Oxfam GB commits to aid transparency initiative
This week we have a guest blog from Paul Clough, Head of International Finance at Oxfam GB.
Ahead of the 4th High Level Forum on Aid Effectiveness in South Korea, Oxfam GB has become one of the first INGOs to publish their data to the International Aid Transparency Initiative. Paul Clough, Head of International Finance at Oxfam GB talks us through their decision to publish in this way and looks at their next steps over the coming months.
Why publish Oxfam data?
Oxfam is committed to being accountable to our key stakeholders, in particular people living in poverty. For some time, we have wanted to support this commitment by publishing our programme data and IATI provided us with a common data format to work towards that will allow people to compare different organisations across the sector.
The decision to publish our data was also largely driven by our Open Information Policy which was updated in July this year. The policy states Oxfam’s commitment to proactively publish information in order to be transparent and accountable.
Publishing this information will also become a condition for receiving some funds from donors in future, including DFID.
What have we published so far?
Our first wave of published data includes most international projects that were active in 2010/11 and were not primarily programme support. The data covers currently 834 projects in 54 countries and contains both financial information and short descriptions.
In line with our new Open Information Policy and the Programme Partnership Arrangements we decided to publish data relating to all our international projects rather than just DFID-funded projects
Some projects have been omitted from publication to avoid any risk to staff security or any harm to our operations. All exclusions from publication are outlined in our Open Information policy.
In addition to the data we are sharing today, we’re also aware of the need to publish relevant project documents. In 2010 we published a selection of programme evaluations on our website for the first time. There are now 98 evaluation reports available to download on our site. We expect this number to grow towards 2013 as we strive to be more transparent about the impact of our programmes.
What were the challenges?
Oxfam is lucky to already have a single effective system that manages our projects, finances and donor contracts. However we still faced some tough decisions: which projects should be considered sensitive, was the quality of our data good enough and which parts should we publish first.
The technical challenge of converting the raw data into XML and mapping to IATI standards was greater than expected, but we overcame this hurdle.
Finally we faced the issue of how the information will be understood externally – the source of the data is from internal systems, designed for internal consumption using organisational terminology that may not be easily understood by an external audience.
Committing to publishing our data as it is on a rolling basis will help us to develop our internal systems to improve data extraction and validation processes, as well as the standard of data being added to the system. Knowing the data will ultimately go public should help with this process.
This is just the first step
By April 2013 we plan to expand the information on our projects and move to publishing at quarterly intervals rather than annually. We will also aim to improve the quality of the data published and reduce the level of exclusions.
We are also looking at doing some data visualisation work to support our accountability communications to stakeholders. We already do some of this in our annual reports but only at a global level, producing infographics from this data would be a great way to show how and where Oxfam is having an impact in the lives of poor people.
You can view the full Oxfam GB data set now via the IATI registry.