How you can help

UPDATE 18th Sept 2015: Click here to check you are looking at the current version of http://savefoi.uk/how

Tell your story to people who have no idea why your use of FOI made the world better, or why the outcome of your FOI request mattered in other ways.

A passionate defence of a single village bus stop can be just as engaging as a hugely successful national campaign. In fact, the experience of one person using Freedom of Information to improve the world for those immediately around them can be far easier for people to identify with than more complex, involved stories from much bigger organisations.

#saveFOI is looking for THREE different types of stories:

  • Improvements in the world, or in Government policy or the policy of public authorities, as a result of specific FOI-based work. (Examples like these are essential to challenge the intent of the FOI Commission.)
  • Excessive or flat-out ridiculous uses of existing exemptions.
  • Rejected FOI requests, where the rejection can be shown to be wrong. (N.B. This can actually be quite difficult; there are legitimate exceptions, and not every use of FOI is well-formed.)

Making your FOI story submission

Here’s an explanation of the process, and some things you may wish to consider:

Due to the volume of testimony expected, your submission must fit onto a single side of A4 – here’s a PDF showing the intended layout – in one or two columns (max), using 12pt Helvetica or Arial, and including an image.

Please stick to the section headings – ‘Project aims’, Project outcome’, ‘The request you made’ and ‘What they said’ – and layout given in the template. Here’s the link to an editable MS Word version and to a Google Docs version.

Please make sure you include the relevant information under each of the headings. Exactly what you write is up to you, but people reading your story will need to know the following things:

  • Project aims: a brief description of what it was you were trying to achieve, using FOI. For example, were you trying to uncover specific decisions or actions? Or the (lack of) evidence for for those decision(s)? The money spent? Prove what the authority knew, when?
  • Project outcome: describe what happened as a result of the information or response you got to your FOI request. Make sure to say why the FOI response was significant – did it force a decision to be made, or overturned? Did it uncover crucial evidence? Did it draw public and/or media attention?
  • The request you made: a concise description of what you asked for. If necessary, give a short explanation as to why you requested that specific information.
  • What they said: a summary of the response you received. This need not be long, especially if you got a positive outcome. You will probably need to provide a bit more detail and/or context if explaining an unreasonable or excessive use of one of the FOI exemptions.

Your picture matters; the image you choose provides a first impression that may be what makes your story be read amongst all the others.

If your organisation or project has a logo, please do include it. If you don’t have a logo, feel free to delete the small logo placeholder at the top of the page. (If you don’t know how to do this, please get in touch.)

In the footer of your submission, please put the name of your organisation (if you have one) and make sure to provide a URL (web link) for your campaign, epic saga, great result, etc. This link could be your organisation’s website or a personal blog, your Facebook page or Twitter account – the point is to spread the word about FOI and the work you are doing.

It would make life far easier for us if you would submit your story as a single-page PDF via e-mail. (See ‘What to do next’ below for how to do this.)

N.B. When submitting your PDF, please also include a copy of or link to (1) your original FOI request and (2) a copy of or link to the relevant response, i.e. your request must have already received a response.

#saveFOI wants stories from the people and organisations who did the work, not those who may have taken the credit. We have a manual review process, so there is some leeway here; we don’t want to put you off submitting something if you cannot provide the original request – just say why you can’t include it.

Simply linking to a page on an official body’s website is unlikely to be sufficient to describe the FOI response you got. You have to explain what it means to someone who knows nothing about your issue. Imagine you’ve bumped into an old acquaintance on the street. Think of what you might say to them in a few sentences, to describe what happened so they understand and care about the response you got.

So you can see how your story will fit in, here’s an early mock-up of the dossier we are looking to produce – the final version will, of course, be much bigger and more ‘glossy’!

#saveFOI doesn’t have the resources to make an individual web page for each of your stories, so we encourage you to post your story on your own website, and then to link to it and tell everyone about it – by e-mail, on social media and in any other way you can think of…

We actively want you to talk about your FOI story in your own way. And don’t forget to provide the link to www.saveFOI.uk if you can – your friends / colleagues / supporters / members may have their own experiences of FOI to share!

What to do next

For writing your FOI story, we provide:

When you’re finished, you can save your story as a PDF from both Word and Google Docs. We provide a rough visual guide to give you an idea of what a finished page should look like, also in PDF format (not editable).

When you have completed your page it would really, really help us if you would fill in this web form, providing details about each individual submission you make* before e-mailing your final PDF (or, if you must, a Word document) to help@savefoi.uk

*There’s no limit on the number of separate FOI stories you can submit, but please only fill in the submission form (i.e. the web form we link to in the previous paragraph) once for each PDF story that you send in. This will make life dramatically simpler for us. If possible, please send your e-mail with its PDF attachment – and copies of your original FOI request and the response, where available – within an hour of filling in the submission form. This will allow us to match things up a lot more easily. We will not share any of the details you provide without your permission.

We apologise that the process is a little complicated, but we hope you will appreciate that we have to have some way to manage the volume of responses, handle permissions and contact details, etc.

If you have questions, please first check the notes above on ‘Making your FOI story submission’ – which we will update as and when any issues arise – or send us an e-mail at help@savefoi.uk, or contact @smithsam directly on Twitter.

#saveFOI