Date: Mon, Apr 9, 2018, 3:58 AM
Subject: mySociety: A new call to join the WhatDoTheyKnow team

We’re seeking people to join the WhatDoTheyKnow <>
team, dealing with the day-to-day administration of the site.

Over seven million people viewed our Freedom of Information website
WhatDoTheyKnow last year; it now hosts almost 50,000 requests for
information and has around 150,000 registered users. The site, which is
managed on a day-to-day basis by volunteers, is continuing to grow.

Last year we ran a successful call for volunteers
which led to a new cohort of people joining the core volunteer team, and a
number of others taking on associated roles.

We have decided to make the call for volunteers an annual event, as it’s
always useful to have more people involved in running and improving the
service. The site’s growth isn’t the only factor: people move on,
circumstances change, and there’s always a need to keep the pool of
volunteers topped up.

Volunteers, like mySociety staff, work remotely from home, and can pick the
days or hours that suit them best. There is no set number of hours required.
Administrator roles

Would you be interested in joining the team as an administrator? Currently
that role involves:

   - *Considering, and acting on, requests to remove material from our site*
   The material in question could be something big (like the accidentally
   released personal information of thousands of staff at a public body),
   something small (such as an individual’s phone number), or, to give a
   recent example, the address of a vice-chancellor’s official on-campus
   residence which the university doesn’t think should be published.
   - *Assisting users* with using our site, providing advice on requesting
   information and helping resolve basic issues with their accounts.
   - *Managing the service* by resending bounced emails, dealing with
   messages that public bodies have misdirected, and maintaining and extending
   the database of public bodies which the site relies upon.

Other roles

Due to the requirements attached to their grant funding, the efforts of
mySociety’s paid staff are currently focused on developing the WhatDoTheyKnow
Pro service <> and supporting deployments
of our Alaveteli FOI software in other countries. To support the operation
of WhatDoTheyKnow in the UK we’d also like to find volunteers could take on
some additional roles. If your skills fit any of the descriptions below,
you’d make a great addition to the team:

   - *Team administrator*  Could you help us keep track of legal deadlines,
   organise (and perhaps chair or minute) our regular team meetings and ensure
   we follow up on outstanding items?
   - *Volunteer developer* It would be useful if we had volunteers able to
   make tweaks to the site’s software to support the growth of the site and
   the work of the other volunteers. Tasks could include improvements to the
   administration interface, and making updates to the static pages on the
   site.  This role would provide an opportunity to get experience working
   with mySociety’s highly professional development team, or offer a chance
   for an experienced developer to help out a team working on an impactful
   civic project.
   - *Strategic fundraiser* Could you help us obtain the funds we need to
   keep running and ensure that the operation is
   sustainable as it grows? This would be an opportunity to work with
   volunteers, and you’d also work in tandem with mySociety staff, including
   the professional fundraiser we’re currently also seeking to recruit
   - *Documentation specialist* The volunteer team, along with mySociety’s
   staff and trustees, have developed a substantial number of policies
   governing how the site is run. These are filed in the staff Wiki, and also,
   where possible, made public on the site. Tending to both these aspects of
   our documentation would be a great help to the team, and to users.
   - *Public body database administrator* Behind WhatDoTheyKnow is perhaps
   the largest database of public bodies in the UK — would you like to help
   maintain and improve it? There may be opportunities to support new
   WhatDoTheyKnow Pro features which are in development, for example by
   curating lists/groups of public bodies.
   - *Regional, or sector, specialist* Would you like to join us and help
   improve our service in a particular geographic or sector area? Perhaps you
   would like to help ensure we have full coverage of public bodies in, say,
   Manchester, and ensure they’re well described.
   - *Journalistic / communications volunteers* We would like to do more to
   promote and encourage high quality use of our site, for example though a
   regular blog post pointing to notable responses received each month.


If you’d like to join us, and think you’ve got something to offer, then
please do get in touch.

There are no formal requirements for our volunteer roles, although due to
the way we work the ability to write clear, professional, emails is
essential; and when corresponding with our users we need excellent
communicators who are able to provide to support to people from a broad
range of backgrounds.

A number of our current volunteers had not made significant of use of the
service themselves before joining the team. You don’t need to be an avid
Freedom of Information requestor, activist, campaigner or journalist to
join us; but if you are, that’s great too.

While we do need people who can regularly share the workload associated
with dealing with incoming user support, and takedown requests, there are
also opportunities to carry out self-contained projects, or help out on an
occasional basis.
What are the benefits?

While these are unpaid positions, you may enjoy the satisfaction of knowing
that you are supporting a service that is of help to the UK population,
often empowering users to uncover information that would otherwise remain

All at mySociety and WhatDoTheyKnow are immensely grateful for the work put
in by volunteers: their contributions release mySociety staff and the rest
of the team to focus on elements of the service where their skills are best

But there are some fringe benefits, too:

   - You’ll gain experience in running a high traffic website processing a
   high level of user-generated content.
   - You’ll work as part of the team on often complex cases involving data
   protection law, defamation law, and sometimes requiring tricky journalistic
   and moral judgments.
   - You’ll take a vital role supporting a key part of the UK’s democratic
   and journalistic infrastructure, helping at the front line of tackling fake
   news, and helping inform public debate on a wide range of important matters
   from security and defence to benefits, health and care.

WhatDoTheyKnow volunteers have gone on to careers in the law, and
experience with the team may well be useful for those considering entering
journalism, or roles in information management.

Volunteers may be invited to mySociety events and meet-ups, providing a
chance to take part in discussions about the future direction of the
service and the organisation’s activities more generally. There have been a
number of conferences <> held,
where those running Freedom of Information sites around the world have got
together to share experiences: one or more volunteers may be invited to
join in, with travel expenses paid.

While our volunteer roles are unpaid there are funds available to cover
travel and training costs.

Please write to us <> by the
23rd of April 2018, introducing yourself, letting us know about any
relevant experience and skills you have, and telling us how you think you
may be able to help out. If you’ve made use of our service, or FOI, do tell
us about that: we’re always interested in hearing users’ stories.
Other ways to help

If volunteering to join the WhatDoTheyKnow team isn’t for you, perhaps you

   - help categorise responses on WhatDoTheyKnow
   - spread the word about our service
   <>, or make a donation

Image: Clark Tibbs <>

from mySociety
via IFTTT <>

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