www.globalintegrity.org https://www.globalintegrity.org Data, Learning & Action for Open Governance Tue, 17 Apr 2018 19:45:13 +0000 en-US hourly 1 https://wordpress.org/?v=4.9.5 https://www.globalintegrity.org/wp-content/uploads/2017/06/cropped-GI_icon_color-1-32x32.jpg www.globalintegrity.org https://www.globalintegrity.org 32 32 An Update on African Governance: the Africa Integrity Indicators 2018 https://www.globalintegrity.org/2018/04/an-update-on-african-governance-the-africa-integrity-indicators-2018/ https://www.globalintegrity.org/2018/04/an-update-on-african-governance-the-africa-integrity-indicators-2018/#respond Wed, 04 Apr 2018 14:48:25 +0000 http://www.globalintegrity.org/?p=20172

April 4, 2018

Africa Integrity Indicators team

The 2018 edition of the Africa Integrity Indicators data is available! We invite interested stakeholders to examine the data and share any feedback that can help increase the quality and usefulness of the data. Please get in touch with us by May 30th.

What is the Africa Integrity Indicators Project?

Every year since 2013, the Africa Integrity Indicators (AII) project assesses the state of governance and aspects of social development in all African countries. It produces qualitative data for 102 indicators across 13 categories from “Rule of law” and “Civil service integrity” to “Rights” and “Health and education.” The data can be found here.

How is our data unique?

The versatility of our data sets AII apart from other indices. It combines:

  • Scale and granularity: the AII data presents the big picture across the African continent while zooming in on specific questions in specific countries;
  • Timeliness and evolution: the AII data provides a snapshot of each country for any given year since 2013 while showcasing the trends in each country over time;
  • Comparability and context-specificity: the AII data is comparable across countries and over time with clear scoring conditions that determine what is measured and how it is assessed. At the same time, researchers provide specific comments on context and evidence that  highlight individual countries’ challenges and opportunities. Each of these comments is supported by multiple sources;
  • De jure and de facto: the AII data examines both the legal frameworks in force and the implementation of these frameworks in practice, thereby measuring the implementation gap.

Another strength of the AII data is the robustness of the quality control. To ensure that our data is credible, we follow a rigorous double-blind peer-review process that involves country and subject-matter experts.

How can the data be used?

The AII data is a stand-alone index published by Global Integrity. Measuring the implementation gap and providing snapshots of evidence for each question together with a score and the sources used by researchers to make their assessment, we endeavor to provide an objective and trustworthy assessment that can help reformers identify entry points and ways forward as regards reform they deem important and worth pursuing.

A number of questions also feed into the Ibrahim Index of African Governance and into the Worldwide Governance indicators (WGI) by the World Bank. Through the WGI, the data also provides the Millennium Challenge Corporation with information that informs its decisions about country eligibility for MCC compacts.

Three main features of our dataset make it a practical entry point for research, advocacy and action:

  • Accessibility: our methodology and sources are transparent and the data is open source;
  • Ease of use: for each indicator, scores make it quick and easy to identify patterns across countries and across time;
  • Actionability: for each indicator, qualitative, fact-based comments make it possible to understand the country-specific context and help to identify priorities for reforms.

How is our data relevant?

Like any organization that strives for impact, we believe that producing reliable data is only the first step toward enabling reformers to take action. It is our hope that the AII data will foster and inform discussions about governance reforms and social development across Africa, both at the regional and at country levels, within and outside government.

For several years, the dataset has served as a platform for dialogue with several governments that have reached out to us as part of their efforts to pursue institutional and policy reforms. In 2018, we look forward to resuming these discussions and starting new ones with both governments and civil society.

We also look forward to continuing the conversation on how governance data in general and the AII data in particular can be improved to be more useful to stakeholders and have a bigger impact.

Preliminary findings

To illustrate how the AII data can support discussions on governance and social development, we have selected a sample of preliminary findings for the period that covers September 2016 to September 2017.

Gender – bridging the gap

Both the legal and customary frameworks regarding women’s rights have remained largely unchanged, and mostly restrictive. In practice, however, the new AII data has captured renewed efforts by governments to improve the condition of women, especially in the labor market. For instance, in 2017 the government of Burkina Faso launched training and entrepreneurship programs for the benefits of female professionals while Chad conducted national awareness campaigns with the support of development partners.

In another positive development, the representation of women in national cabinets has significantly improved in 10 countries compared to the previous study period. The increase has been the largest in São Tomé and Principe and Somalia where, as of September 2017, one cabinet member in five was a woman, up by 10 percentage points.

Revolutions – the cases of Gambia and Tunisia

Political upheavals make headlines; but real change is often slow to materialize. The 2018 data takes stock of governance reforms in Gambia and Tunisia, respectively ten months and seven years after regime change.

Within one year of President Barrow taking office after the watershed election of December 2016, Gambia had achieved meaningful progress toward better governance. Change was, in practice, most remarkable in the independence of the judiciary, access to information, and freedom of association. The government also denounced as unconstitutional the restrictive sedition, criminal defamation, and false publication laws.

The situation in Tunisia has continued to improve across many governance dimensions. In practice, progress was most momentous in public management, where a culture of transparency permeated public procurement and natural resource exploitation. Tunisia, however, suffered consequential setbacks in other areas. One of the most worrisome concerns relate to existing and new NGOs, against which the government has started erecting administrative barriers. Despite permissive legislation, it has now become very difficult for NGOs to obtain the authorization to operate in the country.

Let’s start the conversation

Today’s release of provisional data marks the beginning of a 2-month feedback period during which we invite all interested parties to examine our data prior to final publication in June 2018. If you have comments on specific facts and narratives or if you have suggestions related to the accuracy of our research, please contact us at elsa.peraldi@globalintegrity.org.

If you have general comments and suggestions about how you find the data useful, how you use it, and how it can be improved, please send your feedback using this form or the aforementioned email address. You can also connect with us on Twitter (@GlobalIntegrity).

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How to make monitoring, evaluation, and learning work for complex change https://www.globalintegrity.org/2018/03/how-to-make-monitoring-evaluation-and-learning-work-for-complex-change/ https://www.globalintegrity.org/2018/03/how-to-make-monitoring-evaluation-and-learning-work-for-complex-change/#respond Wed, 28 Mar 2018 18:40:17 +0000 http://www.globalintegrity.org/?p=20124

March 28, 2018

Michael Moses, Director of Learning and Programs

***This post was originally published by New Philanthropy Capital (NPC) on March 26, 2018***

To tackle complex, systemic problems you need a plan: enter theory of change (ToC). But like any plan, a theory of change must be reviewed and adapted as new information comes to light, the situation changes or assumptions are questioned.

The challenges that the development sector tries to address are complex and systemic. And governance challenges – like the ones we tackle at Global Integrity – are particularly confounding.

The challenges the communities we work with face are unique, so generalised solutions developed outside of those communities, in other contexts, will be of limited use to those trying to solve local problems.

Instead, solutions that effectively address the issues which local people care about tend to emerge over time, in particular places and led by local stakeholders. Success is contingent on these people engaging with, learning about, and shaping the dynamics of the complex, political systems in their specific contexts.

Developing a theory of change is an essential first step to this. A ToC helps make assumptions explicit, lays out an evidence-based hypothesis about how change is expected to occur, and provides a frame for reflection and course corrections throughout a project or program.

This latter point is key. As NPC’s recent report on systemic use of theories of change states: ‘The word ‘theory’ in its name is no coincidence. Theories are tested and updated as new knowledge emerges

Effective use of a ToC, requires collecting, and reflecting on, data needed for learning and adaptation.

The specific design of any approach to monitoring, evaluation and learning (MEL) will vary according to the theory of change it serves, and the context in which it’s used. But three general principles are worth keeping in mind when pursuing change in complex systems.

  1. Emphasize (local) action.

Monitoring data/evidence aims must be useful to local stakeholders. Whether it helps them interrogate their assumptions; track progress; or consider how to adapt in response to emergent information, understanding opportunities for impact is the key. Reporting to donors is a secondary priority.

For example, in Global Integrity’s recent Learning to Make All Voices Count project, we worked with civil society organizations in five countries to explore whether progress expected in their theories of was unfolding as expected.

When it wasn’t, we helped our partners use evidence to adapt their strategies.

In another case, our partners in Tanzania had initially thought that, if they provided community members with information about a national open government policy, citizens would respond by trying to hold local officials to account for honouring those policy commitments.

Initial monitoring data, perhaps unsurprisingly, did not bear out this assumption. Instead, local power dynamics – rather than access to information about government policy – were found to be the issue. So our partners adapted their theory of change, and set to work helping young people and women mobilise into “people’s committees” to reshape those dynamics. See this case story for more.

  1. Support participation.

A good monitoring, evaluation and learning framework is not developed solely by MEL staff, or by people sitting in offices in places that are geographically or culturally far-away. Rather, they are co-created and used in partnership with local stakeholders and beneficiaries, with their perspectives, priorities, and interests baked into the design and application.

For example, our colleagues in the Philippines co-created their MEL framework with regional universities and regional civil society organisations. In doing so, they learned that local partners were most interested in improving their capacity to understand and use district-level budget data. So determining whether and how the project was helping this, became a priority.

As a result, our partners to realized that some of the training tools they initially used weren’t having the intended effects. They made course corrections to the assumptions and activities underpinning that aspect of their theory of change. More details are available in this case study.

  1. Embrace iteration.

This means that data is gathered regularly, in as close to real-time is as feasible, rather than only at beginning, middle and end of a project. Regular data collection becomes the fuel for regular reflection, and adaptation.

In Kenya, our partners recognized that their work in two counties was subject to a number of potential risks, from drought to ethnic conflict. So they made sure to regularly revisit, and analyze, those potential risks. And when conflict did break out, our partners were ready – they quickly identified the danger, and worked with local stakeholders to temporarily replace planned in-person community meetings with virtual discussions over WhatsApp.

This key change not only kept project participants safe until the violence died down, but helped keep the project on track amid challenging circumstances. More information is available in here.

Ingraining these principles of action, participation, and iteration into your monitoring, evaluation and learning isn’t easy. It requires time, resources, and buy-in – from donors, implementers, and partners.

But it can pay off! It helps organisations unlock the usefulness of theories of change and, over time, learn and adapt their way to successfully addressing the complex, systemic challenges that matter to citizens in countries and communities across the world.

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Opening Up On Fiscal Governance: Our feedback on OSF’s new strategy https://www.globalintegrity.org/2018/03/opening-up-on-fiscal-governance-our-feedback-on-osfs-new-strategy/ https://www.globalintegrity.org/2018/03/opening-up-on-fiscal-governance-our-feedback-on-osfs-new-strategy/#respond Mon, 26 Mar 2018 18:10:50 +0000 http://www.globalintegrity.org/?p=20128

March 27, 2018

Alan Hudson, Executive Director (and the Global Integrity team)

Over the last few months, we’ve spent quite a bit of time providing feedback on donors’ strategies as regards transparency and open governance. Here are our thoughts about the Hewlett Foundation’s sub-strategies on “Active Citizens and Accountable Governments”, and our feedback on the associated draft learning strategy. And here is our blogpost from February about DFID’s revised transparency strategy.

We’re excited that more donors – including members of the Transparency and Accountability Initiative (TAI) – are opening up their strategies. More openness about strategies, their implementation and their impact has the potential to support learning, strengthen collaboration, and drive greater collective impact amongst organizations working to promote transparency and accountability.

So last month we were thrilled to see the Open Society Foundations make public their fiscal governance strategy, through two blogposts on the shifting landscape and what’s new in OSF’s work on open fiscal governance, and a strategy document that packs an impressive punch in just five pages.

There’s a lot to like in OSF’s new strategy. Beyond the hugely welcome fact that the strategy has been made public, there are four aspects that we were particularly struck by.

First off, the serious attention given to reviewing the shifting landscape of governance. Such a review is an essential step in any strategy process, particularly given the major, recent setbacks as regards open governance in countries including the US and the UK, closing civic space around the world, and dwindling support for multilateral action on issues including climate change, human rights and global trade.

We found it refreshing that the review of the shifting landscape focused on changes in the real world, rather than limiting itself to the evolution of thinking about governance and development. We appreciated the attention the review gave to the encouraging progress that is being made as regards tax justice and financial secrecy. We were pleased to see reference to the various national manifestations of a growing global anti-corruption movement, in countries including Brazil, Guatemala, Romania, Slovakia, South Africa and Ukraine. And personally, as a Board member of both, I was thrilled to see the innovative work of the Accountability Lab and BudgIT get a special mention!

We were slightly disappointed that the review did not consider the possibility that learning, adaptation and major progress against poverty can take place in environments where open governance is at a premium, a possibility highlighted by Yuen Yuen Ang’s recent work on “How China escaped the poverty trap”, including in an event we held at the Open Gov Hub in September (see here for a note from that event, here and here for a couple of recent contrasting pieces that caught my eye on China’s governance model, and here for a thought-provoking piece from the Economist on the open/closed divide).

Second, the plan to better integrate work on tax and budgeting, as part of a larger portfolio on equitable and accountable fiscal systems. This as a very welcome effort to break down the silos that can hamper effective collaboration – and data use – across the fiscal value chain, or, put differently, the follow the money system. This is a move that we – along with a number of other leading organizations working on various elements of the fiscal value chain – have been encouraging for a number of years, including through our lead role in the Follow the Money Network (rolling notes here), and through our work on fiscal governance and open contracting. So we’re excited to see OSF take an important step in this direction.

That said, we would like to see still more ambition, and movement towards an integrated approach which looks across the fiscal value chain from resource inputs (including taxation, development assistance and extractives revenues), through resource allocation and spending (budgets, procurement and contracts), not forgetting resource leakages and illicit financial flows, and leading to service delivery results in particular sectors. OSF, with expertise, investments and relationships across the fiscal value chain, at global and national levels, is uniquely well-placed to lead the way on this sort of systemic approach to opening fiscal governance, joining the dots – and helping citizens and governments to join the dots – to maximize the impact of public resources.

Third, the emphasis on the use of data, and, more specifically, people-centered data use for accountability. Our work focuses on supporting the use of data, in locally-led processes of innovation, learning and adaptation, that have the potential to shift the political dynamics and incentives around governance-related challenges. So, we have been very pleased to see the open data agenda evolve in recent years to increasingly focus on the use of data, by particular users, to address specific problems (see for instance the 2018 strategy of the Open Data Charter). And we’ve been keen to encourage progress in this direction, across the fiscal value chain, in relation to the use of budget data, and as regards the potential for virtuous circles of data availability, use and impact to address governance-related challenges. So, it’s great to see OSF increasingly focused on the use of data, for accountability, particularly at country level, and especially to see the emphasis on not just testing the hypothesis that transparency leads to accountability, but also working alongside partners to support the use of data to drive accountability and impact.

Beyond making more explicit the potential of supporting data use in an integrated manner across the fiscal value chain – including in relation to natural resource governance, and open contracting – there are two inter-related issues that we feel might have merited additional emphasis. One, that the data that is currently available is not necessarily the data that potential users need, and that therefore efforts to support data use need to go beyond encouraging the use and uptake of existing data. And two, that involving potential users at an early stage, so that they can help to determine and signal what data they would find useful to address the problems they are trying to solve, might be very useful (see, for instance, our work on Treasure Hunts, which involves potential users exploring the data landscape). On both these points, we are encouraged by the description of the new multi-country multi-year partnership with other TAI donors, which suggests that these points – as well as the importance of making the connections between country level needs and global and local advocacy on transparency – are already part of OSF’s thinking.

Fourth, the extremely welcome and suitably ambitious emphasis on learning. As an organization that is focused on exploring the value of data-driven and learning-centered approaches to addressing governance-related challenges, the emphasis on learning – and learning as support for effective implementation and greater impact – is music to our ears. OSF’s new strategy on fiscal governance includes the stark acknowledgement that “lack of evidence, well-tested models, and widespread dissemination of lessons learned are three central challenges that cut across all of the fiscal governance program’s portfolios and grantees”.

It then sets out a number of steps that are being taken to help to address those gaps, to strengthen field capacity for monitoring, evaluation and learning, to increase the learning capacity of the OSF team, and to invest in demand-driven and action-oriented research and evidence as regards the journey toward more open fiscal governance. These steps include: making the strategy public; boosting the monitoring, evaluation and learning capacity of OSF’s fiscal governance program; supporting and encouraging grantees’ efforts to become better learning organizations; and committing to a four-year independent strategy evaluation. The explicit commitment to continued close collaboration and coordination with OSF’s TAI donor peers is also hugely welcome.

So, there’s really lots to like in what is a very impressive commitment to putting learning at the center of OSF’s fiscal governance program. However, we would have liked to see a little more emphasis not only on boosting OSF’s own capacity for learning, and helping OSF’s grantees to be better learning organizations, but also on helping OSF grantees to support and strengthen the capacity of other organizations who may not be OSF grantees but who are on the front-line of dealing with governance challenges (see our blogpost on Learning and Power: Whose learning and adaptation counts? and our Learning to Make All Voices Count work). And, we’d have liked to see a more explicit commitment to strengthening the capacity of organizations, not just to figure out what technical solutions might be most appropriate in their contexts, but also to navigate and shape the complex political dynamics and incentives that are at the heart of governance-related challenges.

There’s more to like in the strategy too; the new focus on corruption, the emphasis on defending civic space, and the continued commitment to invest in multilateral processes. And there are intriguing comments about the continued reliance on international NGOs to help deliver on OSF’s plans, and the intent to work more closely with OSF’s regional offices. We have more to say on all of these areas; if this post has piqued your interested, our full unfiltered comments are here. We hope that our feedback will help to inform the evolution of donors’ strategies, and encourage further steps towards collaborative learning and more effective action across the transparency and open governance agenda. Kudos to OSF for joining the growing list of donors who not only champion transparency and open governance, but who also make their own strategies open!

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Using open contracting data to boost competitiveness and inclusion: A New York City Treasure Hunt https://www.globalintegrity.org/2018/03/open-contracting-data-used-to-boost-competitiveness-of-women-and-minority-business-in-nyc/ https://www.globalintegrity.org/2018/03/open-contracting-data-used-to-boost-competitiveness-of-women-and-minority-business-in-nyc/#respond Wed, 21 Mar 2018 14:56:46 +0000 http://www.globalintegrity.org/?p=20106

March 22, 2018

Jorge Florez, Research Manager – Global Integrity
Katherine Wikrent, Data Scientist – Open Contracting Partnership
Carey Kluttz, Senior Program Manager – Open Contracting Partnership
Chelsey Lepage, Program Manager – Reboot

New York City is at the forefront of open data at the city level in the US. The city has an open data law, open data portal, an open data team housed in the Mayor’s Office of Data Analytics, and many interesting initiatives to use data to inform local public policy. Two areas with the potential for progress in opening up data are spending and contracts, which is awesome given that NYC spends $14 billion dollars per year through contracts, almost 20% of annual city budget! The Mayor’s Office is committed to ensuring that 30% of the value of these contracts is awarded to Minority and Women-Owned Businesses (M/WBE) by 2021, and $16 billion to M/WBEs by 2025, in a move that aims to improve contracting processes while also contributing to social inclusion and city development.

Given the sheer amount of data and the political commitment towards greater inclusion of M/WBEs, Global Integrity, Open Contracting Partnership and Reboot challenged New Yorkers – government officials, advocates, M/WBE and the general public –  to use open data to inform policy and support M/WBEs in taking advantage of this opportunity. To this end, we led an Open Contracting Treasure Hunt during NYC Open Data Week (yes, not just a day!) to spur participants to use open data to better understand the challenges and take advantage of opportunities around greater participation by M/WBEs in city procurement.    

The task was daunting! Not only are there many datasets and sources of information, but they are also scattered across different websites from government agencies – a shout out is due for the impressive work of the Mayor’s Offices of Data Analytics and Contract Services, the Department of Small Business Services, as well as Office of the Comptroller! – and designed to meet different goals such as transparency and oversight. There are still data gaps that inhibit certain analyses and difficulties in linking up data sets, which meant participants needed to have cleaned up data presented to them to enable them to make the most of it. Another important part of the context is the diverse activities led by the city to promote the inclusion of M/WBEs, including publishing procurement plans targeting M/WBEs; setting goals for M/WBE participation in procurement by agency and overseeing its implementation in different ways; and conducting capacity building and matchmaking activities.

Treasure hunters digging through the data to find insights and turn them into opportunities for M/WBEs in city procurement

Within this context, our fearless treasure hunters – comprised of data scientists, government representatives, students and civil society activists and advocates with differing levels of familiarity with open data and contracting process  – formed teams to plunge into the ocean of NYC open data, aiming to develop practical ideas to inform the work of government and M/WBE. After a short demo of some of the available open contracting data on upcoming procurement opportunities, we guided participants through a data challenge in which they used their skills to either help M/WBEs identify solicitation requests or to inform M/WBE efforts in preparing bids and finding the most promising avenues to grow their businesses.

Our fearless leaders leading the data hunt into how to provide guidance to M/WBEs about preparing procurement bids

What did participants find and what ideas came about?

Participants began the event eager, but concerned about the information they might be able to find and actually use. Once the hunt moved forward they were surprised by the amount of data available, how well it was presented, and the extent to which this data enabled them to get a full picture of city procurement with M/WBEs. The data available covered all: the M/WBEs registered with the city, provided by the NYC Open Data Portalplans for procuring from M/WBEs by agency, taken from the NYC Mayor’s Office of Contracting Services page; bidding opportunities (with the public and with the private sector!), also provided by the NYC Open Data Portal; and Checkbook NYC data on contracts awarded by agency, amount and vendor.   

Once they made sense of the data, ideas on how to use it began to flow! From comparing procurement plans to contracts actually awarded, to exploring bidding opportunities and how these could be reviewed more effectively by M/WBEs, to analyzing what types of opportunities (prime vendor or subvendor) were more likely to be awarded to M/WBEs. Groups were able to move forward with their analyses and uncover interesting insights for government agencies and M/WBEs. For instance, one group placed themselves in the position of an M/WBE selling dairy products and was able to not only see the bidding opportunities that were available in general but to identify a particular subvendor opportunity that might be better suited for their experience and offerings.

Participants also identified challenges related to the potential to use the available data to address the challenges they were working on. During the final discussion and reflection they highlighted that the fact that datasets were designed with different use cases, or goals and purposes, in mind (i.e. to comply with regulations, to make spending transparent, or to enable procurement agencies to find potential vendors) which meant the potential for linking up the data was limited. Three issues dominated the conversation:

  • the potential for getting a more robust and actionable picture of procurement with M/WBEs in the city is hindered by the lack of unique identifiers for contracting processes and unique vendors IDs;
  • the use of different categories for classifying the contracts by industry or service limited the current potential to use the data to conduct analyses that could more effectively inform policy making, project implementation, and the very efforts of M/WBEs to be more strategic in developing business plans and finding procurement opportunities; and  
  • the progress made by NYC in opening up information is undeniable, but a greater focus on data governance and interoperability needs to be placed high on the open data agenda in the city.

Unlocking the potential of Open Contracting in NYC

At this event, our goal was to provide participants with a greater appreciation of open contracting data availability and use those data to address real-life problems in NYC. It gave them a quick snapshot of the problem and enabled them to get a better understanding of the challenge while identifying important avenues for dialogue and action to unlock the potential of procurement data. We are convinced that extending NYC open data leadership to cover open contracting will be a quick win for NYC, and provide New Yorkers with a valuable means to improve their lives. We are looking forward to – and stand ready to support – next steps!

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2017: What we did, what difference it made, and what we learned https://www.globalintegrity.org/2018/02/2017-what-we-did-what-difference-it-made-and-what-we-learned/ https://www.globalintegrity.org/2018/02/2017-what-we-did-what-difference-it-made-and-what-we-learned/#respond Wed, 14 Feb 2018 15:19:39 +0000 http://www.globalintegrity.org/?p=20017 February 22, 2018

Alan Hudson, Executive Director

2017 was a challenging year for champions of open governance, including for those of us enduring at close quarters the democratic reversals and increasingly closed governance of a Trump-led US administration.

Political transitions and turbulence around the world have posed challenges to the open governance agenda, including in several of the founding members of the Open Government Partnership. There have also been, not unrelatedly, growing questions about whether and how open governance can help to address poverty, inequality and social marginalization, and the day-to-day problems that people face as a result. And, more parochially, the challenge of working out whether and how organizations such as ours – working on global development issues, from a base in the US – can most effectively support progress towards more open governance in far away places, remains.

In 2017, Global Integrity stepped up to meet each of these challenges head on, both through our work in particular countries and through our global advocacy.

We’ve been thrilled to launch “Defending Democracy: Lessons from around the world”, a collaboration with colleagues at the Sunlight Foundation and Transparency International, based out of the Open Gov Hub. This program provides a space for cross-border learning about defending democracy, in order to strengthen and support the efforts of those of us who are resisting the rolling back of democratic norms in the US and beyond.

We’ve challenged and sharpened thinking around the value of open governance, encouraging greater attention to the use of data, addressing issues around power and learning, informing the evolution of approaches to assessing governance and tackling corruption, and – through our engagement with Professor Yuen Yuen Ang and her paradigm-changing analysis of “how China escaped the poverty trap” – encouraging exploration of how learning and adaptation can take place in environments that are not so open.

And, we’ve demonstrated that a small organization, working on global issues, can add value to the work of reformers around the world as they try, learn and adapt their way towards effective solutions to complex and fundamentally political development problems. Our groundbreaking work with Making All Voices Count grantees in Kenya, Tanzania, South Africa, Indonesia and the Philippines is one example of how we’ve demonstrated our value. Our field-leading work on understanding and improving the fiscal data landscape in Mexico is another.

As we get into 2018, challenges remain on all three fronts. But what we’ve learned over the course of 2017, combined with our ever-stronger culture and practice of learning, and the creative collaborations we’re part of – with colleagues at the Open Gov Hub and across the countries where we work – put us in a strong position to support progress towards more open and effective governance here in the US, and around the world. To find out more, please see our Annual Report for 2017: What we did, what difference it made, and what we learned along the way. Comments and questions are hugely welcome!

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Open Aid, Open Societies, But Not Much Politics https://www.globalintegrity.org/2018/02/open-aid-open-societies-but-not-much-politics/ https://www.globalintegrity.org/2018/02/open-aid-open-societies-but-not-much-politics/#comments Wed, 07 Feb 2018 22:41:32 +0000 http://www.globalintegrity.org/?p=19995 February 7, 2018

Alan Hudson, Executive Director

Earlier this week, the UK’s Department for International Development published its new strategy on “Open aid, open societies: A vision for a transparent world”, with the Open Society Foundations (OSF) also publishing their strategy for supporting progress towards more open, accountable and equitable fiscal governance.

This is hugely welcome news, which makes open strategies close to being the new normal, as it should be, for the donors who make up the Transparency and Accountability Initiative. This is a movement that has been led by the Hewlett Foundation, an innovative champion on openness and learning, in relation to their own operations as much as in the wider world, for many years; see here for their May 2017 draft sub-strategies on active citizens and accountable governments, and here for our detailed feedback.

We’re delighted to have the opportunity to engage with DFID and OSF’s thinking. Collaborative learning – sharing strategies, examining evidence, and interrogating assumptions – leads to more effective policy and practice, which in turn can help more countries and people to find pathways out of poverty and towards prosperity.

So, in the spirit of collaborative learning, some thoughts.

First up, DFID, whose new strategy builds on the UK Government’s leadership as regards transparency and governance more broadly, from the early days of the International Aid Transparency Initiative, through the UK’s founding role in both the Extractives Industries Transparency Initiative and the Open Government Partnership, to the 2013 G8 Summit with its focus on transparency, tax and trade, and the 2016 Anti-Corruption Summit. The UK Government deserves much credit for driving the transparency agenda, for ensuring that the global dimensions of governance and corruption challenges are getting the attention they merit, and for recognizing that international credibility on tackling corruption requires domestic leadership.

Three areas that I liked a lot were:

  • Global standards: a strong and steadfast commitment, in contrast to the backsliding by others, to spearheading and strengthening global standards – norms and often data standards too – on interlinked issues including company ownership, public contracting, the extractives sector, global commodities trading and tax;
  • Use of data: a much-needed shift to giving greater attention to the use of data, rather than hoping that transparency translates easily to accountability and impact (see here for our call for collaborative learning and action around the use of data, particularly fiscal data, and here for some thoughts about the use of budget data specifically); and
  • Learning: a call for “much more learning” across global initiatives such as the Open Government Partnership, the Extractives Industries Transparency Initiative and the Construction Sector Transparency Initiative.

Three areas that I had questions about were:

  • The “transparency revolution” framing: I worked with the ONE Campaign around the the time of the 2013 G8 Summit in the UK, so I’m not averse to a catchy phrase, but championing the revolutionary powers of transparency does risk marginalizing the role that power and politics plays in processes of social change and development;
  • Openness, learning & adaptation: Brief mention is made of locally-informed and politically smart approaches to supporting development, but there’s a missed opportunity to make the connections between two areas of work where DFID has a very strong hand to play; transparency and open governance, and learning-centered and adaptive approaches to governance and development (see here for our take on the value of open governance ; in summary, open environments support learning and adaptation, learning can foster openness, and as such there’s the possibility of a virtuous circle);
  • Other agendas: How does DFID’s transparency strategy relate to DFID’s other agendas, for instance on fragility, on gender, and economic development? The transparency strategy does note the connection with the UK’s anti-corruption strategy, but connections with other strands of DFID and the UK Government’s development agenda are less apparent.

So, all in all, very welcome. It’s great to see DFID and the UK Government strengthening their ambition on transparency, openness and anti-corruption, particularly given contrasting moves by the Trump-led administration in the US. And the focus on two “transparency trailblazers”, Ghana and Sierra Leone, as well as research by the DFID-funded Anti-Corruption Evidence Centre in Bangladesh, Nigeria and Tanzania promises much in terms of rich insights about the political dynamics of governance reform and the role that donors can play. But, I’d like to get a better sense of how the existing evidence about whether, how and in what circumstances transparency can make a difference informed the new strategy; and, hear more about how DFID’s transparency commitments are expected to shift the politics and incentives that are at the heart of governance-related challenges. 

Next up, some thoughts about the Open Society Foundations’ new strategy on open, accountable and equitable fiscal governance.

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Open Budgets: Backsliding and the use of budget data https://www.globalintegrity.org/2018/01/open-budgets-backsliding-and-the-use-of-budget-data/ https://www.globalintegrity.org/2018/01/open-budgets-backsliding-and-the-use-of-budget-data/#respond Wed, 31 Jan 2018 15:19:25 +0000 http://www.globalintegrity.org/?p=19945

January 31, 2018

Alan Hudson, Executive Director

TL/DR: Greater attention to the use and impact of budget data – as well as its availability – might support more sustainable progress towards more open budgets that facilitate the tracking and shaping of public resource flows.

The launch of the International Budget Partnership’s Open Budget Survey has been a big date in the calendar of campaigners for transparency and open government since its launch in 2006. This year is no exception, with the survey findings published yesterday (30th January) revealing significant backsliding, particularly amongst countries in Sub-Saharan Africa. Faced with these findings, the International Budget Partnership (IBP) and other organizations working to support progress towards more open fiscal governance, are confronted with a challenge: understanding why backsliding is occurring, and figuring out how to sustain progress towards more open budgets.

This post offers one explanatory hypothesis which we think could be useful to explore. That is, that the risk of backsliding is greater when there is less use of, and demand for, budget data. And, conversely, that when governments make available data that citizens and other players in the accountability ecosystem can really use to track and shape the flow of public resources in relation to problems they care about, this can set in motion a virtuous circle of data availability, data use, and impact.

Backsliding on open budgets is certainly a cause for concern, not least in the context of challenges to democracy and open governance in many countries around the world, including the USA. But the release of the 2017 Open Budget Survey (OBS) also presents an opportunity for organizations focused on open fiscal governance to consider whether it might be worth giving greater attention to questions of data use and impact, in addition to assessing levels of budget transparency and the scope for participation.

A simple and straightforward approach to broadening the analysis in this way would be to select a number of countries – backsliders and countries that are making steady progress towards more open budgets – and explore who is using budget data, what are they using it for, and whether it is providing them with useful information and insights. This would be in line with the helpful analysis in box 2.2, p.16 of the OBS, which focuses, by way of example, on three simple questions that people might turn to budget data to address: how much does my government propose to spend on health care?; is my government implementing the budget as it was approved by the legislature?; and, what is the government trying to achieve with the money it collects and spends?

A more dynamic and engaging approach would involve undertaking and supporting action research in specific countries. This would mean: working with stakeholders from civil society, government, and other actors in a given country to identify specific questions (or sectoral challenges) in relation to which they want to make use of data about the flow of public resources; and then supporting those stakeholders as they actively explore, through a structured action research and learning process, whether they are able to find the data that they need.

Such an approach would build on IBP South Africa’s pioneering bottom-up open budget survey, reported on in IBP’s Annual Report for 2014. In this initiative, IBP and local partners’ starting point was specific challenges in the sanitation and education sectors. They used the bottom-up survey to assess whether civil society organizations were able to find the budget data that they needed to track resource flows to that sector (See also this piece from Public Service Accountability Monitor, noting that despite high open budget ratings in South Africa it can be hard to find the data that is needed to track the flow of public resources in a suitably disaggregated manner).

This approach would also build on the survey conducted by IBP in 2016 on how civil society uses budget information. However, the approach we are proposing would go beyond a survey, emphasizing instead action research, accompanying the efforts of various stakeholders to track resources in relation to specific challenges. This is an approach which has strong similarities with our recent work with Making All Voices Count grantees in Africa and Asia. Such an approach might fit well with the action research planned as part of IBP’s emerging Strengthening Public Accountability for Results and Knowledge (SPARK) program.

The approaches outlined above – both the dynamic action research variant, and the more static assessment of who is using budget data, for what and with what impact – provide ways of exploring the hypothesis that progress is more likely, and backsliding is less likely, when there is not only the capacity and willingness to produce key budget documents and the data therein, but when stakeholders – including government stakeholders – find the data useful and as a result express their demand for continued, and additional, publication. This can play an important role in building and strengthening coalitions pushing for greater transparency and openness – for instance through the Open Government Partnership – and enabling such coalitions to shift the political dynamics and incentives for reform.

We’re looking forward to discussing, with IBP and others, why budget backsliding is occurring, and what might be done to address it. A stronger focus on the use and impact of data would build on the recognition on p.14 of this year’s Open Budget Survey that “no one cares about budget documents or transparency scores per se”. What really matters, as IBP make clear, is the budget information that is made available for citizens – as well as other stakeholders in the accountability ecosystem – so that they can track and shape the use of public resources.

Reshaping the Open Budget Survey to focus additional attention on the use and impact of budget data would be a bold move, but one that has the potential to support virtuous cycles of data availability, use, and impact, and – by shifting incentives and nudging the political dynamics – to drive faster progress towards open budgets that really do transform lives. We’d be happy to help, facilitating collaborative learning and action in and across countries about the use of budget data, or, more ambitiously, about the use of joined-up data on aid, extractives revenues, contracts, illicit financial flows, tax and – most importantly – results!

Global Integrity’s work on data, use and impact

At Global Integrity, we think that assessments that focus on the availability of data, or the space for participation, are most helpful when complemented by assessments of the usefulness, use, and impact of data in relation to specific problems or challenges that local stakeholders confront. This is the angle we’ve taken in our “Treasure Hunts” work on fiscal governance in Mexico and plan to take as regards the use of open contracting data. Our work on governance assessments is also evolving in this way, as we increasingly focus on generating information that is useful for local stakeholders, rather than simply conducting cross-country comparisons against benchmarks of assumed best practice. (See, for instance,“Toward governance assessments 2.0”).

In a similar vein, we’re pleased to be playing our part in the evolution of the open data agenda, working with colleagues at organizations including the Open Data Charter (see their 2018 focus on “publishing with purpose”), the Transparency and Accountability Initiative, the Latin American Open Data Initiative (see Fabrizio Scrollini’s recent piece on the impact gap, echoing Tim Davies’ earlier comments on open data as strategy), and the Open Contracting Partnership, to support and encourage a stronger focus on the use of data to address specific problems.

As a contribution to this evolving debate, we set out a proposal for collectively exploring “how data can make a difference”, an exploration which could initially involve organizations focused on open fiscal governance, perhaps with the Open Gov Hub and its networks providing a suitable forum. To us and many others, greater attention to the use of data offers a way of trying to close the “impact gap”, so that data – including budget data – really does make a difference. (See also this awesome piece recently published in the Stanford Social Innovation Review on “Can measures change the world?” which, amongst other things, makes the important point that the path from data to impact does not always lead through accountability).

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Defending Democracy: Populism and Corruption https://www.globalintegrity.org/2018/01/defending-democracy-populism-and-corruption/ https://www.globalintegrity.org/2018/01/defending-democracy-populism-and-corruption/#respond Wed, 17 Jan 2018 21:27:49 +0000 http://www.globalintegrity.org/?p=19963

January 17, 2018

Nada Zohdy, Director – Open Gov Hub

***This post was originally published on the Open Gov Hub’s blog on January 16, 2018***


The second installment in the “Democracy Dialogues” series presented by the Open Gov Hub, Global Integrity, Sunlight Foundation, and Transparency International.

Several countries throughout Europe – as well as the United States – have witnessed a recent surge of populist movements. At the same time, these populist sentiments are sometimes harnessed and manipulated by politicians to consolidate their own personal wealth and power, and in doing so serve to further corruption (defined as the abuse of entrusted power for private gain).

How is it that leaders are able to assume power or entrench their own wealth and power on the backs of broad-based popular sentiments from the masses, who are often poorer and facing depressed economic circumstances? In other words, how are fears of the other stoked to win popular support by candidates whose policies in fact may counter the economic self-interest of struggling citizens?

This event seeks to explore why populism has emerged both in the United States and in Europe, and the relationship of populism to to various forms of corruption (including kleptocracy). It will also address the international linkages between populist sentiments spreading and between international money flows facilitating corruption across boundaries, and the ways in which Western governments or other actors may enable corrupt actors in other countries. We will explore ideas for how to counter populist narratives that enable corruption, both in Europe and at home here in the United States by examining these and other questions:

  • Why are we seeing a surge of populism in Europe and the United States today, including in some cases populism with a nativist bent (that stokes targeting of immigrants, minorities and communities perceived as other)?
  • What is the relationship between populism and corruption?
  • How can the link between populism and international corruption help us understand phenomena like Brexit and the rise of Trump?
  • How can activists combating populism-enabled corruption be more effective in their work?
  • What are the consequences of populism on the state of democracy, including for the civil rights and liberties of targeted communities in particular and of all citizens/residents in general?

Join us to learn from several panelists from both sides of the Atlantic about why and how to respond to populism and its connections with domestic and international/transnational corruption, at home and abroad.


This event will be moderated by Nada Zohdy, the Open Gov Hub Director.

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Democracy Defenders in Dialogue: Launch Event https://www.globalintegrity.org/2017/12/democracy-defenders-in-dialogue-launch-event/ https://www.globalintegrity.org/2017/12/democracy-defenders-in-dialogue-launch-event/#respond Sat, 16 Dec 2017 21:36:02 +0000 http://www.globalintegrity.org/?p=19971

December 16, 2018

Nada Zohdy, Director – Open Gov Hub

***This blog was originally published on Open Gov Hub’s blog on December 15, 2018***


What might American democracy defenders learn from actors in other countries who have leveraged investigative journalism techniques and advocacy to combat grand corruption?

The Open Gov HubGlobal IntegritySunlight Foundation, and Transparency International are pleased to present this launch event for the new Defending Democracy: Lessons from Around the World program. Join us to learn from powerful efforts to uncover and counter the international linkages between corruption and kleptocracy across boundaries/ borders, as we hear from visiting civil society leaders from Russia and Tunisia and leaders from the Organized Crime and Corruption Reporting Project, which was heavily involved in the recent Paradise Papers leak.

This event will put American and international civil society leaders in conversation to learn from one another about the strategies and tactics that have (and have not) worked to combat corruption through journalism. In particular, we’ll explore:

  • From Panama to the Paradise Papers: What is the ‘special sauce’ that helps international networks of investigative journalists achieve tremendous success?
  • How can journalists and anti-corruption advocates collaborate to achieve greater impact?
  • How can everyday citizens be involved in processes to tackle corruption?

As the launch event for the Defending Democracy Program, all speakers and discussants will be asked to reflect on how lessons from international contexts may be applicable to the state of American democracy today. This discussion will cue up subsequent “democracy dialogue” conversations throughout 2018 that will highlight other relevant examples from abroad to help inform the efforts of American democracy advocates.


Moderator: Zoë Reiter, Transparency International


  • Paul Radu, Organized Crime and Corruption Reporting Project (OCCRP)
  • Drew Sullivan, OCCRP
  • Marina Walker Guevera, International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ)
  • Ilia Shumanov, Transparency International-Russia


  • John Wonderlich, Sunlight Foundation
  • Danielle Brian, Project on Government Oversight

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Supporting local learning and adaptation – Unpacking the effectiveness of adaptive processes https://www.globalintegrity.org/2017/12/supporting-local-learning-and-adaptation/ https://www.globalintegrity.org/2017/12/supporting-local-learning-and-adaptation/#respond Wed, 13 Dec 2017 15:00:46 +0000 http://www.globalintegrity.org/?p=19689 December 13, 2017

Michael Moses, Director of Programs and Learning – Global Integrity and Sue Soal, independent consultant

When it comes to improving the effectiveness of governance reform efforts, there is an emerging consensus on the importance of local ownership, as well as growing interest in the potential and applicability of adaptive programming.

Despite this, many donors and multilaterals that seek to support governance reform continue to employ linear, compliance-driven project and program management frameworks. As a result, implementers and local partners are often limited in the extent to which they can reflect, learn, and adapt as they navigate the complex political contexts in which they work.

This disconnect between what is known, and what persists in practice, is driven by several lingering questions: Are adaptive approaches effective? What do they look like, in practice? And how might external actors support their application?

In Learning to Make All Voices Count (L-MAVC), Global Integrity explored these questions, working with six grantees in five countries (Indonesia, the Philippines, Kenya, Tanzania, and South Africa), to apply a learning-centered, adaptive project management methodology to their work to open governance in their contexts.

Grantees rigorously documented every step of their adaptive learning journeys, and at the conclusion of the program, distilled short case stories capturing the key features of their L-MAVC experience. L-MAVC therefore offers six evidence-based examples of adaptive learning in practice. Taken together, these projects, and the program as a whole, are a small laboratory, a collection of experiments that explore how to work adaptively in pursuit of governance reform, and whether doing so supports the achievement of results.

The evidence from L-MAVC suggests that adaptive ways of working can in fact strengthen the impact and effectiveness of efforts to open governance. This is especially so when three conditions are met:

  • Implementers proactively interrogate their assumptions, and engage with local stakeholders, and the contexts in which they are working;
  • adaptive ways of working are integrated into existing systems and procedures in implementing organizations; and
  • implementing organizations are able to maintain staff continuity.

For more on these conditions, and whether and how external actors – donors, INGOs, and multi-stakeholder initiatives, among others – can encourage their emergence, see our new policy brief, now available here.

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