Think you’ve got the best FOIA idea? Here’s your chance to prove it — and win $500

Think you’ve got the best FOIA idea? Here’s your chance to prove it — and win $500

We’re spotlighting the most clever, useful, and impactful requests ahead of Sunshine Week 2020 — and MuckRock’s 10th birthday!

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Have an idea for a public records request that can unlock important stories at the state, local, or federal level? Share it with the world — and get a shot at over $1,000 in prizes, sponsored by our friends at Government Attic.

Now through February 29, 2020, we’re accepting submissions of public records and Freedom of Information Act requests to our database. At a ceremony during Sunshine Week, a panel of judges will announce the winners, including:

  • Three Honorable Mentions, with prizes of $100 each, plus a MuckRock Magic Unredacting Mug.

  • A Runner Up, receiving $250 plus all three MuckRock books.

  • A Grand Prize Winner, receiving $500 plus a very special MuckRock Swag Pack.

Throughout the contest period we’ll also be awarding up to five interim prizes of free MuckRock requests and swag to highlight our favorite incoming suggestions and inspire others, so submit early and often!

We’ll be announcing the judging panel in the coming weeks. The judges will select the best requests based on the following criteria

  • Creativity: Does this request pave new ground or approach an old idea in a new way? Sometimes the most creative requests seem obvious in retrospect, but someone had to be first, whether it’s requesting lawsuit settlements , dog registration information , or even copies of other FOIA requests . Creativity is worth 30% of the total score.

  • Replicability: Can this request idea be useful as a technique for other requesters to build on? Asking for one specific document no one has asked for before can lead to major stories — but it’s even better to suggest new categories of records that can be asked for again and again with fruitful results. Replicability is worth 30% of the total score.

  • Impact: How important could the results of this request idea be? Will it help highlight problems facing communities around the United States? Can we better understand our country’s history through it? Interesting results are good, but interesting results that lead to broader understanding of how government works (or isn’t working!) are better. Impact is worth 20% of the total score.

  • Track Record: Have you successfully received documents from this request before? Sometimes clever ideas on paper fall flat when actually filed, so evidence that you can use this request to get documents is useful — and even more so if you can show those documents led to reforms or major news stories. Requests do not need to be filed through MuckRock, but if you have a link to the request page or another way to showcase your request, it’s helpful for the judges. Note that requests do not have to be successfully completed to be eligible for submission. Track Record is worth 20% of the total score.

To be eligible for a prize you must be a U.S. resident 18 years or older and willing to share your request idea and name publicly (for publicity purposes). Eligibility will be determined at the sole discretion of MuckRock staff and designated judges. MuckRock staff members and immediate family or household members of MuckRock staff are ineligible to win.

We’re grateful to the FOIA experts at Government Attic for sponsoring this contest and we hope it will highlight — and inspire — the amazing creativity of this community. If you’re looking to see what others have submitted, you can check out the public database of suggestions here.

Header image via Congress of local and regional authorities and licensed under CC BY-ND 2.0