Better case management of FOI and SAR requests ALPHA

Project details:

Organisation London Borough of Hackney
Department Information Management
Collaboration Level Open To Conversation
Budget £50K > £100k
Key Contact Sarah Palmer-Edwards
Phase start 08 January 2019
Phase Estimated end 30 April 2019



You can read our full Local Digital Fund bid here:

We want to work together with our partners (Suffolk Council, Stevenage Borough Council, Cornwall Council ) to conduct some further discovery and an alpha project looking at the user journey for council staff who manage and respond to FOI requests and SARs in order to prototype approaches to the unmet user needs we have discovered, and understand whether a digital solution and data standards could better support these needs and allow them to handle requests from the public more efficiently.

We’d like to develop a prototype of an end-to-end open-source solution that includes reporting, and subsequent publishing of non-personal requests. The main objectives would be to assess the potential for increasing efficiency and ease of use for the council, and better meeting the needs of citizens, both from ease of use and response time perspectives, and in such a way that supports reuse by other councils.

A successful outcome would be an end-to-end set of user interface prototypes for a request handling system that have been validated by user testing in multiple councils and a clear recommendation based on a business case on whether to proceed into a beta project for either open-source request handling software, or a set of open standards around request handling. In either case, the user research report created should outline.




Status Updates

15 January 2019

  • Sarah Palmer-Edwards

    2019-01-11: Week 1 & 2

    This project involves several people working in different locations around the UK. It will generate a large quantity of information as we learn about users’ needs and refine the project scope. It’ll move fast and it’s really important that we’re all kept in the loop.

    Enter #weeknotes! Via this simple format, the aim is to record the project’s progress (and the process) where everyone involved can see it. We also hope that they’ll build into a permanent record that any other councils interested in the decisions and processes we went through will be able to access.

    Please feel very free to let us know your thoughts and comments.

    Here’s what we did this week

    • Kick-off! A call between mySociety and all partner councils.

    • We’ve scheduled a weekly Show & Tell call where we can demonstrate progress and receive feedback.

    • mySociety presented our draft user research plan, and we’ve got the ball rolling on scheduling interviews and observation. We want to get this underway as soon as possible in the next two weeks (scheduled for 21st & 22nd January). We’ve got a day of interviews and a day of observation.

      • In the interviews we’re aiming to talk to FOI team members from all partner councils, as well as individuals from other council departments who routinely take part in the FOI/SAR processes.

      • The observation sessions will cover Hackney Information Governance staff using Infreemation.

    • mySociety has been rereading our existing internal research on FOI statistics and local government FOI admin, as well as process documentation sent over by Hackney Council. This is helping us narrow down the questions to ask when we come to interviews.

    • Gareth and Martin took all the post-its from the earlier workshop during which people had shared Fears, Hopes, Pain Points, Users and User Stories, and typed them up.

    Here’s what we’re wondering about

    • How to make best use of the Trello board where we’re organising all the project to-dos.

    • Whether those “other councils interested in the decisions and processes we went through” mentioned in the intro to this piece, actually exist… or will find these notes if they do.

    • How to get this post added to Pipeline!

    Here’s what’s coming next week

    • Sarah from Hackney is aiming to get the project set up on as a central place to post updates. (As you’re reading this, obviously she succeeded!)

    • mySociety will complete work on the User Research plan, laying out a few different options on the scope.

    • Process documentation continues to come in from partner councils, so mySociety are reviewing this to aid preparations for the research interviews.

    • We’ll finalise our plan for working in the open on this project. We’d like to share previous user research and prototyping/testing reports with partners, and publicly.