As a funder with an interest in democratic transparency and accountability, we recognise the importance of being honest and open about who and what we fund. That’s why we publish details of all our international grants on this blog and it’s also why we’ve recently become the fifth NGO in the world to start publishing all our grant data in accordance with the gold standard for aid transparency, the International Aid Transparency Initiative (IATI). IATI is a way of publishing international aid data in a consistent way that computers can read, understand and process. All too often, aid data has been published, but it’s been locked away in PDFs on obscure websites that only a few dedicated people have ever accessed.
The benefits of aid transparency are clear for all to see. It allows donors and NGOs to identify gaps or duplicated effort, it allows recipient countries to better plan their budgets and it lets taxpayers see how and where their money is being spent. Even so, at present only a handful of major aid donors, such as the World Bank, the European Union and the UK’s own Department for International Development publish to IATI. Part of the reason for this lies in the complexity of the standard with its codelists, schemas and XML files. The idea underpinning IATI, however, is very simple – all donors should publish how much they give, which countries it goes to and for what projects. That simple message is one that we wholeheartedly endorse and we could think of no better way of showing our endorsement than by publishing our own data.
As a small funder with no in-house technical expertise, one of of the biggest problems we faced was how to go about publishing our data in the structured, technically-detailed way required by IATI. Fortunately, however, web platforms are being developed which allow small NGOs, trusts and foundations to publish their data in a quick and straightforward way. Using Open Aid Register – a simple and intuitive web-based tool that allows anyone to create IATI-compatible files – we were able to publish a year’s worth of grant data in a single day. Having spent months considering the best way to publish, it was a very pleasant surprise to discover how easy and painless the process actually was.
If you are an NGO or funder considering publishing your data on IATI, but would like to find out more about how we found the experience, then please do get in touch. We’d be happy to share our experiences with you.