July 25, 2020 Jaskiran Gakhal, Participedia Team
July 21, 2020 Jaskiran Gakhal, Participedia Team
December 21, 2011 Jshkabatur
October 7, 2009 Jshkabatur is a project of a registered charity named UK Citizens Online Democracy. Founded by Tom Steinberg in 2003, the organization designs and runs many well-known e-democracy websites in the UK. It is supported by donations and relies on a community of volunteers.

Mission and Purpose

mySociety represents the crystallisation of widely shared thoughts and concerns about the problems facing democracy, government, and technology in the UK.[1] The roots of mySociety is in James Crabtree's article “Civic Hacking: A New Agenda for E-Democracy” [2] published in OpenDemocracy in 2003. Steinberg relied on the ideas of the article by setting up mySociety outside of government and attempting to directly empower the civil society. mySociety has two pronounced missions:

“The first is to be a charitable project which builds websites that give people simple, tangible benefits in the civic and community aspects of their lives. The second is to teach the public and voluntary sectors, through demonstration, how to use the internet most efficiently to improve lives.”[1]

The organization attempts to build minimalistic websites which embody cheap scalability and tangible outputs. It is politically neutral and non-partisan.[1] Nearly all its code is open source.[3]

Origins and Development

mySociety was founded in September 2003 by Tom Steinberg,[1] and spent the first year raising money and looking for ideas. Its first funding arrived in September 2004, and before the end of 2005 it had three running projects[1]:

In 2006, mySociety built and launched:

In 2008, it launched WhatDoTheyKnow ( and the FreeOurBills campaign (

A full timeline of mySociety's history is available on their website.[4]

Organizational Structure, Membership, and Funding

Initially, founder and director, Tom Steinberg, was joined by three full-time developers: Angie Ahl, Francis Irving, and Matthew Somerville; a system administrator (Keith); and a commercial director (Karl). A registered charity, the organization substantially relies on volunteer help and encourages all kinds of contributions, including the possibility to run entire sites as part of mySociety (e.g., the PlanningAlerts website designed by Richard Pope). [1]

mySociety's staff works on both charitable and commercial projects; the organization "charges SocietyWorks Ltd for the staff time used for commercial work."[5] Many charitable initiatives begin as volunteers' private projects.[5] This work is funded by a multiple means: "grants from charitable foundations, donations from private individuals, and commercial income from its trading subsidiary."[6]

mySociety is governed by a volunteer Board of Trustees who oversee the group's activities and ensure compliance with legal requirements.[5]

Specializations, Methods and Tools

In its aims to encourage and facilitate active citizenship, mySociety builds and shares online technologies. Their research involves "analysing data, conducting fieldwork, looking at outcomes, assessing reach, and... user interventions," all with the hopes of understanding "the true impact of digital tools on government and civic engagement."[7]

Major Projects and Events


Originally built almost entirely by a dozen volunteers, TheyWorkForYou [8] is mySociety’s most visited site (attracting more than two million users in 2007 alone). TheyWorkForYou provides citizens with a range of information on their politicians, such as: who their local MP is; what MPs said in Parliament; summaries of how MPs have voted; text of debates in Parliament; videos of MPs talking in debates; written questions MPs have submitted to government departments, and the answers they have got back; email alerts whenever an MP speaks, or a topic is mentioned in Parliament; comments and annotations from users on what has been said, and more.

In July 2009, mySociety reported that the coverages of TheyWorkForYou has been extended to include the House of Commons debates starting from the 1935 general election and general information on MPs is available from the beginning of the 19th century.[9]

Along with the UK Parliament, the TheyWorkForYou project also covers the Scottish Parliament, the Northern Ireland Assembly, and the Welsh Assembly. Similar projects at various times operated in:

  • New Zealand:
  • United States:
  • Australia:
  • Ireland:

In advance of the 2005 general election, the British Channel 4 used a branded version of TheyWorkForYou to supply their MP data.[10] The site won the Community and Innovation award in the 2005 New Statesman New Media Awards, with the judges saying that they "were unanimous in feeling that TheyWorkForYou was the nomination that has done most to contribute to civic society in the UK."[11] In the House of Lords, in a debate on the Power Inquiry, Lord Gould of Brookwood referred to TheyWorkForYou and the other mySociety sites as "probably the biggest single catalyst for political change in this country".[12] In 2008, The Daily Telegraph rated it 41st in a list of the 101 most useful websites.[13]


As an online service, FixMyStreet [14] allows users to easily report broken infrastructure in their area to the local authority; and to start, or take part in public discussions about maintaining and improving the infrastructure and environment in their neighbourhoods. The reports are posted on the website using a web-based mapping tool and then transferred by mySociety to the appropriate local councils, who are supposed to take care of the repairs.

According to mySociety, the aim of FixMyStreet is “to transform the act of reporting faults – turning it from a private one-to-one process into a public experience where anyone can see what has been reported. [They] also aim to lower barriers to communication between local government and communities and to build a sense of engagement and inclusion in the process of maintaining and improving the public infrastructure and environment in neighbourhoods.” [15]

Aside from posting new reports, the website allows users to view old reports and local alerts for each geographic area, follow the state of reports, and monitor the work of local representatives. The website also allows officials to leave comments and updates with regards to the reported problem and encourages local residents to discuss the problem and update others.

FixMyStreet can also be a tool for a better community organization. For instance, a community in Great Yarmouth joined forces through FixMyStreet to clear their local unused railway track.[16] The website made possible a dialogue between community members and the council’s community development worker.

As of October 4, 2009, the FixMyStreet declared that it received 730 new reports in the past week, 1,044 reports were fixed in the last month, and 55,171 updates were posted on reports. The state of all reports can be viewed on the website.[17]

The website has been developed by mySociety and the Young Foundation, with funding from the Department of Constitutional Affairs Innovations Fund. In December 2008, mySociety introduced an iPhone app for FixMyStreet, available to download from the App Store.[18]

Projects based on the model of FixMyStreet currently operate in the Netherlands (, New Zealand ( and Canada (

No. 10 Petitions Website

Launched following a request by the Prime Minister's office in 2006, the No 10 Petitions website [19] was the largest British non-partisan democracy site by volume of users as of 2011, with over 8 million signatures from over 5 million unique email addresses, representing around 10% of the UK population. At its peak, nearly 200,000 people signed up to the service in a single day, and 20,000 within a single hour.[20]

To sign a petition, a user had to provide their name, address, and a verifiable email. The creator of a petition could decide for how long they wanted to keep it open (the longest period being 12 months). One could add their signature to an existing petition by providing the same details (name, address, and email). Once a petition was closed, usually provided there were 500 signatures or more, it was passed to officials who work for the Prime Minister in Downing Street, or sent to the relevant Government department for a response. Every person who signed one received an email detailing the Government's response to the issues raised.[21] Government responses to popular petitions are the rule rather than the exception to it, and petitions with as few as 101 signatures have received official responses.

As of October 2009, there were over 4,600 open petitions, and almost 35,000 petitions created since the creation of the website. According to mySociety,

“for legal and anti-spam reasons this site cannot host every petition submitted, but the rule is to accept everything that meets the terms and conditions of use. No petition will be rejected unless it violates these terms. And even when petitions cannot be hosted No.10 will still publish as much of rejected petitions as is consistent with legal and anti-spam requirements, including the reason why it could not be hosted.”[22]

The largest petition to date garnered over 1.8 million signatures and asked for the intervention of a planned vehicle tracking and road pricing scheme. It met a 1200 word response from Prime Minister Tony Blair which both acknowledged the petition's argument and defended the government's position.[23]


Launched in 2008, WhatDoTheyKnow[24] allows users to send out requests for information to different government departments and agencies. A user may pick a department, type a request, and mySociety forwards it to the appropriate governmental officials. All the requests are proceeded according to the British Freedom of Information Act, 2000 (FOI). The website also contains an archive of requests and responses made by other people, and it is possible to set up email or RSS alerts to get notified about interesting developments.

According to governmental statistics released in October 2009,

"13.1% of all FOI requests to “Departments of State” in the second quarter of 2009 were made via (up from 8.5% in the first quarter of 2009). In absolute terms, this was 753 out of 5769 requests.
32.3% of FOI requests to the Home Office (which includes the UKBA and the IPS) were made via WhatDoTheyKnow in the second quarter of 2009. In absolute terms, this was 206 out of 638 requests.
The [2011] figures also show that in twelve of the UK’s twenty-one Departments of State more than 10% of FOI requests were made via WhatDoTheyKnow."[25]


Launched in 2005, WriteToThem[26] allows users to send messages to any politician in the UK and publishes league tables of MP responsiveness every year.

In 2008, WriteToThem sent a total of 183,493 messages to elected representatives. The average response rate (within 2 or 3 weeks) was 59%, with 52% of the users writing for the first time to a politician of any kind.[27] Since its creation, the website helped users send more than 450,000 messages.

Analysis and Lessons Learned

Want to contribute an analysis of this organization? Help us complete this section!


mySociety's data and research library and its research highlights can be found on their official website.

See Also

Climate Assembly UK and the COVID-19 Crisis


[1] mySociety. (n.d.). Hello, we're mySociety.

[2] Crabtree, J. (2007, June 12). Civic hacking: a new agenda for e-democracy. openDemocracy.

[3] myfanwy. (2017, Sept 19). TheyWorkForYou strives to be unbiased, reliable and truthful. Here’s how. mySociety.

[4] mySociety. History.

[5] mySociety. Structure and Governance.

[6] mySociety. Funding.

[7] mySociety. Research.

[8] TheyWorkForYou.

mySociety. (n.d.) Democracy.

[9] Somerville, M. (2009, July 14). TheyWorkForYou back to 1935. mySociety.

[10] Channel 4. Retrieved from [DEAD LINK]

[11] New Statesman. (2005). Retrieved from [DEAD LINK]

Update: similar information can be found at Somerville, M. (2007, July 25). New Media Awards 2007. mySociety.

[12] Lord Gould of Brookwood. (2006, June 15). Democracy: Power Inquiry. TheyWorkForYou.

[13] The Telegraph. (2009, Nov 12). The 101 Most Useful Websites.

[14] FixMyStreet.

mySociety. FixMyStreet.

[15] Young Foundation. [DEAD LINK]

[16] FixMyStreet. [BROKEN LINK]

Update: similar information at Somerville, M. (2008, May 6). eWell-Being Award. mySociety.

[17] FixMyStreets. Dashboard.

[18] Somerville, M. (2008, Dec 10). FixMyStreet iPhone. mySociety.

[19] No.10 petitions. [DEAD LINK]

Myfanwy (2011, Aug 4). What we learned from ePetitions. mySociety.

[20] Myfanwy (2011, Aug 4). What we learned from ePetitions. mySociety.

[21] [DEAD LINK]

Update: similar information can be found here, 18-19.

[22] [DEAD LINK]

Update: similar information can be found here

[23] [DEAD LINK]

Update: similar information can be found at Summers, D. (2007, Feb 21). Road pricing is not a stealth tax, says Blair. The Guardian.

[24] WhatDoTheyKnow.

mySociety (n.d.). Transparency.

[25] Taylor, R. (2009, Oct 1). Fraction of FOI Requests Made via Increasing Fast. mySociety.

[26] WriteToThem.

mySociety. WriteToThem.

[27] WriteToThem. (2008). Zeitgeist 2008.

External Links

MySociety Projects

MySociety Blog

MySociety Wikipedia entry