's findings using any method that is comfortable for you. We have developed a suggested method of analysis aligned with the Open Meetings Policy developed by Code for Asheville and Sunshine Request.

The Open Meetings Policy is divided into sections, including Basic Public Body Information, Public Meeting Information, Public Meeting Materials, Meeting Procedure, and Public Participation. The analysis approach described here has the goal of helping you understand whether the problems they found also exist in your community. This can be a starting point to make a decision about whether you want to recommend the same or similar policy changes as they did. You may want to refer back to the section above called Sunshine Request and Code for Asheville Observations as you begin your analysis.

The Analysis Spreadsheet you have used to collect Meeting Evaluations contains Google Sheets macros that can be used to view columns with responses related to each section of the policy proposal. What each macro does is explained on the Macro Descriptions tab of the Analysis Spreadsheet. After using a macro to refine a view, use the AllColumns macro to unhide all columns before using another macro.

For example, use the Participation macro to see responses by your team members related to the ability of members of the public to participate in meetings. If you observe similar barriers to those observed in Asheville, you may want to make a similar policy recommendation.


As you decide what changes to recommend, here are three approaches to consider: Feedback, Policy & Partnerships.


Feedback means telling local government staff about barriers you observe at public meetings. You may have opportunities to provide this through surveys or a web form. You can also use the Sunshine Request Meeting Accessibility Email Templates. This document includes sample emails and advice on how to find the right person to contact.


Sunshine Request and Code for Asheville created a policy proposal called the Open Meetings Policy and presented it to the Governance Committee of Asheville City Council. They also prepared a petition and gathered support from organizations and individuals. Your team may want to use these as models.

As you consider policy recommendations, review the political and legal sections of your STEEPLE Analysis. Look at what local policies exist for public meetings and for changing or amending those policies. Keep in mind that local policies can create additional requirements for local governments but must still meet all requirements of state law. Some questions to consider:

To gain and document support for their policy proposal, Sunshine Request circulated petitions for individuals and organizations. You can use the templates provided in the Forms folder of the Toolkit to develop your own petitions.


Your team may also want to consider partnerships as a way to make it easier to participate in local government, especially by making information easier to access. We provide a few examples here. Think carefully before making an ongoing commitment for your team to provide this information. It may be better for you to partner with a local non-profit that will host the information on an ongoing basis. Your team might be most effective by engaging civic technology volunteers to help the non-profit prepare their site, rather than trying to start a new organization.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is a public meeting?

We use the term public meeting to refer to local government meetings that are required by law ("NC General Statute Chapter 143 33C") to allow the public to attend and, in some cases, to provide public comment. From the statute: "public body" means any elected or appointed authority, board, commission, committee, council, or other body of the State, or of one or more counties, cities, school administrative units, constituent institutions of The University of North Carolina, or other political subdivisions or public corporations in the State that (i) is composed of two or more members and (ii) exercises or is authorized to exercise a legislative, policy-making, quasi-judicial, administrative, or advisory function." There are a few additional considerations, so if you are in doubt, please consult the statute.

Can I use the Open Meeting Toolkit for the Carolinas in other places besides North Carolina?

There is some interest in adapting the Toolkit for use in other places. Right now, it provides resources for North Carolina.

Why is a meeting showing up in the wrong place, such as the wrong county or in the ocean?

The tools that estimate latitude and longitude depend on a complete, correct address. Some solutions might be to check the address and try again or to look up the location on Google Maps.

Can a team use the Open Meeting Toolkit without a team leader?

Yes, the Toolkit can be used by self-directed teams who share responsibility for leadership.

What if I notice a technical problem or want to suggest an improvement?

The Toolkit is being developed by civic technology volunteers. If you are a civic technology volunteer yourself and know how to fix the problem, we invite you to collaborate with us on GitHub. Another option would be to email records@sunshinerequest.org. You are also welcome to modify the openly licensed Toolkit to better meet your needs.

What if we didn't attach the Analysis Spreadsheet to our Google Form?

If you didn't attach the spreadsheet before collecting responses, you can still use the analysis macros. Copy your responses from the Responses tab of the Form to the Analysis Spreadsheet.

Is the Toolkit suitable for research?

No, the Toolkit provides a structure and resources for local teams to make observations to help inform improvements to public meetings in their own communities. Findings from the Toolkit are not intended for publication or as contributions to general knowledge. Use of the Toolkit may involve observing some public information about public officials, but in general the Toolkit is for observing information about public meetings, not about people.