Sharpening Global Integrity’s strategy: An update & request for feedback

Global Integrity staff team at strategy update session
Alan Hudson
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We kicked off our Strategy Update process in September 2019, with the aim of sharpening and refreshing our strategy in order to maximize our effectiveness and impact. We adjusted the pace of the process to take account of staffing changes, particularly that a new Director for Operations and Programs will be starting in mid-February. We have made good progress, consulting externally with a number of partners and potential partners (thanks for your feedback!), engaging with our Board, and holding a number of rich and engaging team discussions around our programmatic approach, financial sustainability, and planning and systems. 

The key elements are as follows (click on the tabs below to read more regarding each section, or view the full PDF):

  • Vision, Impact, Mission and Values: We have revised our vision and mission statements, provided a clearer statement of our values, and sharpened the statement of our intended impact: Governance reformers and change agents are better able to address corruption and improve the use of public resources.
  • Theory of Change (ToC): We maintain our focus on the power dynamics and incentives that lie at the heart of governance-related challenges. With this as our foundation, we set out more clearly how the approach we take to supporting efforts to address such challenges is shaped by our thinking about how change happens and the value of adaptive ways of working.
  • Thematic Areas: We focus our efforts on three overlapping themes central to ensuring that public resources are used effectively: Open Government; Integrity and Anti-Corruption; and Public Service Delivery. Informed by our overall theory of change, our work on each of these themes will have a distinctly Global Integrity flavor.
  • Partnership Approach: We provide tailored support, working closely with our partners as they craft solutions to specific challenges relating to open government; integrity and anti-corruption; and public service delivery. We produce research, accompany reformers, strengthen connections, and conduct advocacy, enabling our partners to work adaptively in ways that engage with power dynamics and incentives.
  • Operating Principles: We set out the principles of a new operating model that will help to ensure that our ways of working are fully aligned with our goals, strategy, and values. These principles cover three areas: People (how we make the most of our human resources); Partnerships (how we listen and respond to partners’ needs); and Processes (how we walk the talk in terms of working adaptively).
  • Funding and Sustainability: We outline how we plan to respond to the challenge of financial sustainability, translating the demand for our support, and for the valuable role we play in shaping transparency and open government agenda, into the resources we need for financial sustainability and impact. Our strategy refresh is an important part of our response, setting us up to listen and respond more closely to our partners’ needs, ensure that resources invested in our work add real value to those on the frontline of addressing governance-related challenges, and maximize our impact.
Vision Statement We envision a world in which people’s needs are met through the effective use of public resources to deliver public services and reduce poverty in countries and communities around the world.
Impact Statement Governance reformers and change agents are better able to address corruption and improve the use of public resources.
Mission Statement We provide tailored support to governance reformers and change agents, strengthening their ability to address challenges relating to corruption and the use of public resources.
Values We value humility, curiosity, openness, collaboration, and inclusivity, and aim to operate in line with these values.
Governance challenges are fundamentally about who has power and what incentives they face in how they wield that power. The dynamics of power and incentives are so context-specific that governance challenges are best addressed when local reformers and change agents lead the way, collectively crafting solutions that work in their context through cycles of learning and adaptation that engage with those dynamics. Such efforts can be inspired and informed by insights and evidence from other contexts, and can make good use of tools and approaches developed elsewhere, but local leadership in applying such insights and tools is key.

This understanding of how change happens is fundamental to everything we do, shaping our approach to working with partners, and informing the operating principles that translate our strategy into action. Driven by this understanding of how change happens, the action we take to support progress toward more effective governance is based on, and tests, the following logic and assumptions:

If Global Integrity provides tailored support—producing research, accompanying reformers, strengthening connections, and conducting advocacy—to governance reformers and change agents focused on challenges relating to open government; integrity and anti-corruption; and public service delivery...

and uses the insights and evidence from that work to shape policy and practice, including the policy and practice of international organizations...

then governance reformers and change agents will be better able to address those challenges and similar ones in the future...

because they will be able to operate more adaptively, in ways that take account of, and engage with, the power dynamics and incentives that are at the heart of such challenges.
We focus on three thematic areas that are central to ensuring that people’s needs are met through the effective use of public resources to deliver public services and reduce poverty: open government; integrity and anti-corruption; and public service delivery.

Our approach across these overlapping themes is informed by our overall theory of change, giving our work on each of these three themes a distinctly Global Integrity flavor.

Open Government: Exploring the potential and challenges of open government, with a focus on supporting the data-driven design and implementation of effective policies, particularly in regard to the use of public resources. This thematic area builds on our longstanding experience of critically constructive engagement with the Open Government Partnership (OGP) and other multi-stakeholder governance initiatives, including the Global Initiative on Fiscal Transparency (GIFT) and the Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (EITI). Our work under this theme includes cross-country comparative research and peer-learning support on OGP at national and subnational levels, in Africa (Ghana, Kenya, Malawi, South Africa, and Tanzania), Latin America (Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, and Mexico) and Southeast Asia (Indonesia and the Philippines). It also includes a U.S.-focused project on Defending Democracy and our support for an emerging global network of affiliate hubs focused on open government.

Integrity and Anti-Corruption: Moving beyond moralistic and one-size-fits-all approaches to addressing corruption and strengthening integrity to support efforts to identify ways of working with, and shifting, the power dynamics and incentives that drive corruption. This thematic area builds on our many years of experience in assessing governance and supporting efforts to tackle corruption and improve the use of public resources. Our work on this theme includes the Global Integrity Anti-Corruption Evidence (GI-ACE) research programme, with projects focused on countries including Bangladesh, Georgia, Jamaica, the Kyrgyz Republic, Malawi, Nepal, Nigeria, South Africa, Tanzania, Tajikistan, Uganda, and Zambia. It also includes our Africa Integrity Indicators project and a number of projects focused on the use of open data to understand and address corruption in countries including Ghana, Nigeria, Colombia, and Chile.

Public Service Delivery: Supporting change agents to address particular service delivery challenges by strengthening systems of actors seeking to address those challenges and shifting the patterns of incentives that hold problems in place, so that public resources are used more effectively. This thematic area builds on, and extends, our prior work on governance, including fiscal governance and service delivery. Our work in this area includes a major project with the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation on mapping accountability gaps in health systems, a project on food security policy conducted with Africa Lead, as well as our innovative, problem-focused, and user-centered approach—using our field-leading “Treasure Hunts” methodology—to supporting the use of data about budgets, contracts, and results to explore and improve the use of public resources, at both national and subnational levels.

We expect most of our work over the coming years to fall into these three thematic areas. To better support our partners’ efforts to address challenges in these areas, we also plan to give greater attention to two sets of issues: The ways in which the impacts of policies around open government, anti-corruption, and public service delivery are felt differently by various, and intersecting, social groups—including women—and the implications of this for policy design and implementation; and the value and limits of applying new and emerging technologies to address challenges that are about both information and power.
As described in our theory of change, our primary partners are governance reformers and change agents. We provide tailored support to our partners as they craft solutions to specific challenges that are priorities in their given contexts. Our support is designed to help our partners to operate adaptively in ways that engage with the power dynamics and incentives that are at the core of governance-related challenges. In providing this support, we aim to strengthen our partners’ capacity—both as individual organizations and as systems of actors—to address future challenges.

Our tailored support draws on a modular set of approaches and methodologies that can be delivered in various combinations, as appropriate to the partners and context. The support we provide falls into the following four categories:

We produce research

Our partners are better able to address the challenges they face in opening government, addressing corruption and improving public service delivery, when they are able: first, to analyze the power dynamics and incentives around those challenges; and second, to access insights and evidence about how others have tackled similar challenges in other contexts.

We help our partners to do this by producing high-quality, actionable evidence and insights; conducting problem-focused political economy analysis; undertaking cross-country comparative research; and managing programs of research involving multiple partners. We have a strong preference for participatory research that informs and supports problem-focused work and involves the actors who are engaged in that work.

We accompany reformers

Governance reformers and change agents in the midst of tackling complex governance-related challenges benefit from being able to operate in a learning-centered and adaptive manner. This entails starting with a clear problem analysis, developing clear strategies, and then using good data to reflect on progress being made, and to select the most appropriate tactics to make progress in the face of shifting circumstances.

Supporting our partners’ efforts to work adaptively is the common theme across the four elements of our partnership approach, but is seen most clearly in the approach we take to accompanying our partners. This work includes support for problem analysis; strategy development; theory of change workshops; the design and implementation of monitoring, evaluation, and learning systems; and support for the effective use of data about both progress with implementation and emerging challenges and opportunities.

We strengthen connections

Governance-related challenges cannot be addressed by a single organization or actor. As a result, our partners’ efforts are more effective when they leverage and strengthen systems of actors working collaboratively on particular issues, at subnational, national, and international levels.

We strengthen connections and collaboration, across both organizations and contexts, through a variety of means. This includes facilitating learning exchanges; designing and conducting workshops; leading the Open Gov Hub in Washington D.C.; and supporting an emerging global network of Open Gov Hubs.

We conduct advocacy

The ability of our partners to work adaptively and effectively to shift the dynamics of power and incentives around governance-related challenges is shaped not just by their capacity and that of the systems they are part of, but also by the policy and practice of external actors. This includes bilateral and multilateral development agencies; multistakeholder initiatives, such as OGP; foundations; and international NGOs.

Leveraging our networks and location in Washington D.C., we use the evidence and insights from our work around the world to encourage and support external actors to operate in ways that put locally led innovation, learning, and adaptation center stage. We do this through direct engagement; commentary on these actors’ strategies; formal and informal involvement in program design; and convening conversations that aim to inform the agenda.

These approaches form the basis of both our donor-funded projects and our fee-for-service engagements: regardless of funding source, we align our support with the needs of governance reformers and change agents to build future capacity through addressing present challenges. We also aim for longer-term engagements, working in strategic partnership with organizations who share our values; focus on similar themes; and endeavor to work adaptively in ways that engage with power and incentives.
People and partnerships are at the center of everything we do. The partnership approach outlined above advances our mission in ways that involve significant time from team members, in support of partners at national, subnational, and international levels. Working effectively to meet partners’ needs requires that we have clear internal processes and systems to keep our work focused, effective, and efficient. This enables us to operate in a learning-centered and adaptive manner. These three elements—people, partnerships, and process—are the core of our operating model, a model that puts our strategy and our values into practice.

People

Lean, flat, and flexible team. Our team is lean, flat, and flexible, with programmatic staff encouraged to exercise their creativity and entrepreneurial spirit in line with our theory of change, mission, and values. We provide team members with clarity on their priorities and roles, enabling them to effectively focus and collaborate, while also deliberately adjusting priorities and creating new project teams as new opportunities for impact arise. We maintain this flexible capacity through a combination of a core, full-time team and regular consultants.

Mix of functional and thematic expertise. Global Integrity’s team has a mix of capacities and expertise across functional and thematic areas. We invest both in the skills needed (e.g. in relation to systems analysis; monitoring, evaluation and learning; facilitation; communications and more) to implement our approach to working in partnership, and in the team’s ability to engage at the leading edge of our thematic areas. Our multinational team has experience in dozens of countries, but we never see ourselves as the experts on local context: the in-country governance reformers and change agents who we support are always the experts.

Increasingly global, representative, and inclusive team. Our team must operate in ways that value the diversity of experience and perspective that our staff bring to the team and reflect and connect to the partners we work with around the world . While our team has been mostly based in Washington, D.C. to date, we plan to gradually shift our staffing footprint through a combination of remote working and, when it makes sense, co-locating or sharing local staff with partner organizations in Africa, Asia, and Latin America.

Partnerships

Listening and responding to partner needs. Our partnership model hinges on our ability to listen and respond to the needs of governance reformers and change agents—especially those working in-country. To do this better, we will continue to invest in long-term relationships with strategic partners and pilot new approaches to gathering feedback from existing and potential partners.

Long-term, strategic relationships. Global Integrity’s work over the past decade has allowed us to foster a strong network of collaborators, both within countries and at the global and regional levels. Many of these collaborators have been partners on projects—either as clients or funders of Global Integrity, or as co-grantees or sub-grantees—often spanning multiple project cycles as we continuously build and strengthen our relationships. We increasingly are exploring ways to formalize these long-term relationships in order to advance programmatic impact and organizational sustainability for both Global Integrity and our partners.

Supporting Open Gov Hubs. Co-founded in 2012 with Development Gateway, the Open Gov Hub in Washington, D.C. is a co-working space and meeting place where we support collaborative action and learning amongst a vibrant community of more than 40 organizations. In recent years, we have been pleased to support the emergence of similar spaces in a number of countries, first in Nepal, and most recently in Albania, Nigeria, Pakistan, and Tunisia. We plan to continue supporting this global network of Hubs, providing advice and assistance and working collaboratively as these Hubs—individually and collectively—support the implementation of open government principles in their countries.

Processes

Data, decisions and learning. The use of good data to make smart decisions about whether and how to adapt when addressing complex challenges in shifting circumstances is an important part of our strategy. This applies to Global Integrity in the same way it applies to the partners whose work we aim to support. We practice what we preach. Building on our experience of operating as a learning organization, we plan to strengthen our capacity for monitoring, evaluation, and learning, and improve our knowledge management systems to ensure that we are able to make smart decisions and the best use of our resources, maximizing our impact and that of the partners we support.
Global Integrity’s core sustainability challenge lies in demonstrating the value we add and generating revenues to fund our work based on that value. Our current business model has two distinct elements. The first element is the Open Gov Hub, a self-sustaining social enterprise that—run in partnership with Development Gateway—generates approximately half of Global Integrity’s overall revenue, with the vast majority of that revenue invested in providing a meeting place, services, and programs that meet the needs of Open Gov Hub members. The second element consists of all of the other programs and projects in which we are involved, funded by a mix of core support and project-specific grants.

For the Open Gov Hub, the link between the value provided and revenue generated is direct, with coworking services and operations covered by the fees paid by members of the Open Gov Hub. For Global Integrity’s other programmatic work, our current funding comes from the UK’s Department for International Development, Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, Hewlett Foundation, Open Society Foundations, Mo Ibrahim Foundation, World Bank, and Transparency and Accountability Initiative. We are excited to continue working with these funders in ways that support their priorities and which inform policy and practice on open government, integrity and anti-corruption, and public service delivery.

In order to both generate the resources needed to finance Global Integrity’s programmatic work and diversify our funding, we need to demonstrate the value that we add and make the case to potential funders that investing in our work is an effective use of their resources. This is a challenge for all nongovernmental organizations, especially when the intended beneficiaries of the work may not be in a position to pay directly for the support received. In these circumstances, there is no effective market that can convert demand for support into supply of resources to provide that support.

This challenge is made starker as some funders increasingly ask whether and how organizations such as Global Integrity, based in the Global North, can add real value to addressing governance challenges in specific contexts, often in the Global South. Given our focus on locally led change and our interest in shifting power to organizations at the frontline of addressing governance-related challenges, we applaud these questions and take them very seriously. Our strategy—the design of our partnership approach, the ways in which we implement our programs and projects, and our emphasis on listening and responding to the needs of our potential partners—is intended to contribute to shifting the power, even while this shift presents a challenge to our financial sustainability.

Our response to the challenge of financial sustainability is three-fold.

As described above, we must continue to sharpen our approach to working with partners, ensuring that we are listening to their needs and responding in ways that provide value. If we were not adding value, the rest of our efforts to ensure our sustainability would have no purpose and would risk diverting funds that could be better invested elsewhere.

We will continue pursuing funding directly from northern funders for our work as a convener and facilitator of field-building and agenda-shaping, and cross-country initiatives. This work may be in direct support of funder strategies, or it may aim to produce public goods, such as research and evidence.

Where we see demand from potential partners in the Global South, we will increasingly seek to translate that into funding for collaborative work with those partners. We see the strongest potential through joint funding proposals submitted in partnership with in-country reformers and change agents. Encouraged by recent experience in Latin America, we also will explore the possibility of generating revenue from in-country actors directly, including in fee-for-service engagements.

We believe we play a useful role in strengthening the ability of governance reformers and change agents to address corruption and improve the use of public resources, doing so in ways that contribute to shifting power. While we must continue to listen and learn, feedback from our partners and repeat requests for our support provides evidence that backs that belief. In addition, we can state with some confidence that our field-leading approach to supporting partners’ efforts to address governance-related challenges by operating adaptively, in ways that shift the dynamics of power and incentives, has helped to shape the agenda on transparency, open government, and anti-corruption.

The test, for us and for any organization, is whether we can translate the demand for our support and the role we play in shaping the field into the resources we need for financial sustainability. There are some encouraging signs, with new projects and funding agreements coming online, but we are not complacent. Updating our strategy and identifying a number of steps we will take in the coming months to improve our effectiveness is an important step forward in our efforts to respond to the challenge of financial sustainability and impact.

Once this strategy update has Board approval, we—with our new Director for Operations and Programs playing an important role—will develop an implementation plan setting out how we are going to move forward in the directions identified in our revised strategy. In parallel with preparing for Board discussions in early February, we are keen to get reactions from existing and potential partners and funders. We would very much welcome your feedback and responses. We are open to all sorts of feedback, but would particularly welcome your responses to the following survey:

(NOTE: The survey contains short sections corresponding to each section of the update, which can be accessed by clicking on the above tabs, viewing the full PDF, or clicking the section-specific links provided within the survey itself.)

Alan Hudson
Alan Hudson
Executive Director

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