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MySociety logo.png
mySociety logo
Motto We make websites that empower citizens worldwide
Founded 2003 (2003)
Founder Tom Steinberg
Focus Government transparency, civic technologies, Freedom of Information, citizen empowerment, open source
  • United Kingdom
Products TheyWorkForYou, WriteToThem, WhatDoTheyKnow, FixMyStreet, Pombola, Alaveteli, EveryPolitician, SayIt, Mapumental
Mark Cridge[1]

mySociety is an e-democracy project of the UK-based registered charity named UK Citizens Online Democracy.[2] It began as a UK-focused organisation with the aim of making online democracy tools for UK citizens.[3] However, as those tools were open source, the code could be and soon was redeployed in other countries.[4]

mySociety’s more recent mission has been to simplify and internationalise its code[5] to make it easier for people all over the world to run citizen-empowering websites. Additionally, through the Poplus project, it hopes to encourage others to share open source code[6] that will minimise the amount of duplication in civic tech coding.

Like many non-profits, mySociety sustains itself with a mixture of grant funding[7] and commercial work, providing software and development services to local government and other organisations.[8]

mySociety was founded by Tom Steinberg in September 2003,[9] and started activity after receiving a £250,000 grant in September 2004.[10] Steinberg says that it was inspired by a collaboration with his then-flatmate James Crabtree which spawned Crabtree's article "Civic hacking: a new agenda for e-democracy".[7][11]

In March 2015, Steinberg announced his decision to stand down as the Director of mySociety.[12] In July of that year, Mark Cridge became the organisation’s new CEO.[1]


Freedom of Information


Web address
Slogan Make and explore Freedom of Information requests
Commercial? No
Type of site
Freedom of Information website
Registration Optional
Owner mySociety
Created by User-generated/Public Authority generated
Launched 28 February 2008[13]
Alexa rank
59,220 (October 2015)[14]
Current status Active

WhatDoTheyKnow[15][16] is a site designed to help people make Freedom of Information requests. It publishes both the requests and the authorities’ responses online, with the aim of making information available to all, and of removing the need for multiple people to make the same requests.[17][18][19][20] The site acts as a permanent public archive of FOI requests made through it.[21][22]

Around 15% to 20% of requests to UK Central Government are made through[23][24] Over 16,800 public bodies have been added to the site, mainly by volunteers.[25] More than 294,000 requests have been made using the site[26] and more than 4.5 million people visited it in 2014[27]

WhatDoTheyKnow has been described by the Guardian as "an idiot's guide to making a freedom of information request." [28] The Information Commissioner's Office has stated that it believes "the most up-to-date informal list of all public authorities is held on the website".[29] Information released through the site has given rise to serious and less serious news stories.[30][31][32] The site is used by a number of MPs.[33]

The site was originally available only in English but a partially translated Welsh version was added in 2013.[34]


In 2011, the site cost around £12,000 a year to run.[13] The server costs are partly sponsored[35] by Bytemark Hosting.


WhatDoTheyKnow started life as the winning idea for mySociety competition in 2006 for ideas for public interest websites to build.[36] Both Phil Rodgers and Francis Irving entered the idea of a site to make it easy to make Freedom of Information requests.[37] Francis Irving later became the main developer of the site [38] which was launched in 2008.[39]

The site was nominated for a number of awards:

WhatDoTheyKnow volunteer Alex Skene gave evidence to Justice Committee related to Post-Legislative Scrutiny of the Freedom of Information Act 2000 on 21 Feb 2012.[43]

As with other mySociety citizen-to-government software, mySociety sells WhatDoTheyKnow as a service for councils. In April 2012, Brighton and Hove councillor Jason Kitkat announced: “We [the council] are working with mySociety to adapt their WhatDoTheyKnow system to support a better workflow for freedom of information requests and proactive publishing of everything we release." [44]

WhatDoTheyKnow was developed as open-source software. It now runs on the Alaveteli platform, which is itself an adaptation of the original code written to power WhatDoTheyKnow. Alaveteli was developed to make easier the process of setting up a site like WhatDoTheyKnow in other countries.


Alaveteli logo.jpg
Development status Active
Written in Ruby on Rails
Operating system Cross-platform
License AGPLv3[45]

Alaveteli is free/open source software to help citizens write Freedom of Information requests and automatically publish any responses.[46]

Alaveteli is described as "a project to create a free, standard, internationalised platform for making Freedom of Information (FOI) requests".[47][48] Alaveteli is funded by the Open Society Institute and the Hivos Foundation.[49]

It started life as the software running WhatDoTheyKnow, a UK site that publishes responses to FOI requests. The original WhatDoTheyKnow code was written primarily by Francis Irving while working for mySociety.[50] Alaveteli is named after Alaveteli in Finland where Anders Chydenius who was an early campaigner[51] for Freedom of Information worked as a curate. Alaveteli is the name for the software rather than a public facing website or brand.

People who run sites on the Alaveteli platform are also invited to become part of a community, with support and tips shared via a message board,[52] and regular conferences[53]

Parliamentary monitoring


TheyWorkForYou homepage
Web address
Slogan Keeping tabs on the UK's parliaments and assemblies
Commercial? No
Type of site
Parliamentary monitoring
Registration Optional
Owner mySociety
Created by generated by Parliamentary proceedings
Launched 2006 or earlier[54]
Alexa rank
Negative increase 206,339 (October 2015)[55]
Current status Active

TheyWorkForYou is a parliamentary monitoring website which aims to make it easier for UK citizens to understand what is going on in Westminster as well as Scottish Parliament, the Welsh Assembly and the Northern Ireland Assembly. It also helps create accountability for UK politicians by publishing a complete archive of every word spoken in Parliament, along with a voting record and other details for each MP, past and present.

TheyWorkForYou does not publish original content: it scrapes from the official sources, then presents debates and information about representatives in a more accessible version.

For example, TheyWorkForYou’s version of Hansard may be searched, and each section has its own permalink so that it can be shared easily.

The site aggregates content from the Hansard records of the House of Commons, House of Lords, Scottish Parliament and the Northern Ireland Assembly, along with other publicly available data such as the MPs Register of Members' Interests, election results, Wikipedia entries, and voting records, providing a "digital dossier on your local MP".[56] It also has a facility to alert users by email to speeches by an MP or specific words appearing in Hansard. In 2008, The Daily Telegraph rated it 41st in a list of the 101 most useful websites.[57]


TheyWorkForYou was not originally built by mySociety, but was adopted by them in 2006. Its original version was created almost entirely by volunteers using the parsing software of Public Whip, and launched at NTK's NotCon '04 conference[58] At the time, Cory Doctorow called it "the most amazing, subversive piece of political webware I've ever seen".[59]

As time passed, more features were added and more areas of Parliament were covered, such as debates and information on members of the House of Lords back to 1999.[60] Around the 2005 general election, Channel 4 used a branded version of TheyWorkForYou to supply their MP data.[61] 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.".[62] 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".[63]

In summer 2006, the Department for Constitutional Affairs funded the creation of an API for the site so other sites could use the data from the site themselves.[64] This has enabled a variety of uses, from MPs publishing out their most recent speeches onto their own websites, to researchers combing the data for insights into the way that politicians debate.

Later that year, Matthew Somerville added the entire Northern Ireland Assembly Hansard and all MLAs to the site.[65]

As with most of mySociety’s other projects, TheyWorkForYou’s underlying code is open source. A New Zealand developer adapted it to create TheyWorkForYou New Zealand, while in June 2008 Open Australia[66] was launched by the OpenAustralia Foundation with the assistance of mySociety, putting the Register of Senators' and Members' Interests online for the first time ever in Australia.[67] In April 2009, an Irish version of TheyWorkForYou was launched in beta form. Called KildareStreet,[68] it contains Irish parliamentary data from January 2004 to the present day.

Contrary to what these reuses might suggest, the code for TheyWorkForYou is complex and UK-specific: while encouraging others to set up Parliamentary Monitoring websites for their own countries, these days mySociety suggests their more generic platform, Pombola.[69]

TheyWorkForYou has become so established in the workings of Parliament itself that one MP has used the fact that her husband subscribes to email alerts on her speeches to remind him of their 30th wedding anniversary.[70]


When the site launched, it did not have the right to reproduce Hansard, and no licence for it existed. A licence was later given, and click-use licences for Parliamentary copyright information were created as a result.[71]

In early 2006, The Times published an article stating that MPs were "making forgettable contributions to debate" or tabling numerous written questions simply to boost their participation statistics on TheyWorkForYou.[72] This led to a debate in the House of Commons on the increase in questions, led by Peter Luff.[73] The site removed absolute rankings and added some more explanatory text in response,[74] and held a meeting at Parliament later in the year to discuss better metrics.[75] In summer 2006, Jack Straw, Leader of the House of Commons also mentioned TheyWorkForYou as a site which "seems to measure Members' work in quantitative rather than qualitative terms".[76]

In a Business debate on 26 April 2007, Theresa May stated that TheyWorkForYou had been "threatened with legal action for repeating what was printed in Hansard" but Jack Straw confirmed that "publication... of a fair and accurate account of a debate in either House is protected".[77]


Web address
Slogan Write to your politicians, national or local, for free.
Commercial? No
Type of site
Site for contacting elected representatives
Registration None
Owner mySociety
Created by mySociety
Launched 2005 (FaxYourMP, a previous iteration, 2004)
Alexa rank
Negative increase 399,718 (September 2012)[78]
Current status Active

WriteToThem is a website which allows UK citizens to contact their elected representatives. Users do not need to know their representatives’ names: instead, using the mySociety software MapIt,[79] the site matches their postcode to its various constituency boundaries, before displaying elected representatives at all levels of UK government from local councillors to MEPs. Users can send messages to them from the site;[80][81] responses are then sent directly to the user’s email address. Unlike many mySociety sites, there is no public element to the correspondence.


The site launched in 2004 as FaxYourMP,[82] allowing users to type a message into the website which would then be sent as a fax to their representative’s office.

A year later, it rebranded as WriteToThem,[83] sending messages by email or as faxes to those representatives who did not yet operate an email account.


mySociety publish an annual table to show which MPs are the most and least responsive;[84][85] this is based on the results of a rolling survey which is sent to users two weeks after they use the site.

In 2006, it was reported by the Guardian that the Conservative MP Ian Liddell-Grainger appeared to admit in an email to the site to attempting to "up" his rating by sending himself queries.[81]


Mzalendo, the Kenyan website, running on Pombola
Initial release 2013
Development status Active
Operating system Cross-platform
License AGPLv3[86]

Pombola [87] is free open source software for running a parliamentary monitoring website.

Pombola’s development was funded by the Omidyar Network[88] to relaunch the Mzalendo site in Kenya.

The Indigo Trust funded roll-out to further countries, with a particular focus on the provision of transparency websites for sub-Saharan Africa.[89]

Among other features, Pombola allows for websites that publish parliamentary transcripts, hold a database of information about politicians, and, using the mySociety software MapIt, can match a user’s home location to their constituency.

Sites running on Pombola
  • Odekro, Ghana [90]
  • Mzalendo, Kenya [91]
  • Shine Your Eye, Nigeria [92]
  • People's Assembly, South Africa [93]
  • Kuvakazim, Zimbabwe [94]

Street fault reporting

FixMyStreet in the UK

Homepage of FixMyStreet
Web address
Slogan Report, view, or discuss local problems
Commercial? No
Type of site
Street-fault reporting website
Registration Optional
Owner mySociety
Created by User-generated/Public Authority generated
Launched February 2007[95]
Alexa rank
303,291 (April 2014)[96]
Current status Active

FixMyStreet[97] is a map based website and app that helps people inform their local authority of problems needing their attention, such as potholes, broken streetlamps, etc.

Reports are also published on the site.[98][99][100][101]

While most local councils have their own reporting systems, FixMyStreet solves the fact that the reporter may not know which authority is responsible for a specific type of problem in a specific location.[102] By use of the MapIt software, FixMyStreet matches users’ postcodes and the category of their problem to the correct local authority.[103]


The site was initially funded by the Department for Constitutional Affairs Innovations Fund[104] and built by mySociety, in conjunction with the Young Foundation; the code for the site was written by Francis Irving, Matthew Somerville, and Chris Lightfoot. The site was originally launched as "Neighbourhood Fix-It", but it was decided to change to a shorter and easier name in June 2007 when one became available.[95] A FixMyStreet app was developed in 2008 to enable iPhone users to report problems using their phones,[105] and since then volunteers have written apps for Nokia and Android, as well as another app for the iPhone.[95]

FixMyStreet won an award at SustainIT eWell-Being Awards in 2008,[106] and has been listed in various newspaper best or top websites.[107][108] The site was an inspiration for the government's "Show Us A Better Way" contest.[109]

A version of the site for reporting abandoned empty homes, in conjunction with the Empty Homes Agency, Shelter Cymru and the Scottish Empty Homes Partnership, was launched in late 2008, and was called "a model of easy use" by the Guardian[110] This site was repurposed for the Channel 4 TV series The Great British Property Scandal in December 2011, which was nominated for a BAFTA and an Emmy.[111] An adapted version of the FixMyStreet software also underlies cycle accident-reporting site Collideoscope[112]

In 2010, FixMyStreet was closely integrated with The Guardian newspaper's Guardian Local project. Emily Bell wrote in her launch message: "A hugely important part of this project has been the involvement of MySociety, who we've collaborated with to provide customised versions of their civic tools, allowing and encouraging local residents to report issues, contact their representatives and generally become engaged in the governance and care of their locality.",[113] and Alistair Tibbitt, Development Manager for Greener Leith wrote "the Guardian certainly deserve plaudits for integrating the local FixMyStreet service so tightly into their new Edinburgh Beat Blog."[114]

FixMyStreet platform

FixMyStreet Platform
FixMyStreet Platform
Initial release 2012
Stable release 1.6.1 / 2015-07-31
Development status Active
Operating system Cross-platform
License AGPLv3[115]

FixMyStreet platform is software which enables anyone to run a FixMyStreet-type site in their own city or country.

The UK FixMyStreet inspired similar sites in other countries: in order to prevent the need for people to write code from scratch, mySociety refined the FixMyStreet open source codebase, making it more generic, easier to install, and able to handle different maps, including OpenStreetMap. This process was kickstarted when the NUUG funded the development of a Norwegian version FiksGataMi,.[116][117]

Sites running on the FixMyStreet platform
  • Ireland: [118]
  • Malaysia: MakeMyisland [119]
  • Norway: FiksGataMi [120]
  • Sweden: FixaMinGata [121]
  • Zurich, Switzerland: ZueriWieNeu [122]
  • Uganda: FixMyCommunity [123]
  • Uruguay: PorMiBarrio [124]
Sites inspired by FixMyStreet but running on their own software
  • Australia: FixMyStreet [125]
  • Belgium (Brussels-Capital Region only): Fix My Street [126]
  • Canada: FixMyStreet [127]
  • Cyprus: FixCyprus [128]
  • Georgia: Chemigucha [129]
  • Germany: Mark-a-Spot [130]
  • Korea: FixMyStreet [131]
  • Netherlands: Verbeterdebuurt [132]
  • New Zealand: FixMyStreet [133]
  • Greece: FixMyGreece [134]
  • Japan: FixMyStreet [135]
  • Tunisia: FixKairouan [136]


Interactive isochrone map on
Developer(s) Chris Lightfoot, Francis Irving, Matthew Somerville, Duncan Parkes, Steve Day, Dave Arter
Initial release 2006
Development status Active
Written in perl
Operating system Cross-platform
License AGPLv3
Website {{#property:P856}}

Mapumental is software for displaying journeys in terms of how long they take, rather than by distance, a technique also known as isochrone or geospatial mapping.

Users input one or more postcodes and Mapumental displays a map overlaid with coloured bands, each of which represent a set increment of time. Initial work on the project was done by Chris Lightfoot, using open data from Railplanner, Transport Direct and the TfL Journey Planner[137]

It was built with support from Channel4ip[138]

Mapumental can be combined with other data sets, for example, property prices[139] and ‘scenicness’ data (see ScenicorNot, below).[140][141][142][143][144] It is now provided as a commercial service by mySociety to clients such as the Fire Protection Association[145]


Poplus [146] is an international federation of organisations who benefit through the sharing of civic code and online technologies. It was set up in April 2014 by mySociety in collaboration with Chilean e-democracy organisation Fundación Ciudadano Inteligente.[147][148]

Poplus encourages the development of free, open source civic ‘blocks’ of software, which it terms ‘Components’.[149] These are intended to save time for anyone making one of the classic civic tech tools for parliamentary monitoring, accountability, transparency, et cetera.

In 2014 Nominet awarded Poplus a place in the Nominet Trust 100[150]

Poplus Components

The following Components were developed by mySociety. Those developed by other organisations may be seen on the Poplus website.[151]

  • SayIt [152] Software for publishing transcripts of debates (e.g. from parliaments, court proceedings and meetings[153]
  • WriteIt [154] Software for running a site that enables users to write to politicians, in public or private.
  • MapIt [155] Software for matching a geographical point with its legislative boundaries. MapIt underlies several mySociety websites such as FixMyStreet and WriteToThem, where it allows for a user to input a postcode and be matched to the correct authority or representative.

Other projects


Discontinued or passed to new owners

  • Downing Street e-Petitions: mySociety developed the original solution for publishing petitions on the website of the Prime Minister's Office[158][159][160]
  • Pledgebank:[161] Allowed users to make pledges of the format: "I will do x if y number of people agree to do the same." [162][163]
  • HassleMe:[164] Because your mother can't remind you of everything, a website that sends reminders sporadically, now run independently of mySociety[165]
  • HearFromYourMP:[166] a site encouraging MPs to email their constituents, closed May 2015 [167][168]
  • FixMyTransport:[169] a site, in the model of FixMyStreet for contacting any transport operator in Britain about problems with public transport. Correspondence was published online. The site ran from 2011 to 2015[170]


See also


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  118. FixMyStreet Ireland
  119. MakeMyIsland, Malaysia
  120. FiksGataMi, Norway
  121. FixaMinGata, Sweden
  122. ZueriWieNeu, Zurich
  123. FixMyCommunity, Uganda
  124. PorMiBarrio, Uruguay
  125. FixMyStreet Australia
  126. Fix My Street Brussels
  127. FixMyStreet Canada
  128. Fix Cyprus
  129. Chemigucha, Georgia
  130. MarkASpot, Germany
  131. FixMyStreet Korea
  132. Vertbeterdebuurt
  133. FixMyStreet NZ
  134. FixMyGreece
  135. FixMyStreet Japan
  136. FixKairouan, Tunisia
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External links