1. YourNextRepresentative: helping inform the Argentine electorate

    Remember the UK General Election? Yes, we know it’s a distant memory now, and you’ve probably forgotten YourNextMP, too. But the project is far from dormant!

    YourNextMP successfully crowd-sourced information on every election candidate, and made it available as open data for anyone who wanted to use it to build useful websites and online tools.

    And while here in the UK we won’t have further use for it until 2020, the great news is that the underlying code can be repurposed to work for other elections around the world. Thanks to Yo Quiero Saber, the first of these is now live and collecting data for Argentina at http://investigacion.yoquierosaber.org/, and there are also plans for DataMade Chicago to use it in the USA.

    In Argentina, the crowdsourcing component sits as part of a wider voter informing project. Martín Szyszlican from Yo Quiero Saber explains more:

    We just launched Yo Quiero Saber and it’s had a great reception. You’re welcome to visit our main site, where we feature the game and full profiles for candidates for presidency and governors of four provinces.

    You can also see our YourNextRepresentative instance (we renamed it, since MP is not a relevant term for us) where, in just two weeks, we’ve already had more than 100 registered users, and have also managed to add all the official candidates from DINE (the national elections office).

    We’re still missing city-level and provincial-level candidates from the site, but that’s going to be improved before the October general elections.

    So far, we’ve had 350,000 unique users and a million page views since launch. That means we are close to reaching 1% of the total number of voters in the country. Neatly, the number of people who have used the site is roughly equivalent to the number of voters a party needs to pass from this election to the next ones.

    Media reception has been great with online portals big, small and regional mentioning our site and some of them embedding our game in their articles. We’ve also been kept busy with radio interviews and some tv programmes featuring the game. In Argentina, the media is deeply split down party lines, and we very much like the fact that we’ve surfed that divide, being featured in media from both sides of the political spectrum.

    This is just the beginning: we’re working as an alliance of local NGOs, and our bid for a prototype grant from the Knight Foundation has been successful, meaning that we can forge ahead with our plans. We’ve also had support from HacksLabs, a data journalism accelerator. The full list of partners can be found on the footer of both sites.

    We’re really glad to hear of this success—it’s great to see the code get another lease of life, which is, of course, what the Poplus project is all about.

    Naturally, the YourNextRepresentative codebase also available to other countries who want to help inform their electorates, and what’s more, Martín says they’ll be glad to offer help to anyone who wants it. That goes for us here at mySociety too.

  2. Videos from AlaveteliCon

    Earlier this year, the AlaveteliCon conference brought together people with an interest in online Freedom of Information technologies.

    It was an event quite unlike any other, and left a lasting impression of many dedicated people making good things happen for their communities, in places across the world.

    That impression is reflected in these short videos, which came about when we yanked attendees away from their lunches and asked them questions in a darkened room.

    Thanks very much to everyone who responded so amiably, as well as giving us such useful insights into what it’s like to run an FOI site in all sorts of circumstances. We’ve named them at the foot of this post, along with links to their sites.


  3. Making an impact

    At the heart of open data is the belief that information is empowering and allows citizens to hold their governments to account. The idea that transparency promotes good governance is so widely accepted that few people dare question it. But how solid is the evidence linking open data initiatives to intended impact? Do transparency measures necessarily lead to policy change? What about the impact and effectiveness of Civic Tech in general?

    mySociety has been at the forefront of talking about impact and just last March organized the first Impacts of Civic Technology Conference addressing these questions. The conference brought together practitioners, activists and scholars who discussed various ways to define and measure impact and make civic technologies more effective.

    Civic Tech is a rapidly growing field and covers a wide range of initiatives from open data groups to crowdsourcing and service delivery platforms and parliamentary monitoring websites. According to a Knight Foundation report, $431 million has been invested in Civic Tech from January 2011 to May 2013 and the sector has grown at the rate of 24% per year since 2008.

    As the interest and funding in Civic Tech continues to grow, it is important to start thinking about ‘impact’ in more concrete terms. The focus on Civic Tech so far has been more geared towards how to get people involved and make the technology more accessible. When impact studies have been done, they have tended to focus on the adoption, awareness or quality of the platforms rather than the actual impact of the initiatives on people and communities.

    The default position seems to be that once bureaucratic or technical problems are addressed, these technologies will inevitably produce favorable results. Very often organizations and practitioners fail to see that this is not always the case. The danger when we don’t think about impact in concrete terms is it might lead us to confuse output with outcomes. For instance, poorly thought out open data initiatives might lead to transparency for transparency’s sake. Open data while hugely important is not a one-stop solution for governance problems and corruption and often it requires more than freeing data to push government and institutions to carry out transformative actions.

    We have also only recently begun to think about the unintended consequences of civic technologies. One of the criticisms for Civic Tech, especially in the Global South, has been that they often end up empowering the already empowered. It is argued that social and economic inequalities are further entrenched when these technologies are made available without considering the Digital Divide in these countries. Understanding impact also means that these questions are explored in more depth and detail.

    The novelty of Civic Tech as a field means that in many cases, the kind of information needed to conduct good impact assessment is not available. In developing countries, where infrastructure, access and adoption continue to be problems, impact studies simply do not top the list of an organization’s priorities. It does not help that most findings are based on self-reporting and anecdotal evidence making verification rather complex. The difficulty of measuring change, however, should not deter Civic Tech organizations from prioritizing impact. There is great value in the work that Civic Tech activists are doing around the world but it pays to know in more certain terms just how their works have been changing things if and when they are. Empirical findings are crucial but so are qualitative insights.

    We have to understand the mechanisms and processes of how and in what institutional contexts Civic Tech works in order to achieve better results and avoid unintended outcomes and wasted projects. And that means among other things, establishing metrics and theories of change, finding links between activities and results and producing robust evidence. The bottom line is that Civic Tech is not an end in itself but a means to propel meaningful action and without a clear and sustained focus on results it can be very easy to forget that.

    If you are a Civic Tech organization or researcher carrying out or planning to do an impact evaluation of your work, what have been your experiences been so far? What can Civic Tech organizations teach each other about defining and measuring impact? We would love to hear your perspectives.

    Rubeena Mahato is working on a digital democracy project at mySociety as an Open Society Rights and Governance Grantee. The views are of the author.

  4. A new home—and a new purpose—for ScenicOrNot

    My last blog post ran through the history of our ‘rate the view’ site ScenicOrNot.

    I was expecting to wrap up with a final paragraph describing its graceful retirement. But no — it turns out that, even as I wrote, emails were going back and forth to secure a whole new career for ScenicOrNot.

    Here’s what its new owners at the Warwick Business School have to say:

    Does living in picturesque areas make you feel healthier? Urban planners and think tanks have puzzled over this question for years, but have been held back by a lack of data on the beauty of our environment.

    We were immensely excited to discover the data being collected by ScenicOrNot, as it gives us a crucial opportunity to finally get some answers to this age-old question.

    Our initial analyses of the ScenicOrNot data suggest that people living in more scenic environments report better health, even when taking variables such as income and greenspace into account. These results suggest that the beauty of our everyday environment might have more practical importance than has previously been realised.

    We’ve written a paper describing these analyses, which is currently under review. Keep in touch with us via Twitter (@thoughtsymmetry or @thedatascilab) and we’ll let you know when the paper is published.

    We’re very honoured that mySociety are passing the ScenicOrNot site into our care. We’re excited about having the opportunity to customise the site and gather more data for our research, and we’d also love to expand this work to other countries. Stay tuned to hear what comes next!

    We’re excited too, of course — and really pleased that ScenicOrNot has been redeployed in such a useful way.

    The good news for you is that you can carry on rating photos for scenicness over at the site’s new home, all in the knowledge that you are increasing our understanding  about the correlation between health and our environment.

    Oh, and meanwhile: how would you rate the view from your window? You might want to talk to your doctor about that.

    Image: Brainflakes (CC)

  5. The story of ScenicOrNot

    Take a look out of the window. How would you rate the view, on a scale of one to ten?

    Your response can probably tell us a little about the beauty, or otherwise, of the area around you. That’s the premise that ScenicOrNot, one of the mySociety sites that we recently stopped running, was founded on. Happily, ScenicOrNot has now found a home and will continue under new ownership: more about that in a future blog post. Meanwhile, we’d like to celebrate it with a potted history.

    An exercise in crowdsourcing, ScenicOrNot served up a series of random images, each representing one square kilometre of Great Britain, and invited users to rate them (the images were sourced from the Geograph project, itself a fascinating open source repository). The results fed into a database of ‘scenicness’.

    ScenicOrNot collected that data and also permits anyone to download it, under an Open Data Licence, for their own ends.

    What was it for?

    To understand why we made ScenicOrNot, you have to go back to the beginnings of our transit-time mapping technology, Mapumental.

    Mapumental shows journeys in terms of how long they take, and it was intended to help people make decisions about where to live, work, or go on holiday. We’d figured out how to display bands of public transport journey times, but we knew that those weren’t the only factors that feed into such important life choices.

    House prices, average salaries, and, yes, the beauty of the surrounding area all have a part to play. We wanted to be able to add them to Mapumental so that users could get a really rounded picture.

    But while there are public databases for house prices and average salaries available, until the creation of ScenicOrNot, there was no such thing for scenicness. There was just one solution: we would have to make our own.

    ‘Hot or Not’ for scenery

    Rather than go and look at every part of the country ourselves, it was time to harness the wisdom of the crowd.

    ScenicOrNot, the building of which was managed by the Dextrous Web, launched in 2009. It served users with an unending random series of images showing landscapes from around the country, and was an early foray into both crowdsourcing and gamification for mySociety.

    Rating images, as also seen in Kittenwar (and other, less fluffball-centric sites like HotOrNot) is a pleasingly compulsive activity, and within just a few months, every kilometre of the country had been rated at least once.

    And as time went by, we reached a critical milestone: the project amassed a minimum of three votes for each image, helping to ensure that the results were less likely to be skewed by eccentric or unusual opinions about what makes a place scenic.

    Slotting ScenicOrNot into Mapumental

    We now had our ‘scenicness’ data, and house price and salary data from other sources. The decision we made about how to incorporate these data sets was an important one which has worked well for subsequent Mapumental projects like the work we did for the Welsh government, or for the Fire Protection Association.

    Effectively, you can think of each data set as a map layer, which may be slotted in our out, as needed. Our showcase site Mapumental Property demonstrates this – it’s effectively the vanilla transit-time Mapumental, with a house price layer (from Zoopla) added in.

    A new lease of life

    If we hadn’t found a new owner for ScenicOrNot, we’d have shut it down. Happily, though, it’s found a new home and a whole new purpose: we’ll be explaining more about that in our next blog post.


    Image © Copyright Derek Harper (CC)

  6. How FOI helped uncover the facts about West Ham United and the Olympic Stadium

    If you want a copper-bottomed example of how Freedom of Information can benefit us all, you might do worse than to watch How the Hammers Struck Gold (broadcast last week, and available via iPlayer until Friday).

    This BBC programme examines, in the space of half an hour, the fine detail of the rental agreement which grants West Ham United the use of the Olympic Stadium.

    The stadium’s owners, the London Legacy Development Corporation, are a public authority, so they are bound by the Freedom of Information Act. That means that anyone has the right to ask them for information, and if they hold it, they must release it.

    WhatDoTheyKnow user Richard Hunt requested the terms of the rental agreement, and—well, you can see the rest for yourself. It’s a must-watch for anyone interested in football, but there’s plenty for the rest of us too.

    The investigation speaks more widely of transparency around the use of tax-payers’ money, as well as the multiple revenue streams—some only loosely related to the actual game—which are up for grabs when a team reaches the Premier League.

    If you happen to see this post after the programme has been removed from iPlayer, you can also find a good written summary of the findings on the BBC website.

    Image: Ivonne (CC)

  7. My last post

    As you may well already know, I’m leaving mySociety and taking some time off to chillax and think about what I should do next.

    Today is my last day and it seems appropriate to sign off with a blog post, 11 years and 5 months after the first one that I can find.

    It feels too early to share any deep thoughts on what mySociety means, where we are with civic tech, what worked and what didn’t, what I learned as a founder and what we should all be focusing on next.

    One of my many reasons for wanting to move on was to regain the kind of mental freshness and detachment that comes from having fewer responsibilities for a while. So I promise that I’ll think and write more.

    Follow me on Twitter if you want to, or add your email address to my new notification list if you just want a ping when I’ve written something. Or mail me direct at tom@tomsteinberg.co.uk if you want to talk about anything.

    My main reason for writing today is to thank people. A lot of people gave up very significant portions of their lives to get mySociety to a point where it helps so many people in so many countries in so many different ways.

    So I’ve written a huge list of thankyous. If you’re missing, ping me and I’ll thank you too :)

    Thank you to:

    Paul Lenz for his strength, energy, focus, morality, tolerance of my foibles, and his financial and legal skills that stop this happening to me.

    Tim Morley for loving and caring for PledgeBank for so many years, and for bringing a little Esperanto to our lives. And for cooking.

    James Crabtree for writing the original article that said that something like mySociety should exist, and for being a patient trustee from many timezones away

    Tony Bowden for being the first person to try to help people outside the UK to benefit from the ideas and tools we’d built here, and for the miracle that is EveryPolitician (100+ countries, anyone?)

    James Cronin for being the chair of trustees for so long, and doing so with a calm, kind level-headedness that I think would drive other charity CEO’s wild with jealousy. And for being such a key part of starting mySociety in the first place.

    Mark Cridge for taking on the challenge of running mySociety, and for resisting the temptation to use me as a scapegoat for everything [n.b. this thanks may be retroactively repealed]

    Ian Chard for keeping the server lights on, for making me believe I can do more with every day of my life, and for telling me about the British Library’s amazing online newspaper archive.

    FOIMonkey for spotting when councils dump tons of private data out via accidental FOI. You are what other people mean by eternal vigilance.

    Deborah Kerr for being eternally patient and kind to the users, even when they were taxing, and for doing super retreat organising on a shoestring.

    Ganesh Sittampalam for a billion hours of patient FOI administration, helping make WhatDoTheyKnow the institution it is today.

    Alex Skene for so much volunteering on WhatDoTheyKnow, for grown-up management advice that I took seriously, and for surprising me at the Olympics

    Abi Broom for nothing*.

    Richard Taylor for years of diligent volunteering on WhatDoTheyKnow, making us all laugh with his videos of council meetings, and being perhaps the most knowledgeable person about every vote in Parliament who has ever lived.

    Adam MacGreggor for server cabinet wrangling at difficult moments.

    Ben Nickolls for heading up such a happy, productive commercial team, and for helping me understand that £200 is an entirely reasonable sum to spend on bicycle pedals.

    Owen Blacker for a lot of trustees meetings, and for always keeping us spiritually close to the digital rights world.

    Ethan Zuckerman for helping me gain perspective, and for being my biggest fan in the USA.

    Jen Pahlka for being an even bigger fan than Ethan, and for endlessly quoting me on stages around the world.

    Sam Smith for early hacking, for running OpenTech, and for reminding me that chippiness always has a place.

    Dave Whiteland for the stories, and for travelling far and wide to help people take advantage of our tools and learnings. And, on a personal note, for showing me what it means to be a truly good son.

    Michal Migurski for making Mapumental so beautiful, and for bringing your tech skills to Code for America

    Amandeep Rehlon for being the volunteer finance department before we had a finance department, and for giving me the unique pleasure of sending my expense receipts to the Bank of England’s financial crises department.

    Bill Thompson for organising the first puntcon, where I first met Chris. And for giving feedback on the very earliest versions of the mySociety plan.

    Etienne Pollard for helping at every stage, whether a drama hippy, a McKinsey suit, or a harried public servant.

    Stephen King for, yes, representing our biggest funder, but also for being clear, friendly, and a quiet champion for mySociety. And for sometimes helping translate from Californian to English.

    Alistair Sloan for being such a dedicated WhatDoTheyKnow volunteer that he once got the bus from Glasgow to London for a meeting.

    Duncan Parkes for making Mapumental performant in the post-flash era, even when it looked like it might not be possible. And for the best retreat presentation ever.

    Struan Donald for the puns, the deadpan one liners, and for making both FixMyStreet and TheyWorkForYou so much better.

    Micah Sifry and Ellen Miller for making me unofficial members of the US civic tech family.

    Eben Upton, now Raspberry Pi legend, who booked me a speaking gig in the Cambridge Microsoft Research labs which is where I first met Francis Irving and (I think) Chris Lightfoot.

    Dan Jellinek for bringing together VoxPolitics with me and James Crabtree, which was the precursor to mySociety.

    Janet Haven for the money. For her ‘massive thermonuclear powered bullshit detector’ [ht Tom Longley]. And, oh yes, for becoming a friend too.

    Ayesha and Keith Garrett for design help on PledgeBank, and sysadmin skills, long ago.

    Tim Jackson for taking a philanthropic punt on a wild idea, long ago, which worked.

    Robin Houston for doing battle on a project you didn’t really love, but that was for the right purpose.

    Pierre Omidyar for making all that money at eBay, and then deciding that we deserved some of it.

    Tom Loosemore for hacking together our very first web presence, and for being a positive, confidence inspiring presence in good times and bad ever since.

    Mike Bracken for the vital job of helping us get out first significant grant, and then years later for successfully smuggling mySociety values into government.

    Richard Pope for being a ceaseless fount of new ideas, and for driving the first redesign of TheyWorkForYou.

    Edmund von der Burg for showing that you can both be a charming coder, and capable of building an office out of a shipping container, with your own hands.

    Julian Todd for realising that vote data in the UK parliament deserved clear, regular, semi-automated analysis to make it useful for most people, and then for making it real in PublicWhip. If history is fair it will note him as the inventor of modern vote analyses.

    Helen Goulden for helping us navigate the tricky paths to government money, back when there was any.

    Doug Paulley for blazing onto the scene as an amazing new WhatDoTheyKnow volunteer.

    Martin Wright for turning us from an organisation that sucked at design, to one that really rocks. And for his enduring love of Yo.

    Stef Magdalinski for the name of the charity, and for trusting me with TheyWorkForYou

    Nick Jackson for happy rats and research stats.

    Jason Kitcat for the very first mySociety.org!

    Matt Jones for mySociety’s logo, which is still going strong, albeit in a gently shaded new style.

    Alex Smith for helping us through TV-driven load spikes with customarily despairing good humour.

    Manar Hussain for diligent, challenging trusteeship that was always good humoured, and never afraid to bring in new ideas.

    The public sector for being such a terrible employer of programming talent that it gave us both Matthew and Steve

    John Cross for being a brilliant WhatDoTheyKnow volunteer.

    Steve Day for being a brilliant, sensitive engineering manager, wise far beyond his age, all whilst riding a BMX.

    Christoph Dowe for helping organise the series of Berlin-based conferences that first brought together Europe’s civic hackers, and which ultimately helped attract funding to the scene.

    Liz Conlan for the coffee advice

    Chris Mytton – for introducing the words ‘craft ales’ to mySociety’s internal discourse, for showing that not going to university has no impact on your ability to be either an amazing coder or a well rounded human being.

    Steve Clift for being there to talk to about digital politics when nobody else was interested, and for loving Poplus into life.

    Dave Arter for wrestling Mapumental into a truly beautiful state, for your Github robot, and for convincing me that Wales is disproportionately full of bright young coders.

    Gareth Rees for helping make Alaveteli our most-used platform, and for bringing a little race-car glamour to our team.

    Rebecca Rumbul for getting our new research programme of to a flying start, and for showing me that the art of creative swearing is never truly mastered

    Jen Bramley for cheerfully travelling the world and making people feel that mySociety must be worth working with if everyone is so nice

    Gemma Humphrys for bringing a tornado of efficiency to our events organisation, and for having absolutely no boundaries that I am aware of.

    Rowena Young for being a person I could really moan to, when things got tough.

    Myf Nixon for being our organisation’s voice, for looking after our users, and for making sure that we get noticed.

    Tony Blair for starting a war that inspired Julian Todd to build PublicWhip, and much later for commissioning a petitions website that caused all sorts of fun and games.

    Seb Bacon for making DemocracyClub happen in 2010, for starting the conversion of WhatDoTheyKnow.com into the generic Alaveteli, and for going off to OpenCorporates to make it harder for the b*&^&ds to get away with it.

    Sym Roe for making DemocracyClub happen in 2015, and for giving a lot of his time to the cause of good political information in the UK.

    Tim Green for being the new Chris Lightfoot

    Tom Longley for giving us a no-nonsense introduction to how hard it was going to be to conduct successful partnerships in the developing world.

    Mark Longair for making sure that technological excellence and human kindness are are the core of what we do.

    Camilla Aldrich for the lungs

    Angie Martin for giving all she could, for as long as she could.

    Zarino Zappia for ceaseless energy and good humour, and for asking hilariously straight questions about why we made terrible design decisions previously

    Karl Grundy, Kristina Glushkova and Mike Thompson for helping us grow a commercial team, over several years.

    The vandal who repeatedly smashed up the phone booth on London’s Caledonian Road, and thus planted the idea for FixMyStreet

    William Perrin for helping make government interested in data and tech before it was cool, and for virtually single-handedly starting the UK government’s work on Open Data. And for all the support and the ideas in his post civil service life.

    Fran Perrin for the support, and for protecting me from William’s ideas.

    Louise Crow for showing me what a technology leader really looks like.

    Matthew Somerville for always standing up for the user, for making everything work, and for doing it all in a tenth the time expected. And for a hug when I needed it most.

    Francis Irving for joining at the right time, for leaving at the right time, and being a monster of thoughtful product design and speedy, skilful implementation in between. For always being excited, and always wise.

    Chris Lightfoot for giving me a brief, life-changing glimpse of what the raging, brilliant light of genius looks like. And being the person who introduced me to Anna.

    Anna Powell-Smith for everything, everyday.







    * Trust me, this is how she’d want it

  8. How far does your MP tread the party line?

    For a while now, TheyWorkForYou has shown how your MP voted on key topics.

    What it hasn’t done, until this week, is give a crucial piece of context. That is, how do your MP’s votes differ from those of their colleagues in the same party?

    We all know that, on many issues, the whip ensures that MPs vote according to the party line rather than their own convictions. So in theory, by examining the votes which diverge from the majority party vote, we might get the clearest picture of what an MP truly cares about.

    And now, we’ve added a small piece of code to the site, which allows us to do just that. At the top of your MP’s page, you’ll now see text along these lines:

    stephen phillips voting in parliament

    If your MP never disagrees with their party, you’ll just see the top line followed by a random selection of votes.

    The importance of wording

    The screenshot above shows another small change we’ve made to TheyWorkForYou: just a matter of wording, this time.

    When we first started displaying how MPs had voted, we used terms such as “voted strongly for”, “voted moderately against”, etc. This was to allow us to represent a range of positions along a spectrum for each topic.

    For every topic, such as EU Integration, or smoking bans, several different votes are analysed. The ‘show votes’ button, as seen above, takes you to a page where these are listed.

    However, we received a steady stream of emails, tweets and Facebook messages asking how an MP can vote ‘strongly’ or ‘moderately’ for something. To a fly-by reader, it seemed nonsensical, because of course they were thinking of that fact that MPs vote for or against a single motion.

    To counteract this, we’ve used words which we hope encapsulate the concept of a series of votes over time – words like ‘consistently’, ‘occasionally’ and ‘never’.

    Choosing these words proved to be harder than we’d anticipated, and, after a long heated discussion between colleagues, resulted in a straw poll asking anyone we could find to arrange pieces of paper in a line to indicate how they perceived their strength.

    We finally came up with an answer that the majority agreed on—and we haven’t had any mail on the subject since then. Let’s cautiously call that a win for careful wording.

    Image: Harry Potts (CC)

  9. 100 parliaments as open data, ready for you to use

    If you need data on the people who make up your parliament, another country’s parliament, or indeed all parliaments, you may be in luck.

    Every Politician, the latest Poplus project, aims to collect, store and share information about every parliament in the world, past and present—and it already contains 100 of them.

    What’s more, it’s all provided as Open Data to anyone who would like to use it to power a civic tech project. We’re thinking parliamentary monitoring organisations, journalists, groups who run access-to-democracy sites like our own WriteToThem, and especially researchers who want to do analysis across multiple countries.

    But isn’t that data already available?

    Yes and no. There’s no doubt that you can find details of most parliaments online, either on official government websites, on Wikipedia, or on a variety of other places online.

    But, as you might expect from data that’s coming from hundreds of different sources, it’s in a multitude of different formats. That makes it very hard to work with in any kind of consistent fashion.

    Every Politician standardises all of its data into the Popolo standard and then provides it in two simple downloadable formats:

    • csv, which contains basic data that’s easy to work with on spreadsheets
    • JSON which contains richer data on each person, and is ideal for developers

    This standardisation means that it should now be a lot easier to work on projects across multiple countries, or to compare one country’s data with another. It also means that data works well with other Poplus Components.

    What can I do with it?

    Need a specific example? Yesterday, we introduced Gender Balance, the game that gathers data about women in politics.

    As you’ll know if you’ve already given it a try, Gender Balance works by displaying politicians that make up one of the world’s legislatures, one by one.

    That data all comes from Every Politician, and it’s meant that the developers have been able to concentrate on making a smooth and functional interface, knowing that the data side of things has already been taken care of.

    That’s just one way to use Every Politician data, though. If you’d like to use it in your own site or app, you can find out more here.

    We still need more data

    As you may have noticed, there are more than 100 parliaments in the world. In fact, despite having reached what feels like a fairly substantial milestone, we’re still barely half way to getting some data for every parliament.

    So we could use your help in finding data for the parliaments we don’t yet cover, and historic information for the ones we do. Read more about how you can help out.

  10. Introducing Gender Balance, the game that sorts the women from the boys

    From Afghanistan to Zimbabwe, there are over 180 parliaments in the world — but what percentage of their members are female?

    The crazy thing is, there’s no definitive figure*.

    So we created Gender Balance, an easy game that crowd-sources gender data across every parliament in the world. Try it! We hope you’ll find it fun.

    Gender Balance isn’t just an enjoyable way to fill half an hour, though: users will be helping to build up a dataset that will be useful for researchers, campaigners, politicians, and sociologists. As the results emerge, we’ll be making them available in an open format for anyone to use, to answer questions like:

    • Which country has the highest proportion of women in parliament?
    • Do women vote differently on issues like defence, the environment, or maternity benefits?
    • Exactly when did women come into power in different countries, and did their presence change the way the country was run?

    Gender Balance’s underlying data comes from another mySociety project—EveryPolitician, a database which aims to collect information on every politician in the world.

    And while it’s nailing down those stats on gender balance across every country, Gender Balance also aims to be a showcase of what can be done with the open data from EveryPolitician. That data is free for anyone who wants to build tools like this, and it’s easy to use, too. Find out more about that here.


    *While the Inter-Parliamentary Union does collect figures, they are self-reported, often out of date, and only cover its own members.