1. Croatia gets creative with Alaveteli

    Code for Croatia are one of many groups around the world who have used our software Alaveteli to set up a Freedom of Information site — ImamoPravoZnati (“We have the right to know”) was launched in 2015 and has processed more than 4,000 requests.

    Many organisations might count that a success and leave it there, but Code for Croatia are clearly a little more ambitious. We’ve been interested to hear about their two latest projects.

    A platform for consumer complaints


    The Alaveteli code was written to send FOI requests to public authorities. But in essence, it’s little more than a system for sending emails to a predetermined list of recipients, and publishing the whole thread of correspondence online.

    Change that list of recipients, and you can create a whole new type of site. Reklamacije (“Complaints”) puts the process of making consumer complaints online. It’s early days as yet — the site’s still in the beta phase, during which testers are putting it through its paces. There have been messages about bank closures, insurance policies… and even the inconsistent quality of the quesadillas at a Mexican food chain.

    As we’ve often mentioned here on this blog, our FixMyStreet codebase has been put to many different purposes that require map-based reporting, but as far as we’re aware this is the first non-FOI use of Alaveteli so we’ll be watching with interest. Perhaps it might give you ideas about setting up a similar service elsewhere?

    Probing travel expenses

    Code for Croatia have also launched a campaign asking users to request details of ministers’ travel expenses.

    If that sounds familiar, you’ll be remembering that back in January, AccessInfo did much the same with EU Commissioners and their expenses on the European Union FOI site AskTheEU. We can tentatively say that they were successful, too: it’s been announced that the EU expenses will be proactively published every two months. AskTheEU say they welcome the move ‘cautiously’, so let’s see how it all pans out.

    The key to both these campaigns is pre-filled requests that make it really simple for supporters to make a request to a specific politician, while ensuring that the requests aren’t duplicated.

    That’s something that Gemma explained how to do in this blog post — it’s a massive benefit of the friendly global Alaveteli community that we can all share insights like this, and especially that other groups can try out initiatives that have proved successful.


  2. Journalists celebrate Freedom of Information: Croatia

    All this week, we’ll be celebrating International Right to Know Day and the 250th anniversary of Freedom of Information with some insights from journalists who have used FOI in their work.

    Today, we hear from Danela Žagar, a journalist by profession and currently working at the Croatian NGO the Centre for Peace Studies. Danela says:

    In Croatia unfortunately, there still remains a culture of secrecy, left over from the previous regime when everything connected with the state, public authorities, local governments and public companies was enveloped in a thick veil of secrecy. To a great extent, it still is.

    But the paradigm is changing and the public are beginning to demand and expect the important principles of transparency and openness, for data to be available to the public and in an accessible format.

    That said, the government still has a fear of citizens as the people who vote them in. It’s clear that many facts are still hidden despite the existence of the Information Commissioner. We still have not reached the level of openness that many other countries enjoy as standard, or at least are on their way towards.

    The FOI Act is a valuable tool for journalists, and in Croatia its true potential is just being discovered. We have the right to access accurate information in a timely fashion thanks to the Media Act, but unfortunately it often happens that spokesmen for the public authorities hijack access to information.

    FOI allows journalists to obtain this information — and by using the Alaveteli website imamopravoznati.org journalists can follow their own requests, and also track other interesting questions and answers from public authorities.

    Since transparency is key to democracy and a fundamental prerequisite for ensuring public confidence in the work of institutions and politicians, the right of access to information is an important tool in all fields of social engagement in Croatia.

    Journalists and civil society organisations often expose the bad work of politicians through this tool.

    Check the next installment to learn how a journalist in Hungary uncovered a mire of corruption… in Student Unions.

    If you’re a journalist yourself, you might be interested in our latest project.

    But don’t forget, FOI isn’t just for journalists: anyone can make their own requests for information at WhatDoTheyKnow.com.

    Image: Andi Weiland | berlinergazette.de (CC by 2.0)

  3. Marko Rakar at Personal Democracy Forum 2011

    This presentation was delivered by Marko Rakar from Croatia at Personal Democracy Forum 2011. We hope you will like it!

    Watch live streaming video from pdf2011 at livestream.com
  4. VisionCroatia2011

    What problem are you solving?:

    Apathy, ignorance and suspicion are the dominant feelings of Croatia’s youth towards domestic politics and politicians, their Balkan neighbors and the priorities and policies of the European Union. The first generation to grow up in an independent Croatia appears discouraged and disconnected, with scant knowledge of the recent past and with little space to develop and express their vision for the future.

    Describe your idea:

    The platform aims to generate debate on Croatia’s political, social and economic realities and foster a spirit of participation among youth. It would comprise two parts: one for content supplied by professional artists and writers, the other open to groups from schools and universities. Contributors would be asked to use text, photography or video to reflect on what it means to be a Croat, and their vision of Croatia’s future: the subtopics could include anything from identity, war and nationalism, sexual and religious freedom, social justice, corruption, environmental or economic problems, all the way to their fears and hopes over Croatia’s future in the EU. All in the familiar format of social media, it would include opinion polls on current affairs, ratings and comments for all content or project initiatives, bulletins seeking volunteers and sponsors, feeds from blogs and online news outlets, and Twitter-like updates on domestic and EU policy initiatives that affect youth.

    What country will this operate in?: Croatia

    Who are you?:

    The concept originated with a Croatia-based (Greek-born) online agency executive currently doing an MA in Public Policy. It was warmly embraced and developed within a group of Croatian multimedia artists (photographers, video artists, actors, a theatre writer), journalists, commentators and bloggers.

  5. My-change.org

    What problem are you solving?:

    My-Change is a knowledge and communication platform, which gives committed people the opportunity for directly and quick experience and knowledge transfer. My-Change and its country networks motivate to engagement and provide the users with necessary knowledge and contacts.

    The aim is to create a pan-European network and an engagement-wiki of civil commitment which connect the content of the country sub networks (e. g. www.my-change.eu/croatia) and allocate it to the main Anglophone network, My-Change. The European citizens should get the opportunity to share their practical knowledge with each other and to learn from each other.

    (This concept is the intellectual property of the foundation Bürgermut. The concepts and ideas must be concerned secretly. Forwarding to third persons is not allowed without an explicit authorization of the initiator.)

    Describe your idea:

    The transfer of society innovations assumes a fast, direct and encyclopedic transfer of knowledge and experience. The processes of transfer can be organized locally with just one instrument: the documentation of civic successful concepts together with possibility for communication between the players.Such system does not exist until now. Someone who is searching for an innovative and successful solution for a social challenge in his surrounding has to do long research and has no comfortable communication possibilities. On www.my-change.eu committed citizens can find helpful suggestions, concrete descriptions of existent solutions, advises against possible problems, advices to related projects and the possibility to contact other active persons who can answer concrete questions. These active citizens can exchange online the latest changes and develop consequently their state of knowledge. (This concept is the intellectual property of the foundation Bürgermut.)

    What country will this operate in?: Croatia

    Who are you?:

    The foundation “Bürgermut” (www.buergermut.de) was found in 2007 by the entrepreneur and longtime Finance and Economic Minister of the State of Berlin, Elmar Pieroth. He wanted to advance both courage and energy. The ambition of the founder: Someone who wants to work creatively and effectively on her/his surroundings should find the right ideas and experiences, qualified information and communication possibilities seven days a week, 24 hours a day.