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.

Philly Documenters

We want to put people in the rooms where decisions are made that impact us all.

Public meetings are workshops of democracy, where local policy is shaped, and where residents can witness, learn about, and act on the systems that impact their lives. Yet every day, in municipalities across the country, many government meetings happen with no oversight or input from the public. Although transparent by law, in practice public meetings can be hard to find and difficult to follow without context—and as local newsroom capacity has diminished, the reporters who previously interpreted for the public are disappearing. These empty meetings are a point of failure for our civic information system and a critical missed opportunity for genuine democracy.

Philly Documenters is part of the Documenters Network, a national network created by City Bureau in Chicago. The Documenters Network aims to make public meetings more transparent and accessible by engaging residents in accessing the information they need to actualize the change they wish to see in their communities. This work dramatically increases local journalism capacity while simultaneously creating points of access for anyone to participate in the process of producing civic media. Philly Documenters is housed within Resolve Philly’s Shake the Table initiative, focused on local government accountability.

Philly Documenters will recruit, train and pay Philadelphians to attend and take notes at public meetings across the city. Think City Council committee meetings, zoning board meetings, and other public meetings.

Notes from these meetings will be fact-checked, published, and available to anyone. Residents will receive training on best practices and be paid $17/hr to document meeting sessions.

Become a Documenter




This program 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 Editorial content is created independently of the project’s donors.

Logo for Every Voice Every Vote project