Recently, the Dutch NGO Cordaid became a member of IATI, the latest step in a long-standing commitment to transparency and open data.
Cordaid have been publishing data to the IATI Standard since 2013, and last year launched an Open Data Dashboard, a map interface that enables users to access data through a series of map and chart interfaces.
We spoke to Roderick Besseling, Cordaid’s Open Data Coordinator about what motivates Cordaid’s transparency vision and what they see as the impact of their open data.
Congratulations on becoming a member of IATI, what was the motivation for taking this step?
Being one of the first organisations in the Netherlands to publish and use IATI data ourselves, it only seemed like the logical step that we not only support the IATI initiative financially but that we also take an active role to promote and support the use of IATI among other stakeholders. We are also keen to continue to develop the standard and encourage more stakeholders to not only publish but use IATI data.
Cordaid believes that the use of IATI and open data in the international development sector challenges the status quo and demands a paradigm shift in the way all stakeholders work. Through the use of IATI, we all become more accountable and transparent, fostering an environment of cooperation and collaboration. Only then, can we actually address the complex realities in which we work and involve all stakeholders in creating sustainable solutions.
What have been the benefits for Cordaid of opening up data through IATI?
One of the biggest beneficiaries of using IATI and open data in general has been Cordaid itself. IATI has provided us with a project documentation framework which we use for communications, fundraising and programming. We have embedded the use of IATI within the organisation and it has become the standard framework in which we share project information and project knowledge.
It has also helped us to build a reputation for being a transparent, accountable and data driven organisation that promotes the use of open development throughout its work. This has aided us to better communicate our projects to our private and institutional donors.
Cordaid works with many partners around the world, how do you involve them in the IATI process?
Cordaid actively promotes the use of IATI with all the partners it works with but also realises that there are technical and capacity barriers that prevent all stakeholders in taking part. Where possible we provide technical support for our local partners to publish to IATI. We also inform all our stakeholders, be it national governments, local partners or funders, that we will publish project information to IATI.
What do you see as the next step in Cordaid’s work on open data?
Like many organisations, we are looking to better document and record results within the IATI data set and make the information relevant and meaningful. This is, of course, not an easy task and I think many stakeholders are struggling with this aspect at the moment.
We also want to support and promote other open data initiatives and embed them in our organisational processes, such as Open Contracting, Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (EITI) and Humanitarian Exchange Language (HXL).
Finally, do you have any advice for other NGOs who are seeking to improve their transparency?
Just start publishing. The more you publish, the more you learn. Don’t be afraid to publish your first project to IATI. Be proud of the work you do, let others see the work you are doing, let your own staff see the work they are doing. Only by starting to publish and becoming more transparent will you improve the IATI process for your own organisation. But most importantly, see open data as a means to an end and not the end in itself. See open data as the tool to achieve something – as the evidence upon which to make decisions. Use your own data, use other organisations’ data, and if that data is not good enough, encourage them to publish more and support them if you can.
If you’re interested in learning more about how your organisation can become more transparent, publishing to IATI or becoming a member of the initiative, visit the website www.aidtransparency.net or contact firstname.lastname@example.org.