Why is organisational transparency important in the current context?
Given the context of the COVID-19 pandemic, organisational transparency has never been more important. Transparent project and programme information improves our communications with interested publics by explaining the value of our activities and ensures that these activities are widely available across the international development and humanitarian sector. This is important for accountability to tax payers, both in the countries where projects are implemented and, in the UK, at a time when public budgets are contracting. Moreover, it improves the amount of information available to donors and organisations when we are looking to set up new projects, especially those working on the longer-term impacts of COVID-19.
During the course of the COVID-19 pandemic, activity timelines and information flows have been disrupted. Existing project data might not have been collected in the intended way by visiting the project site and there might be an unanticipated glut of administrative data instead of results data. Payments for activities planned earlier in a project year might have been delayed and so financial monitoring data could be disjointed compared to the original budget. Evaluation reports might also have been delayed whilst remote evaluation methodologies were fine tuned. All the while, new projects have been researched, set up and scaled rapidly in response to the humanitarian assessments of the COVID-19 pandemic.
This project and programme data tells a story- an important story- about how existing activities have adapted to the changing context and illuminates how new activities have responded to the COVID-19 pandemic. It is a story we should share.
What are the benefits of improving organisational transparency in the context of COVID-19?
Improving organisational transparency and making activity data available in an open format has a number of benefits:
Donors around the world can look for trends in spending and avoid duplication in funding. Development Initiatives recently published their analysis of aid flows in light of the COVID-19 crisis, disaggregating aid flows by international financial institutions (which have increased commitments) compared to bilateral donors, and also breaking down spending by sector (showing that expenditure on health and associated social sectors could be at the expense of other thematic sectors). Another example of donor-level data visualisation is Devex’s COVID-19 funding analysis dashboard, charting the top spending funder (currently the IMF) and the most popular focus area (currently economic).
Project and financial data are available to interested publics, improving accountability to communities and hopefully reducing opportunities for corruption by making contracts more visible. Transparency International’s recent blog details how COVID-19 has created conditions in which corruption can flourish with rapid healthcare procurement. It goes on to explain the value of scrutinising open data for irregularities, and shares lessons from its Open Contracting for Health project, funded by DFID.
Projects and resulting data are available to researchers, enabling analysis of the aggregate findings, so we can evaluate our efforts to tackle COVID-19. The UKCDR have developed a Heatmap tracking different COVID-19 funded research projects by location and there are over 5,559 research projects alone (as of February 2021). If you search for the key term COVID-19 into d-portal (a visualisation of International Aid Transparency Initiative data), the search will give you over 23,000 activities! That represents 20,000 activities being added and tagged as COVID-19 projects in the six months since September 2020.
How does publishing to the IATI improve organisational transparency?
One way to improve organisational transparency is to publish your project or programme data to the IATI. This makes your project or programme data available to the public in a standardised format agreed by the international development and humanitarian community. It also enables your activities to be captured and visualised by the various COVID-19 trackers above, helping the sector paint a more accurate picture of the scale and effectiveness of our work in response to COVID-19.
For example, did you know that our member EMMS International are working on COVID-19 responses in Bihar India, Malawi, and Nepal? Or that member Disasters Emergency Committee has allocated funds in its COVID-19 appeal to seven different countries, including South Sudan and Somalia?
Where to find more information about publishing to IATI:
Join us for an interactive workshop series at the end of March designed for small organisations new to IATI, to help you get started on your publishing journey
Compare different IATI publishing options and tools in our resources list, to find out which option works best for your organisation
Visit IATI’s new online forum IATI Connect to source peer support and resources
Read IATI’s guidance on publishing COVID-19 specific activities
You can view our members IATI profiles on the data visualisation website d-portal to find out more about their activities and results. Members publishing to IATI include: ActionAid, British Red Cross, CBM UK, Christian Aid, Christian Engineers in Development, Disasters Emergencies Committee, EMMS International, Feed the Minds, IOD PARC, Islamic Relief, Link , Niras-LTS International, Mary’s Meals, Mercy Corps, Opportunity International, Oxfam Scotland, Save the Children, SCIAF, Sense Scotland, Tearfund, The HALO Trust, The Open University, UNICEF, VSO International, WasteAid, Water Witness International, and WaterAid.