The Open Rights Group was founded in December 2005 by a pledge from 1000 members to “create a standing order of 5 pounds per month to support an organisation that will campaign for digital rights in the UK”.
The ORG story started on 23 July 2005, when a group of technology activists – Danny O’Brien, Cory Doctorow, Ian Brown, Rufus Pollock and Suw Charman – organised a panel discussion entitled “Where’s the British EFF?”, at Open Tech 2005, a technology and open source conference. The event was received with overwhelming interest – the room was full to standing – and it soon became clear that there was significant support for a UK-based digital rights organisation.
That afternoon, Danny O’Brien created a pledge on PledgeBank, with a deadline of Christmas Day 2005. The pledge read: “I will create a standing order of 5 pounds per month to support an organisation that will campaign for digital rights in the UK, but only if 1,000 other people will too.” The pledge reached 1000 people on 29 November 2005, and ORG started acceptingdonations from its supporters in January 2006.
Meantime, the founding group had recruited Owen Blacker, James Cronin, Louise Ferguson, William Heath, Ben Laurie, Stefan Magdalinski, and Desiree Miloshevic to help shape the organisation. It was incorporated as “Open Rights”, a not-for-profit company limited by guarantee, on 3 October 2005. At this point, we were helped by a £3,000 startup grant from the Joseph Rowntree Reform Trust Ltd.
ORG was run on a voluntary basis until early 2006, when Suw Charman resigned from the Board in order to become ORG’s first Executive Director, a part–time position she held until January 2007 when Becky Hogge took the role full–time. Michael Holloway joined the staff as part–time Operations Manager in April 2006, going full time a year later in April 2007.
We now have a Patron, author Neil Gaiman, a twenty-strong Advisory Council which is tasked with helping ORG to form policy and prioritise issues, an eight-strong board of non-executive directors and a volunteer community of over 40 people who actively help in the running of the organisation.