How did it all begin?

Some say that mySociety began life when a small group of coders got together to discuss a shared interest. They wanted to explore the potential of the internet to give everyone easier access to the political process.

That was way back in 1996. Since then, we’ve been rather busy, growing into a fully-fledged international organisation along the way.

Here’s how it happened:

  1. 1996

    1. A small group of developers and interested people get together and form UKCOD (UK Citizens Online Democracy). This politically neutral group plan to explore the democratic potential of the internet. Could the internet help the public to discover, discuss and participate directly in politics? Could the public be empowered to make changes in society and to the political process itself?
  2. 1999

    1. UKCOD falls dormant
  3. 2003

    1. UKCOD is revived by a new generation of trustees and volunteers, many of whom have previously worked together on independent online democratic projects such as Stand.org.uk and FaxYourMP
    2. In an OpenDemocracy article, James Crabtree suggests that the UK government should set up a civic hacking fund.
    3. Tom Steinberg takes the idea, gave it a polish, and UKCOD sets up the mySociety project. mySociety recruits many of its core people from groups who are already hacking on projects that fit the vision.

      mySociety is born

  4. 2004

    1. We gain the grant that enables work to commence on FaxYourRepresentative (the first iteration of what would become WriteToThem) and PledgeBank
    2. TheyWorkForYou launches – though not as a mySociety project
  5. 2005

    1. WriteToThem launches

      Now people can email their elected representatives – even if they don’t know who they are

    2. General election
    3. We launch Pledgebank

      Its strapline is “I’ll do this, but only if you’ll help”. Pre-dating Groupon, Pledgebank is founded on a similar principle of collaborative action

    4. HearFromYourMP launches

      It’s a simple website that tells MPs that their constituents want to hear from them, then lets them send regular messages.

  6. 2006

    1. We launch HassleMe, a piece of code which will bug you at slightly irregular intervals
    2. TheyWorkForYou is adopted and becomes an official mySociety project
    3. Chris Lightfoot comes up with first maps for the project that will eventually become Mapumental
    4. We win two New Statesman New Media awards
    5. We run a call for suggestions: what should our next project be? We announce the winning idea in September: a website for submitting Freedom of Information requests
    6. The No 10 Petitions website goes live – a major commission for the software that handles all petitions to Downing Street
    7. We chair an event in Parliament for the discussion of whether, and how, TheyWorkForYou changes MPs’ behaviour
  7. 2007

    1. Chris Lightfoot passes away
    2. FixMyStreet launches

      Only at this point, it is called Neighbourhood Fix-It; it’s the UK’s first nationwide street problem reporting website

    3. We realise that Neighbourhood Fix-It is a silly name – no-one can ever remember where the hyphen goes, for starters. Also, the FixMyStreet domain name becomes available – so we rename it.
  8. 2008

    1. Our Freedom of Information site,

      WhatDoTheyKnow launches

    2. mySociety celebrates its 5th birthday

      with a party and some thoughts

    3. We launch ReportEmptyHomes
    4. Our first iPhone app for FixMyStreet goes live
  9. 2009

    1. We campaign against MPs being able to hide their expenses

      Our campaign is successful

    2. We launch ScenicOrNot, a game that will help us gather data for Mapumental’s ‘scenicness’ layer
    3. Mapumental launches, but access is by invitation only as it’s in private Beta
    4. Angie Martin passes away
    5. A FixMyStreet for Ireland is launched, based on our open source code
    6. mySociety starts to collaborate with similar groups in Central and Eastern Europe: we offer help to other organisations with a Call for Proposals
  10. 2010

    1. General election: mySociety volunteers build Democracy Club to present information on every single candidate
    2. We open MapIt, our point-to-boundary mapping service, to public use
    3. Brief Encounters launches, as a data-gathering project for our planned launch of FixMyTransport
    4. We begin to crowdsource transport companies’ email addresses, also in preparation for FixMyTransport
    5. A site in New Zealand launches, using our open source WhatDoTheyKnow software
  11. 2011

    1. FixMyStreet is implemented in Norway, using our open source code
    2. Barnet council uses mySociety’s Pledgebank software to organise residents’ Royal Wedding street parties
    3. We add future business to TheyWorkForYou, so you can see what is upcoming in Parliament as well as what’s already happened
    4. Tobias Escher publishes research on the users and reach of TheyWorkForYou and WriteToThem
    5. We announce the mySociety International initiative

      Originally called DIY mySociety, its first offering is the Alaveteli platform

    6. Several groups around the world use our Alavateli platform to launch Right To Know sites in the EU, Kosovo, and Brazil.
    7. FixMyTransport launches

      The aim is to encourage people to come together and campaign against public transport irritations

    8. We repurpose ReportEmptyHomes to create the Empty Homes Spotter app, to accompany a Channel 4 programme
    9. A FixMyStreet site is launched for Sweden, using our open source code
  12. 2012

    1. WhatDoTheyKnow processes its 100,000th request and FixMyStreet sends its 200,000th report
    2. Mzalendo relaunches

      With our help, the Kenyan parliamentary monitoring website has complete new functionality

    3. One of the WhatDoTheyKnow volunteers gives evidence to a Justice Select Committee about Freedom of Information
    4. FixMyStreet gets a spiffy new design, thanks to Supercool design agency
    5. mySociety developer Dave goes to Cebu to help the set-up of FixMyBarangay
    6. We host a conference for people using the Alaveteli platform
    7. Groups in Spain, Hungary, Uruguay, Australia, and the Czech Republic use the Alaveteli platform to launch their own Right To Know sites
    8. FixMyStreet for Councils is launched. It’s a fully-integrated service for council websites
    9. MapIt Global goes live, helping developers map points to boundaries, anywhere in the world
    10. We launch Mapumental Property, designed to showcase Mapumental’s extraordinary capabilities
    11. mySociety announces its new Components and Platforms strategy
    12. A Bosnian Right To Know site uses our Alaveteli software
    13. Odekro, the Ghanaian parliamentary monitoring site, launches, using Pombola.
  13. 2013

    1. We receive Bafta and Emmy nominations for our Great British Property Scandal project
    2. ShineYourEye, the Nigerian parliamentary monitoring site, launches, using Pombola.
    3. Zurich City Council purchase their own version of FixMyStreet – Züri Wie Neu
    4. We win a Broadcast Digital Award for the Great British Property Scandal site and app
    5. 10th Birthday!

      No-one quite knows the relevant date, but we throw a birthday party anyway

    6. Poplus is founded

      A collaborative project between mySociety and Ciudadano Inteligente in Chile

    7. Brighton and Hove become the first council to use our FOI for Councils system
    8. Several international groups pick up our open source software and launch their own sites. Alaveteli powers new Right To Know sites in Canada, Israel, Tunisia and Romania; in Zimbabwe, Parliamentary Monitoring site Kuvakazim uses our Pombola software; and in Malaysia and Australia sites launch based on our FixMyStreet platform.
    9. The National Democratic Institute honours Tom Steinberg as a Civic Innovator
  14. 2014

    1. SayIt launches

      A new system for the online publication of transcripts

    2. Our partners in South Africa launch the People’s Assembly website, underpinned by our Pombola and SayIt software
    3. WhatDoTheyKnow processes its 200,000th report
    4. Parliament releases our strategic review of their digital services
    5. We run the PoplusCon conference in Santiago, Chile, together with Ciudadano Inteligente
    6. After a gap of a few years, we release WriteToThem responsiveness figures
    7. TheyWorkForYou is ten years old. In celebration, we run some of its interesting crowd-sourced data.
    8. TheyWorkForYou now contains data on every vote since the last general election.
    9. In advance of the Scottish referendum, we take a look at what difference Scottish MPs have made to votes.
    10. Just in time for Party Conference season, we use SayIt to publish the ‘lost’ Tory speeches.
    11. We launch Collideoscope, a reworking of the FixMyStreet platform, designed to capture cycle incident and near-miss data.
    12. Release of the research we commissioned on the impact of online FOI technology, the first conducted in this field.
    13. More research, this time on the impact of our UK sites.
  15. 2015

    1. In the light of a boost to our funding for challenging core targets, we make the practical decision to refine our offerings, and close down some of our less vital projects.
    2. The 250,000th Freedom of Information request is processed by WhatDoTheyKnow.
    3. Tom Steinberg announces that he’ll be stepping down from his position as Director of mySociety.
    4. FixMyStreet research finds that when one problem is fixed, citizens go on to report more.
    5. In collaboration with the Citizenship Foundation, we provide lesson plans for use in schools.
    6. Time to release 2014’s MP responsiveness figures
    7. TICTeC

      We run the world’s first Impact of Civic Technology conference, with attendees from all over the world

    8. YourNextMP, revived for the General Election, provides candidate data that underlies scores of online voter tools, including Google.
    9. We hold the 2nd international FOI conference, AlaveteliCon, in Madrid.
    10. We announce our new CEO

      Mark Cridge takes over the spot that Tom Steinberg vacated

    11. We launch EveryPolitician, an ambitious attempt to store and share data on every politician in the world.
    12. Using EveryPolitician data, our new game Gender Balance hopes to provide definitive data on the number of women in parliaments around the globe.
    13. EveryPolitician contains data for 200 countries: that’s *nearly* all of them…
    14. The government sets up a commission to look into imposing restrictions on FOI. We respond and campaign hard against the threat.
    15. FixMyStreet and TheyWorkForYou feature in a flagship exhibition on data at Somerset House in London.
  16. 2016

    1. YourNextRepresentative is put to use for elections in Costa Rica, as TusRepresentantesLocales.
    2. iLab, our partners in Liberia, launch Infolib, an FOI site running on our Alaveteli platform.
    3. Success! The government announce that there will be no major changes to FOI law, and the commission nod to WhatDoTheyKnow as leading the way for best practice.
    4. With Médecins Sans Frontiers we redevelop the Patents Opposition Database, providing resources to help people challenge medicine patents.