After almost seven years at this wonderful organisation I will be stepping down as Chief Executive of both mySociety and SocietyWorks at the end of March.
It has been an absolute privilege and honour to lead the transformation of our group over my tenure and I’m full of all sorts of emotion in stepping down. Whilst there is never a perfect time to make a decision like this, it is something I’ve been thinking about for a number of months, and with a new strategy in place, now feels like the right time to make way for a new leadership to take things forward all over the next few years.
I’m very pleased to say that I will be leaving things in extremely capable hands, as my longstanding colleague Louise Crow will be leading the mySociety team as Interim Chief Executive. A decision will be made later in the year about longer term arrangements. In parallel, Angela Dixon will be taking on the role of Interim Managing Director of SocietyWorks, having joined us just a few months ago as Finance and Commercial Director.
Louise Crow, as many of you will know, has been with mySociety for over 15 years; first as a developer, then Head of Development and most recently as Programme Director, leading on the development of our Climate programme. She is an awesome leader: eloquent, experienced, trusted by the team and our boards, and familiar to many of you through the numerous partnerships and collaborations that we have been part of.
Whilst Angela Dixon has only been with us for a short time, she’s had an amazing impact already and is exactly what SocietyWorks needs for the next stage of its rapid growth serving local authorities across the UK. She’ll be focused on driving our commercial business forward and unlocking all sorts of savings and service improvements for council staff and citizens alike.
Together Louise and Angela are a formidable and passionate leadership team for mySociety and SocietyWorks and I am very confident leaving things in such safe hands.
There’s a lot to be proud of when looking back over the last seven years, not just for me, but for the exceptional mySociety team without whose support and hard work none of it could have happened. Together, our first job was to successfully transition from Tom Steinberg’s leadership – a delicate task to replace the original founder, but one that also brought new possibilities for change throughout the organisation.
And changes there have been! Over the last few years we’ve launched SocietyWorks, contributed to the democratic response to the climate crisis, and extended our many beautiful, elegant, and well used services to many more citizens across the UK.
I’m particularly proud of the research and analysis we’ve produced, and the insights — from ourselves and others — we’ve been able to share through our TICTeC events as the leading convening space for civic technologists across the globe. We’ve successfully expanded the scope of our Transparency Programme, launching Pro services for WhatDoTheyKnow in the UK and for our European Alaveteli partners.
Whilst I joined fully aware of the difficulties of sourcing charitable funding, over my seven years I’ve certainly had my eyes opened to the scale of the challenge. The critical lack of sources of unrestricted funds, and the particular difficulties of securing funding for our core democratic and transparency work in the UK continues to be deeply concerning in the light of the relentless undermining of hard fought for rights and active erosion of trust in the political process.
I’m grateful for the incredible support we received over the years from the likes of the Luminate and Hewlett foundations. And then as they withdrew from the UK, we responded by establishing relationships with a whole new set of funding partners including the Esmée Fairbairn Foundation, Joseph Rowntree Charitable Trust, Adessium Foundation, Swedish Postcode Foundation and others, and most substantially of all, in our work towards addressing the climate crisis, the support of the Quadrature Foundation and National Lottery Community Fund.
Beyond grants we’ve significantly diversified our income by establishing our wholly owned commercial business SocietyWorks to create a new local government service business working with over 30 councils and providing essential unrestricted funding in the form of profits donated to the parent charity – this has proven to be an incredibly successful strategy in securing the long term sustainability of our work. We would not be here today without the amazing efforts of the team to build such a strong companion business to the charity.
And underpinning all of this are the individual donations that we receive from hundreds of people each year, who value so much the help that they receive from our core UK services FixMyStreet, TheyWorkForYou and WhatDoTheyKnow. This is where the real impact of our work happens, with over 11 million people each year visiting and making use of our online services to understand how decisions are made on their behalf, how they contribute to better decision making, and advance the causes and issues most relevant to them and their communities.
What I’m most personally proud of and what I’ll miss the most is working with such an amazing, dedicated and knowledgeable team. I’ll be leaving an organisation much changed but still true to its activist roots, who still truly believe that people can and want to work together to build a fairer society.
I’ll be leaving a somewhat larger team, that is now equally gender balanced, with a greater diversity of background and experience, an experienced senior leadership team, and with our new board chairs Catherine Brown at mySociety and Mandy Merron at SocietyWorks rounding out a very different cast from the organisation that I originally joined.
I’ll give the final note of thanks to the many passionate volunteers who have helped us and continue to play a pivotal role in the day to day running of or services in the UK, the many generous board members we’ve giving their time freely, and to the organisers, friends and collaborators we’ve worked with over the years to develop, share and make use of all this tech for the benefit of society as whole.