Back in April, we launched a public discussion about the future of the Global Integrity Report with a debate around ways we might “open source” the Report to include more voices in the process of generating our national-level anti-corruption and accountability assessments. That event kick-started an internal review process that while far from complete, has made some progress in identifying where we might be headed in the future. We wanted to share some of that early thinking.
First, we do plan to figure out ways of inviting a much larger community into the process of generating and reviewing our assessments. While this is likely not going to be a completely community-driven process (we will still play a driving role in managing country teams and performing quality control), we see significant upside in offering a much larger community the chance to vet our results before they are final. This could possibly take the form of a much more open and inclusive review process where any interested and qualified organization or individual could ask for the opportunity to vet portions of our national data alongside our traditional country “peer reviewers.” We’re currently thinking through ways we can operationalize that approach, including technical means via Indaba.
Second, it is likely that we will be covering fewer countries in the future than we historically have with the Report, at least for the next few years. This is being driven by a number of factors. We are today a much busier organization than we used to be. Every additional country covered in the Report represents an opportunity cost that takes away from other major initiatives we invest in such as Indaba, the Open Government Partnership, Foglamp, the Africa Integrity Indicators effort, and our Local Integrity projects. While the Report remains our flagship internal research project, it’s no longer the only thing we do, and we are making tough choices when it comes to how we deploy our limited human and financial capital.
In addition to bandwidth constraints, funding constraints limit the potential for us to ramp back up to 60+ countries worth of coverage each year. We find it increasingly difficult to raise the significant six-figure sums required to field the Report at that scale (see chart above).
Third, we will be revising the methodology and questions that are fielded through the Report. Our goal is to modernize the questionnaire. For example, our Integrity Indicators assessing the transparency of privatization decisions are relatively moot in many countries where major privatizations have not occurred for decades. And we fail to ask any questions about more contemporary issues such as open data policies, asset recovery initiatives, or anti-money laundering practices. We need to take the time to bring the Report up to date.
This likely has one significant implication for long-time users of our national data: you will not be able to compare country data from “future” national-level assessments to previous national assessments. Otherwise you will be comparing apples to oranges. While we realize this may generate some angst in certain quarters, we’ve done it once before (the methodological shift from 2004 to 2006) and the world didn’t stop turning.
What does this all mean in the short- and medium-term? In 2012 we will only be covering a very small number of countries (currently two, possibly a handful more) using the current methodology. We plan to dedicate much of the remainder of the calendar year and a large portion of 2013 to doing a full review of the Report methodology, with the goal of piloting a new set of indicators and more open/public review process in 2013. If we get that right, we will then be on track for modestly scaling up country coverage under the new model in 2014.
Lastly, it’s also likely that we may abandon the label “Global Integrity Report” to refer to our national-level assessment work in the future. While no firm decisions have been made, it strikes us as potentially misleading to talk about a “global report” that may only cover a modest number of countries each year. We remain committed to assessing accountability and transparency at the national level in countries even if we ultimately change the name.
We’d love to get your thoughts and reactions to this plan. Please join the conversation in the comments below and/or on Twitter.
— Nathaniel Heller