Johannes Tonn, Director of Programs and Partnerships – March 30, 2017
Next week, we’ll unveil the preliminary data for the fifth annual round of the Africa Integrity Indicators, our flagship governance assessment that gauges the state of governance and aspects of social development across all 54 African countries for the year 2015/2016.
Based on experience and anecdotal evidence regarding the use of our data from previous rounds, we anticipate this year’s research will again be used by governments, civil society and international development actors to inform their thinking, advocacy efforts and decision-making. And the data will feed into the Ibrahim Index of African Governance, released later in the year.
The data we publish will be intentionally provisional. We invite all interested stakeholders, both within and outside government, to read through the qualitative narratives provided, and to provide us with feedback and comments about what they find useful (or not). And to let us know how they think the assessment could be further strengthened by providing additional factual evidence. As was the case last year, this feedback window will be open for two months, after which we will publish the finalized data set by the end of June.
We believe that engaging with users of our data and providing opportunities to deliberate and learn from each other is an important part of crafting governance assessments that generate data that is not only reliable, but also useful for reformers pushing for more effective governance. Impact is what matters.
Our key metric of success is not the number of media mentions or references in academic journals. Instead, we want to know whether our data is useful and actually used to inform and spur debate at country level, in practical ways. To be really useful, governance assessments must offer insights that inform domestic actors’ efforts to tackle governance-related challenges and push for governance reform.
Emerging evidence presented by our friends at AidData, based on a number of user surveys with governance data practitioners, as well as preliminary results from a first round of Development Gateway’s Results Data Initiative, suggest that governance (or results) data is more likely to have an impact if it adheres to the following principles: Alignment with country policy priorities; Contextualization of the data to country-specific realities; Actionability: Credibility of the assessment in terms of transparency and robustness of the methodology employed.
And while we have traditionally focused on researching actionable data and have been highly transparent with our methodology since the founding of Global Integrity, we are very much aware that there remains work to be done. Striking the right balance between aligning assessments with ongoing country priorities and allowing for cross-country comparability is a formidable challenge which we are keen to play our part in addressing (see also our piece on the principles of Governance Assessments 2.0).
As we are thinking about how to best experiment on this question we build on excellent work done by others, and aim to utilize our own efforts in data collection as a testing ground. We will be exploring with the Mo Ibrahim Foundation how the Africa Integrity Indicators might be utilized to test new ways of structuring and conducting governance assessments focused on impact at the country level. This effort will strike a balance between usefulness for in-country stakeholders and retaining those indicators — and the underlying methodology — that factor into the Ibrahim Index of African Governance to make sure the cross-country and comparative time-series aspects of the data is safeguarded.
At the upcoming Mo Ibrahim Governance Weekend in Marrakech, we look forward to exploring with various stakeholders how we can make progress toward the aim of making the Africa Integrity Indicators not only a reliable source of data, but also a source of data that is as useful as possible at country level.
We are grateful for the encouragement and intellectual support provided by the World Bank, AidData, CIVICUS, the UNDP Oslo Governance Center, the Governance Data Alliance, the OECD, the Millennium Challenge Corporation and others as we explore the potential for governance assessments that effectively combine cross-country comparability and in-country usefulness. We will write about the evolution of this effort on this blog and welcome your thinking, pointers and nudges at [email protected].
1 We’ll publish a blogpost next week in which we address both methodology and some key findings in greater depth.
2 As additional background, the Africa Integrity Indicators project was started five years ago in partnership with (and financed by) the Mo Ibrahim Foundation based on the observation that there was a huge gap of independently verified and rigorously collected in-practice data, fit to describe the reality of policy implementation across the African continent.
4 To name just a few efforts among many others, please see the work on the Actionable Governance Indicators, the Participatory tracking project, the Everyday Peace Indicators project, the Good Governance Barometer, and The Counted.