- A journalist who used FOI requests sent via the site (or the Pro service) to inform news stories
- A campaigner who changed hearts and minds with facts you uncovered through FOI
- An activist who requested information that was of use to yourself or a wider community
- A request-maker who used the site independently to discover information you wanted (or needed) to know
- A developer, volunteer or supporter who remembers the launch of the site or some other milestone in its history
- An organisation that’s used WhatDoTheyKnow’s capabilities within your own app or site
Or maybe none of these labels apply, but you’ve got something to tell us about your use, or memories, of WhatDoTheyKnow. See yesterday’s post for a look back on its 15 years so far!
Also, perhaps you have a vision for where we should go next: new features we could consider adding; partners we could work with; or ways in which we can advocate more effectively for transparency from our public authorities.
We’re all ears
It’s mySociety’s twentieth anniversary year, and like any organisation celebrating a significant milestone, we want to reflect on what’s been achieved. Just as importantly, we’re also taking the opportunity to set our course for the future.
Over the course of the year, we’ll be inviting your memories, thoughts, ideas and stories around everything we do — and we’re starting with WhatDoTheyKnow.
If you have something to share, please go ahead and fill in our form here; or if you want more detail of the sort of things we’re looking for, read on.
WhatDoTheyKnow was launched in 2008, after a 2006 call-out to our supporters and followers to suggest what project mySociety should work on next. The chosen suggestion, originally conceived as the Freedom of Information Filer and Archive, was a response to the UK’s rights under its then-fairly-new Freedom of Information Act.
The vision has changed surprisingly little since then: as Tom Steinberg said at the time:
We think that the best way to build a top quality archive is to simultaneously build the best possible “File an FOI request” tool, and then publish both the requests and the responses made through it in the archive. From the private desire to easily file FOI requests we hope that we can generate the public benefit of an easy to use archive.
Were you following mySociety’s blog at the time of that call-out? Were you one of the first people to use WhatDoTheyKnow when it was launched? Have you been a volunteer at any time in the site’s history, and if so, has that affected any other areas of your life for the better?
Great uses of WhatDoTheyKnow
Over the years, we’ve heard about some truly gratifying and impactful uses of the service: we’ve written up many of these as case studies.
There’s the campaign to find out how much asbestos is in our schools, another to turn empty shops into premises for start-ups, and not to mention a dogged – and successful – attempt to get the West Ham stadium contract released.
More recently, you may have seen the account of one organisation’s effective campaign against surveillance cameras which seemingly send worrying data back to China.
We’re always hungry to hear stories like these, and even more so in this anniversary year. Please do fill in the form to let us know if you’ve changed the world, in big ways or small, by using WhatDoTheyKnow.
To the future
As part of our thinking around #Democracy2043, we’d love to hear which way you think transparency is headed in the UK, and what mySociety’s place is in that future.
This one requires a bit more head-scratching, but there are no wrong answers, and we’d love to hear thoughts about how we as an organisation need to adapt, or what wider society needs to put in place to allow for healthier, more transparent public institutions.
And so, if you have thoughts about any or all of these areas, please go and fill in our form now. Thanks!