Why Transparency Matters Part 5: Where do we go next?

“Why Transparency Matters” Series Part 5: Where do we go next?

Moderator: Julie Montgomery, Director of Innovation and Learning, InterAction

“Why Transparency Matters” is a six-part blog series featuring AidData, Development Initiatives, Foundation Center, Open Aid Partnership, Oxfam America, and Publish What You Fund. These organizations are coming together with InterAction to discuss transparency – why it matters, what it means to be transparent, what impact transparency has on aid effectiveness, and more. In this fifth blog, we focus on the future. What’s next for transparency? How do we continue to build buy-in or momentum around this issue? How do we better coordinate efforts? What are the challenges we have to overcome?

At InterAction, we will continue pushing on the importance of transparency both within our own organization and with our members. We plan to better integrate our data collection efforts with the International Aid Transparency Initiative (IATI) by making NGO Aid Map IATI compliant, enabling our members to easily publish to IATI and helping fill one of the key aid information gaps – the work of NGOs. We will also be focusing more on ensuring that our members are not just providing data, but also using it.

Learn more about what is in store for the future of transparency…


Samantha Custer (AidData): It’s not enough to publish vast amounts of aid and development data – the completeness of that information and the capacity of people to use it matters too.

Joni Hillman (Development Initiatives): At DI, we would like to see the global discussion on the post-2015 ‘data revolution’ informed by the needs of data users in developing countries, particularly those at sub-national level, like those we work with in East Africa and Nepal. We’d like to see more community actors from developing countries having their say about what the data revolution should look like – it’s important these voices are heard for a true recognition of the challenges and opportunities that there are on the ground. If this idea is going to realize its ambition, we need more than governments being accountable to each other: we need civil society to be empowered to play a role. IATI is critical here, since it’s the way that all development finance (from traditional ODA, to funds coming from private companies, foundations and NGOs) is made available. IATI is continually expanding the range of actors it works with and is currently exploring how development finance institutions (DFIs) and South-South Cooperation providers can use IATI to publish data on their activities.

Jeff Falkenstein (The Foundation Center): The future of transparency in philanthropy is about better and more open data and more efficient processes. The Reporting Commitment, which launched two years ago and today and includes 19 foundations, is a data-sharing initiative aimed at developing more timely, accurate, and transparent reporting on the flow of philanthropic dollars. The participating foundations have committed to a level of transparency and openness never before seen in the philanthropic sector.

At the heart of the Reporting Commitment is a set of standards by which the participating foundations have agreed to report their data and that is compatible with the format used in the IATI registry. But one challenge of opening up this kind of data is figuring out how to use technology to develop efficiencies rather than redundancies.  In partnership with the MacArthur Foundation, Foundation Center worked to simultaneously convert MacArthur’s Reporting Commitment Grant feed into the IATI XML standard. As a result, the data is now reported on the Glasspockets website and IATI registry at the same time requiring no extra work on the part of the foundation.

Elizabeth Dodds (Open Aid Partnership): I think many of us are already moving to the next phase of transparency when we start to ask ourselves, “So what?”  What has been achieved, what have we learned, and how can we improve our efforts? At the Open Aid Partnership (OAP) we’ve recognized that it is time to move beyond measuring outputs in terms of data supply, to evaluating impact, and coming up with more rigorous methods for doing so. In the field of aid transparency this seems to be a relatively new and challenging area, particularly in terms of identifying the “right” measures of success. We think an important next step will be not only evaluating our own activities, but bringing our partners and colleagues together to start collectively gathering evidence of success and failures, and sharing our experiences and lessons learned. This is one of our priorities this year and we invite anyone with ideas or interest to please reach out.

David Saldivar (Oxfam America): Oxfam learned the secret to establishing and sustaining transparency when we participated in the launch of InterAction’s redesigned NGO Aid Map this summer. We assembled a crash team of programs, policy, and technical staff to collect and verify the data about Oxfam’s grant programs that we submitted to the Map. What happened next told the whole story of the future of transparency – when the Map launched and our colleagues went on line to look at it, we didn’t get a single call from anyone concerned about sharing information or objecting to publication of specific data about their projects. Instead, we got two types of calls: why didn’t you include my data, or how can I add more data about my program? Our colleagues immediately saw that publishing this information helped them in their work. This response demonstrated that transparency will stick when an organization makes it central to the mission.

Catalina Reyes (Publish What You Fund): The next or the now is the “use” of data. But to get there we still have to work on the quality of it. Comprehensive and high quality data is still hard to come by. We need the biggest donors around the world to lead on this agenda. Many tools are being built which use/consume IATI data. The problem we now face if that all these tools will only show you a partial picture because donors’ aid data in the IATI Registry is incomplete. The next step is to fill in the gaps. Only then will we know who is doing what in comparison to others.

The next step is also for donors to see the utility of this data and use it internally. Donors can manage their own resources if they know what they’re measuring, if they know what they do and if they know what they’re doing in comparison to others. Data and data use should be promoted internally and it should be promoted with relevant stakeholders.

Want to learn more?

Join the discussion by following #TransparencyMatters on Twitter and tune in for a live discussion on October 6th from 12:00-1:00 PM, Eastern Standard Time, to learn more and chat with the authors.

Contributing Authors:

Samantha Custer, Director of Policy and Communications, AidData. Working in international development for 14 years, Samantha’s diverse experience cuts across traditional boundaries between research, policy and practice. Wearing many hats along the way, she's designed grassroots development projects, coordinated advocacy campaigns, developed policy recommendations, conducted research and monitored results. Samantha has co-authored seven World Bank publications on open data, open government and citizen engagement and assisted former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright to teach a class on US foreign policy. Previously, she oversaw multilingual education projects with SIL International, coordinated the advocacy efforts of the Asia Multilingual Education Working Group for UNESCO and conducted performance audits of Save the Children’s sponsorship-funded programs. Samantha holds masters degrees in Foreign Service and Public Policy from Georgetown University.

Joni Hillman, Aid Transparency Programme Manager, Development Initiatives and the IATI Secretariat. Joni is a member of the IATI Secretariat, managing the Technical Team to provide support to a wide range of development cooperation actors to publish good quality IATI data, to produce guidance and materials to help people publish and use IATI data and to look after the development and integrity of the IATI Standard. Previously, Joni spent six years at Bond, the UK NGO network, delivering programmes on NGO transparency, donor relations and development effectiveness. She has a MA in History from the University of Edinburgh and a MSc in Development Studies from the School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS) at the University of London.

Jeffrey Falkenstein, Vice President of Data Architecture, The Foundation Center. Jeff is responsible for the development of content for all database-driven Foundation Center publications and products. He manages the publication of numerous print and electronic publications, directs the ongoing development of the Center’s numerous editorial databases, establishes all editorial policies and procedures, and designs many of the Center’s online products and websites accessed by millions of users globally.Jeff has worked with partners around the world, helping them to develop their own data infrastructure, collection, classification, and dissemination strategies. Additionally, he has helped partners develop multilingual platforms and portals through which audiences are able to access data on philanthropy in particular regions or topics of interest.

Elizabeth Dodds, Consultant, Open Aid Partnership. Elizabeth is a consultant with the Open Aid Partnership (OAP), a multi-stakeholder aid transparency initiative hosted in the World Bank Group's Innovation Labs. In her current position with the Bank, she supports OAP efforts to engage civil society, journalists and citizens in development decision-making through the use of open data. Prior to joining the Bank, she gained private sector experience as a financial regulatory associate for BNY Mellon Asset Servicing. Elizabeth received a master's degree in public administration from the London School of Economics and a bachelor's degree in International Relations and French from Colgate University.

David Saldivar, Policy & Advocacy Advisor for Aid Effectiveness, Oxfam America. David leads Oxfam’s policy and campaigns work on transparency in foreign aid, and contributes to Oxfam’s advocacy and programming on accountable governance.  Prior to joining Oxfam, David worked on legal reform and institutional capacity in the justice sector, served in the Peace Corps in Jordan, and worked with the federal judiciary in San Francisco. David received his JD from Stanford and an LLM in Rule of Law for Development from Loyola University Chicago.

Catalina Reyes, Senior Advocacy Associate, Publish What You Fund. Catalina works on U.S. development policy and foreign assistance transparency. Her role includes directly engaging with the U.S. agencies included in our annual Index and with our U.S. counterparts who work on aid reform and aid effectiveness. Catalina also covers our engagement with the Open Government Partnership process, and monitors its implications to the aid transparency agenda. Her background includes education reform and human rights advocacy in the nonprofit sector.  She holds a BA in Psychology from Arizona State University and a MA in International Affairs from the Catholic University of America in Washington, D.C.

Want to read more? Check out the other blogs in the series: