Why Transparency Matters Part 6: One piece of advice

Photo By: Sarah Siguenza

“Why Transparency Matters” Series Part 6: Can you provide one piece of advice for organizations embarking on the “road to transparency”?

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 final blog, we asked for advice from our contributors. At InterAction we tell our members to publish what they can and then build on that. Be patient – it takes time to see results, but it is well worth the wait.

Before you read what sage advice our contributors have to share, InterAction would like to thank our partners in this series. It is only in partnership that we can ensure transparency becomes a central part of what we do. If you want to learn more, join us for a Google Hangout with the contributors on October 6.


Samantha Custer (AidData): If you want transparency to improve results and accountability, you need to ask early and often what the prospective users of your data want and be responsive to their needs.

Joni Hillman (Development Initiatives): Data users, both inside and outside of your organization, will be the key to ensuring that your transparency efforts are recognized and your data stays high quality. Asking them questions – like what they need your data for, how often, and in what format – will help you to help them, ensuring you get the most return on your investment. 

Janet Camarena (The Foundation Center): The most important thing for grantmakers to know is that even though there are specific steps they can take to improve transparency practices, the journey will be different for each foundation and it is not an activity that has a specific endpoint, but rather it is part of an ongoing and evolutionary process.

Elizabeth Dodds (Open Aid Partnership): Before anything else, investigate the demand for and capacity to use the information that will be released, in order to clarify the purpose of your efforts, target the right user groups with the information they need and better understand how to achieve sustainable results.

David Saldivar (Oxfam America): Learn by doing – start with what you can do based on your current systems and processes, and build from there.

Catalina Reyes (Publish What You Fund): The road to aid transparency should be paved with more than good intentions. Donors must accelerate progress to meet their 2015 aid transparency commitments.

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.

Janet Camarena, Director, San Francisco Office/Project Lead, Glasspockets, The Foundation Center. Janet has served as director of the Foundation Center-San Francisco office since 2001 and has worked for the Center in a variety of roles since 1995. As director her responsibilities include leading a team of six professionals in offering extensive outreach for the Center's resources and services in the Bay Area and beyond, planning and overseeing educational programming offered in the Western region, carrying out donor development and cultivation, producing and conducting online programming such as the Philanthropy Chat podcast series, and most recently leading the creation, management, and redesign of the Glasspockets web site, which is dedicated to promoting foundation transparency.

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: