Back in March, mySociety’s founder Tom Steinberg, announced that he would step down.
Today, I’m pleased to announce that later this month I will be taking over the reins as Tom’s successor. I’m Mark Cridge, and I guess I should start by introducing myself.
I’ve had a diverse 20-year career doing digital things. Most recently I was chief operating officer with the lovely folks at BERG, a London-based technology and design consultancy many of you might know. For the past year I was a senior advisor at Blue State Digital in London, the team responsible for the digital strategy used in President Obama’s electoral campaigns.
I began my career back in 1996 in a small web design agency in Birmingham, before setting up glue London, a digital advertising agency, going on to become global managing director of Isobar, following glue’s acquisition in 2005. I originally studied Architecture before realising that wasn’t quite my cup of tea, and that the internet held more immediate attractions.
I’m genuinely excited to take what I’ve learned over my time to date, and to apply it to help build on Tom’s achievements as mySociety’s founder — by creating even more digital tools that make a difference to the lives of citizens in Britain and around the world.
What I’ll be focusing on
mySociety’s mission is unchanged: we exist to invent and popularise new digital tools that enable citizens to exert power over institutions and decision makers.
My initial priorities will be to ensure that mySociety’s existing sites keep pushing the boundaries of what is possible in the world of civic technologies, whilst also thinking through where we can move into new and exciting areas.
I want to make a new push to ensure that charities, activists and journalists around the world are able to run successful, high profile sites of their own, powered by mySociety’s open source technologies.
We will also be building up our research team over the next few years, to ensure that we are providing tools and services that have genuine impact, which we ourselves are able to measure.
All of which will build towards a reaffirmation of mySociety’s place as a key player within the global civic technology movement.
Making this all possible
Of course, all of this is possible only thanks to the generous support of our many funders — and needless to say we are always looking for more, if you think you can help then please do let me know. In particular, I will be spending a good deal of time delivering the three-year vision we developed with our friends at the Omidyar Network, with whom we announced a major $3.6m funding partnership earlier this year.
That said, one of mySociety’s great assets is that we are not entirely reliant on donor funding, so I will also retain our strong focus on helping our commercial clients — from UK local councils and charities to global technology giants — to serve their own users better, by working with mySociety Commercial Services.
All in all, I am indebted to Tom for leaving mySociety with sound finances and a world-class team of developers, both of which will be invaluable in helping me to take the organisation to the next level over its second decade.
I am also grateful to Tom and mySociety’s trustees for putting their trust in me. I’ve been an admirer of mySociety, and a user of its sites, for many years. It is a great privilege to be appointed as CEO.
I will be spending the next few months with the team as we plot and plan the next phase of our development which you can read more about here on this blog in the coming months. So if any of this sounds interesting to you then please get in touch.
And Tom says…
A big welcome to Mark!
I am excited that someone with so much digital experience has come along to guide mySociety in our second decade. We’ve always been an unusual social enterprise in that while we have a social mission, we also operate a first class software development and design team in-house. With Mark on board we will retain and grow that digital credibility, whilst focusing ever more deeply on the needs of our international partners, our UK clients, and growing our research capacity so that we know what is (and isn’t) working.
I am looking forward to spending the next month brain-dumping to Mark, before I slip quietly out the door in early August.
It’s an exciting time for mySociety, and I hope everyone will join me in celebrating Mark’s arrival!
As mySociety Services continues to develop, we seek a new member to join the team.
We’re looking for a Sales Consultant who will bring their own experience and give us the capacity to discover and explore new leads. As with all mySociety positions, it’s a work-from-home job, but will be based around the Bath/Bristol areas where several of the mySociety Services team are already situated.
mySociety’s commercial work supports our charitable projects, so every new project for a client also does good in the wider world.
Do you know someone who might fit the bill? Send them over to this page where they can see all the details.
Today, after several months of quiet planning, I’m announcing that I will be stepping down as Director of mySociety, although I will remain in the post for the next few months to ensure a smooth handover. An open call for my successor will be published within the next two weeks.
Why now? Quite simply because the coming year will be the most stable period, in terms of effecting a leadership transition, that mySociety has ever had. I want to seize the opportunity to hand over before I start to tire of a job that has been the great privilege of my life.
Thanks to our generous donors and our commercial team’s success we have an unprecedented window of financial security, a terrific team of wide-ranging talents, and a clear three year plan that’s already starting to roll out (I’ll be writing more on this plan, soon). In short, we’ve got a good map, a solid car, and we’ve got enough money for fuel. When could be a better time to change the driver?
For those of you who are our partners, whether charitable or commercial, and wherever you are in the world: don’t worry – this switch isn’t going to change any of our plans to support you and your use of mySociety’s open source technologies. In fact I expect my successor to double down on serving your needs.
And what will I, Tom, do next? I really don’t know – I’ve not got a job lined up, and I’d really like some time off to think about it before I make any big decisions. My main reward – very rare for any founder – is that I get to hand over an organisation that is stable, harmonious, mission-focused and with bags of talent onboard. I greatly look forward to seeing what mySociety’s amazing staff and volunteers achieve next.
Update: the job advertisement for the mySociety CEO position can now be seen here.
NB: No agencies please.
We are recruiting.
As so often with positions at mySociety, it’s a job that’s a bit different from the norm. For the right person, it’s going to be a fantastic opportunity.
If you know someone who fits the bill, please do forward them the link to this job description: http://mysocietyltd.theresumator.com/apply/KJmhA1/Head-Of-Research.html.
They might also like to see our page on what it’s like working at mySociety.
Applications close on June 30th, so time is of the essence.
NO RECRUITERS OR AGENCIES PLEASEImage: Jason Samfield (CC)
Applications for this position have now closed.
Are you interested in digital tools, but able to keep an intellectual detachment about their effectiveness? And are you free to do contract work in the next few months? If so, read on.
mySociety is looking for a research specialist with experience in transparency and accountability issues. You may be a freelance researcher, or an agency providing research services.
About mySociety and Alaveteli
mySociety is a not-for-profit social enterprise. Our mission is to invent and popularise digital tools that enable citizens to exert power over institutions and decision makers. We are based in the UK, but support partners who deploy our technologies across the globe, in about 20 countries so far.
One of our most popular tools has been Alaveteli, a tool that enables people to set up powerful freedom of information websites in their own countries. Spun-off from our highly popular UK site WhatDoTheyKnow, Alaveteli enables partners to set up and maintain sites that make it much easier to ask governments questions under Freedom of Information or Right to Information Laws.
What makes the service truly powerful is that it automatically publishes both requests and responses online for other people to see, making the site into a public resource of potentially wide interest – the UK site has about 400,000 visitors a month.
Alaveteli has been widely used in many different jurisdictions. In Hungary, to name just one Alaveteli instance, there have been over 2,000 different FOI requests so far.
No single activity or approach is enough to bring about a culture of transparency and accountability in a country.
Countries with effective cultures of transparency acquire them slowly, and through a multifaceted process which may include campaigning, coalition building, journalistic scandal discovery, alliance building, protesting, whistleblowing, legal action, political leadership, elections, legislation drafting and media coverage.
Alaveteli is only one tool in the toolkit of modern-day transparency and accountability advocates. We believe it to be a potentially powerful tool, but it remains only one tool. Over the next few years, mySociety wants to do the best we can to help groups around the world to use Alaveteli as an effective aid to social change.
The context for the research is to understand how to position Alaveteli within a wider context of transparency and accountability campaigning. It is a highly action-centric piece of research. Your findings will help us to make decisions about how to help our partners to bring about the changes they want to see in countries outside the UK.
The research contract in more detail
Whilst we will want the successful contractor/consultancy to determine key parts of the research process, there are already certain known constraints and activities.
The contract is for 60-80 working days.
The contractor/consultancy must be able to start work by May 1st 2014, and produce the primary deliverable by 31st August 2014.
The work will consist of both a literature review and practitioner interviews to determine what is known about effective and ineffective transparency and accountability based campaigning across a range of countries.
The primary deliverable for the project is a strategy document that is ready to be consumed and actioned by both mySociety and some of our key Alaveteli-using partners.
After the primary deliverable is complete, we will ask you to help us work directly with at least one new partner, to help them make more effective use of Alaveteli.
More details of the research scope will be made available to applicants.
Minimum Skills and Experience
The individuals engaged in the work will be either working on a PhD in a topic that relates to transparency and accountability, or will already possess such a qualification.
How to apply
Applications for this position have now closed, but thanks for your interest!Image credit: Jenny Downing
What’s on your Christmas wishlist? If ‘a meaningful job’ is high on the list, then we’ve got important news for you. We’re looking for talented, passionate and diversely skilled people to join our team.
In 2013, we’ll be pushing out internationally, improving our core UK sites and doing more commercial business. And we need some more lovely, dilligent people to help us.
All the details are on our jobs page. There’s plenty of time to get your application in, so why not give it some thought over the mince pies?
Not quite for you? Then please tell your nicest friends!
Photo by Minivan Ninja (CC)
These issues have always been carefully chosen to give a simple but neutral top-line view of each MP’s voting activity. Judging by Twitter, they’re a fairly popular part of the site, too.
There’s way, way more tedious complexity behind producing these little summaries than you might think, and due to a lack of appropriately skilled people in our team over the last year we had let our vote analyses get a bit behind the times. If you’re really interested you can read about why authoring these things in such a scrupulously balanced way is so time consuming here.
We’re posting today to tell you that we have recruited a pair of excellent new part-time voting analysts, David and Ambreen, and they have recently produced the first of a new generation of voting summaries.
The first shows how each MP has voted on increasing the rate of VAT, and second on the recent changes to university tuition fees. We have also increased the number of votes which feed into the EU integration policy to bring it more up to date.
To see this new data, just pop along to TheyWorkForYou’s home page, stick in your postcode, and check out your own MPs’ page. Then, if you want to be made aware as soon as we’ve published the next analyses, please follow our new TheyWorkForYou Twitter account.
Lastly, I just want to say thank you to the vote analysts Ambreen and David, to senior developer Matthew and to uber-volunteer Richard Taylor for kicking this vital part of TheyWorkForYou back into top gear.
Image by European Parliament.
Are you a keen follower of political developments in Kenya or Nigeria? Are you also passionate about transparency, and interested in the possible role of digital technologies in enhancing it in these countries? If so, you might be just the person to run mySociety’s Africa Project.
mySociety is a project of registered charity UK Citizens Online Democracy, currently running award-winning civic and democratic websites within the UK, including TheyWorkForYou.com and FixMyStreet.com.
We have recently received funding from the Omidyar Network to mentor transparency organisations in Kenya and Nigeria about how mySociety assesses value in technology, and how it goes about delivering projects. We’re looking to recruit an Africa Project Lead who will be responsible for shaping and running the project.
The role will be for 12 months in the first instance, with possibility of extension. The salary is competitive, and reflects the skills and experience we are seeking. Reasonable travel expenses will be fully paid, however no relocation expenses are available.
mySociety has ten full time staff, and a wider community of energetic and creative volunteers, all but one currently based in the UK. We are a very techy organisation, made up of people who care passionately about using technology to make services that are not just popular, but which offer their users some sort of tangible, offline benefit.
Running the Africa Project successfully will involve using the expertise of mySociety to enable Kenyan and Nigerian transparency organisations to become more effective. Whilst doing this, the Africa Lead will also be scoping for future opportunities where Omidyar Network and mySociety would be able to make meaningful contributions to the transparency and accountability sector in Africa.
Whilst we have good, knowledgeable friends who have helped us scope this project, mySociety’s current staff and volunteers have only limited knowledge of Kenya and Nigeria, and of the technical or political circumstances within them. The Africa Project Lead will enable the rest of the organisation in learning what is needed to deliver projects that are of value.
Key Responsibilities and Deliverables
- Build relationships with two partner organisations in Kenya and Nigeria and, with them, deliver specific digital services (or measurable improvements to existing digital services) which are appropriate to their national settings, utilising expertise from the mySociety team.
- Develop an in-depth understanding of the role of transparency in a number of key African countries, which can be shared with the mySociety core team and the wider mySociety network.
- Demonstrate through presentations how mySociety has built successful services in the UK and develop relationships with organisations and individuals with which we or Omidyar Network may work in the future.
- Towards the end of the first year of the Africa Project, the Africa Project Lead will run an ideas generation process to identify further organisations worth partnering with, and specific projects worth building.
- Help our Internationalisation Developer to understand how to successfully deliver technological contributions in conjunction with our partners.
- At least 12 months prior knowledge of the role of transparency and accountability organisations in at least one African country, preferably working directly with such groups, in country.
- Strong mentoring skills
- At least 12 months working either professionally or voluntarily with developers of internet technologies.
- Graduate level spoken and written English
- A willingness to travel on a regular basis
- Prior experience of working independently with limited or no direct supervision, required because in this position your line management will be light touch and physically remote
- Prior familiarity with digital transparency projects
- A high level of technical literacy
- A preexisting social network in either the local web technology community, or the transparency and accountability community
We are looking for a candidate to be based in or near Nairobi’s iHub . However, this job will entail considerable travel, including several weeks a month working with one of our partners in Abuja. The successful candidate must be able to travel between Kenya and Nigeria without undue restriction.
How to apply
To apply please send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org with the tag msjob9 in the subject line. Your application must consist of a covering letter, a CV and a 250-300 word written piece on “The similarities and differences between classic transparency projects and digital transparency projects”.
Closing date for applications – 7pm on the 11th April 2011 and interviews will be taking place in Nairobi April 12th, 13th 14th and in the UK on April 16th, 17th.
As you might know, we’ve currently got an open-call for new developers, we’re hiring quite a bit in the next six months.
Thus far our list of people interested in the job contains no women’s names at all – zip, zero, zilch – despite us having taken soundings on how to get a more diverse sample of applicants.
I’m really, really not OK with this. I understand the gender imbalance in tech as well as anyone, but I interpret this as ‘mySociety hasn’t reached out well enough’, not ‘blame the women for not applying’.
So my question to you, the world at large, is this: what can we do right now, or this week anyway, to get some women’s names on this list before we start to vet the CVs?
Applications are still very definitely open, so anyone – male, female or other – who’d like to apply should see the original blog post for how to go about it.