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Request announces best practice guide

Request Initiative is proud to announce its first research project – the best practice guide.

What is the best practice guide?

The guide will be a practical resource written to help the third sector and members of the public use FoIA more effectively. It will be based on the first hand experience of third sector organisations. We are currently talking to charities and NGOs who have used FoIA productively and asking them to share details of their successes and frustrations.

We will augment the project by providing our own knowledge and expertise of FoIA and the resource will include clear and concise tips on challenging refusals, negotiating exemptions and, crucially, asking the right question in the first place. We hope this resource will become a permanent point of reference for citizens and organisations across the country, advancing social interests and fostering civic engagement. We are currently seeking funding so this valuable resource can be made available to charities and non-profits at no cost.

There is currently a website for “making and exploring” Freedom of Information requests at What Do They Know? (WDTK), where users are introduced to FoIA and can read details of other requests. We do not see any crossover between Request’s idea and the excellent WDTK. Our resource will be an evaluation of good practice, focusing on creativity and innovation, and a collection of tips for avoiding exemptions and forcing disclosure. In contrast to WDTK, which publishes all requests and responses made through the site automatically and as-they-are, Request Initiative will dissect each request included in the project by identifying it’s type (in relation to what and who is being asked), writing summaries of it’s good and bad aspects and indicating which exemptions applied/may apply. By doing this, we think readers will learn how to get the best from FoIA quickly and effectively.

Who will benefit?

Our beneficiaries will be a wide and diverse group of people.

1. Citizens both in the UK and abroad who want to use FoIA to know more about the way this country is run and how taxpayers’ money is spent.

2. Charities, NGOs, trade unions and non-profits will benefit from making better use of FoIA, acquiring information that strengthens their campaigns and research and brings media coverage.

3. We hope to increase both the quality and quantity of public interest journalism that appears in the press, thereby benefiting the readerships of the UK’s national papers.

Why do we need your help?

We are currently looking for researchers, campaigners and activists who have successfully used FoIA to obtain documentation and data and are willing to share details of their working processes and experience dealing with public bodies. We are keen to talk about unsuccessful requests too so that future campaigners may learn from our collective mistakes. We would like to showcase examples where information from requests has enriched the organisation’s knowledge base, informed campaigning and led to media coverage.

Participating in our project would involve a meeting between your organisation and our researchers. We would like to see original requests, subsequent communications and documentation released by third party organisations. Ideally, we’d also like to talk to the people who made those requests and hear about the difficulties they faced and the strategies they used. We will then write up several of the best examples to form the main section of the resource.

To secure funding we need to demonstrate that a FoIA best practice report will be both useful and unique. We are looking for project endorsements from people working in the third sector, media and freedom of information who can highlight the need for this project and describe its potential impacts. We are also currently looking for people who would like to join our advisory board.

For more information please contact Lucas Amin at lucas@requestinitiative.org or on 07749 449765.

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