Take note. This is how we build systems of accountability.

Lily Medosch
Illustration of people attending a public meeting. Some people are taking notes, someone is Tweeting, some people are taking photos with their cell phones, others are talking to each other.

Bringing Documenters Philly into our work at Resolve allows us to expand our toolbox for engaging and empowering local residents. 

Local government leaders and officials will start seeing a new crop of faces at public meetings this year. At Resolve Philly, we’re bringing the Documenters program to our city, with initial funding support from The Lenfest Institute’s Every Voice Every Vote initiative. Documenters is a nation-wide program started by City Bureau in Chicago, built on the foundation of increasing transparency of our democracy by documenting public meetings. Philly residents will be paid to attend and document local government and civic meetings taking place across the city. 

Meeting notes from Documenters will be accessible to anyone, residents who might want to stay abreast of what the latest zoning board meeting means for them, or newsrooms who want to dig deeper into topics that came up at a recent meeting. All content is available free of charge under Creative Commons over on Documenters.org, ensuring ease of access. 

By paying people to document, we’re not only creating a repository of notes - we’re creating a new public record. 

Beyond that, it’s a civic education opportunity for anyone interested in learning more about the city they live in and help make it understandable for all residents. We’ll provide training on note-taking best practices and offer learning opportunities to break down complex civic processes into easy-to-understand information. 

We’re excited to lead this work and wouldn’t be able to do that without existing relationships thanks to the work of our Community Engagement Team, who connect with community-centered organizations and residents across the city. Through our Reporting Collaborative project, (you might know it better as Broke in Philly), we’ll build systems to easily share Documenters notes with local journalists who want to take a deeper dive into the topics and issues that arise. 

For us at Resolve, joining the Documenters Network has felt like being at a family reunion we didn’t even know we were a part of. At Resolve Philly, we value making systemic processes more transparent and thus accountable to those who’ve been historically left behind and harmed. Holding these values front and center is key to Documenters’ mission and success. 

This is a paid opportunity for people who want to pick up a civic side hustle. It’s a way for residents to build skills, flex new muscles or explore new interests. There’s no minimum participation requirements – you participate however much you want to. There’s also room for Documenters to get creative and bring their own skills and ideas to the table as we hit the ground running. Another key aspect of Documenters is the community we hope people will find with and among each other, as people connect around a shared commitment to this work and the mission. 

Huge thanks and appreciation to City Bureau’s staff (shoutout Max, Nora, Jody & the whole team) who’ve played a critical role in helping us shape what Documenters Philly will look like. We wouldn’t be able to get this program off the ground if not for the work and support of City Bureau and the other Documenters cities that came before us. We’re looking forward to being in community and learning alongside everyone. It is a great reminder that the issues we are facing in Philadelphia do not exist in a vacuum and across the country, Documenters are working to make change that expands beyond the local level. 

We hope that Philly residents can feel activated and involved, and a part of a community by participating in Documenters. Share this information with a friend, a neighbor, and encourage them to sign up to become a Documenter

This project is a part of Every Voice, Every Vote, a collaborative project managed by The Lenfest Institute for Journalism. Lead support is provided by the William Penn Foundation with additional funding from The Lenfest Institute, Peter and Judy Leone, the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, Harriet and Larry Weiss, and the Wyncote Foundation, among others. To learn more about the project and view a full list of supporters, visit www.every voice-every vote.org. Editorial content is created independently of the project’s donors.