This is what transparency means

We recently got the following email requesting details of our financial affairs from someone in the House of Commons Library, doing some research for an unnamed MP. We’ve always tried to be transparent about the funding of mySociety, so putting the relevent bits in the middle of the homepage seems a reasonable way of carrying on with that tradition. Enjoy it, transparency fans.

I work in the House of Commons Library where we provide a non-partisan research service for MPs. It is this that has led me to contact you. I’ve been asked by an MP, whose name I cannot disclose, to provide some research on MySociety.

Glad to help. Just as a side thought, isn’t it interesting that MPs can use you to ask about us, but we can’t know who has commissioned the work? Why the aspect of privacy I wonder? Nevermind, we’re pretty sure we know who’s asking anyway…

They have asked for information on funding supplied to MySociety. I understand that a grant of £250,000 was allocated to West Sussex county council under the Local e-Government e-Innovations Round 1 Programme in 2004-05 for My Society

Yes, although it is worth noting that West Sussex took £54,000 of that – mySociety billed for £196,000 in various chunks. mySociety is still
functioning off the surplus (ie charity profit) made from this funding which ended formally in November 2005.

and £163,150 was made available to the organisation through the e-Innovations Product and Marketisation strand via Kirklees MBC who were grant aided to carry out this role on behalf of the Local e-Government Programme.

Yes, that sounds right (although I’ve never seen that exact figure before, I thought it was going to be £150,000, so good news I guess). We haven’t actually invoiced for ths funding yet. The condition of this final bit of e-innovations funding is that we are to use it to help develop spin-off services aimed at the local government and voluntary sectors. These are services that will both provide those sectors with useful products whilst generating revenue streams to help sustain all the sites we’ve built so far. You can see what sort of things we’ll be offering at

And from the blog on the website that the Pears Foundation provided some assistance.

Yes, although we haven’t invoiced for this either yet because we’re still trying to decide how much would be appropriate to charge. It won’t be more than £6000 though.

Would you be able to tell me if any other sources of funding have been provided to MySociety and how much the Pears Foundation provided?

We got an initial £10,000 from a private philanthroper who’s asked to remain anonymous. I personally was supported with another £10,000 by UnLTD, the Millenium Commision funding group who plug a vital gap in the UK charitable sector by supporting individuals, not organisations.

More recently, we won two grants from the Department of Constitutional Affairs, one in conjunction with the Young Foundation. One is for the development of Neighbourhood Fix It, a map based tool to turn the process of reporting public problems from private to public. The other is for an API and spin-off site from


I’ve just realised I missed a couple of things. First, the sums for the two pieces of DCA work mentioned above are £10,000 and £6000, and second those much-linked-to maps were £4500 from the Department for Transport.


  1. Well, in the spirit of transparency, couldn’t you apply under the Freedom of Information Act for copies of any emails, memoranda, letters, telephone notes etc., received by the House of Commons librarians from MPs asking them to conduct research in reference to MySociety?

    Fair’s fair, like.

  2. The travel time maps are really great. I would love to see that for my home town of Leeds!

    Surely traffic conditions for bus routes aren’t taken into account though, since a 20 minute bus journey can easily double or tripple in time during rush hour.

  3. Who’s the MP??! Who’s the MP?!? Is it unusual for MPs to apply such scrutiny to online civil initiatives like mySociety?

  4. It’s not important knowing the MP who raised the Library query. The Commons Library must be impartial or Party Whips would soon start to control Library information services. I ran a voluntary information system from 1984-86 which gave access to disaggregated national programmes in local areas and we never knew which MPs accessed data via the Commons Library officials. Accepting this also meant we could access official data deposited only in the Library on a quid pro quo basis. (The voluntary initiative crashed due to new Government rules for selling tradeable official data to the highest bidder – but that’s another and more abiding problem).