Facilitators: Transparency and Accountability Initiative (TAI)
September 29, 2018

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The Transparency and Accountability Initiative (TAI) is a collaborative of leading funders of transparency, accountability, and civic participation (TAP) interventions around the world. Our members are Ford Foundation, Hewlett Foundation, MacArthur Foundation, Omidyar Network, Open Society Foundations, and the UK Department for International Development. TAI helps our members increase the collective impact of their work and galvanize support for ambitious new ideas.

Civil society organizations around the world increasingly face challenges to their operations, including restrictions to their ability to assemble, associate, and express themselves. TAI’s members wanted to know what is already being tried to combat this trend.

Accordingly, TAI created a compendium of resources detailing the efforts of grantees and funders alike to mitigate the consequences of closing civic space. These hopefully serve as inspiration, but collating may also help pinpoint remaining gaps and unmet needs in the sector.

With these examples organized in one site, TAI wanted to reflect on how to make this useful to as many as possible. While the compendium is designed for funders working on transparency and accountability, the resources featured are more generic. How can this resource serve practitioners (and potentially researchers) more broadly?

This Labstorm explored strategies and actions to ensure that it is a useful, responsive repository that is safe for users while providing actionable insights to funders.

  1. Toolkits are like toothbrushes, you only want to use your own. There are many tools and resources available for nonprofits, so TAI created a compendium that aggregated the resources they found, as well as those recommended to them. This resonated with Labstorm participants.
  2. Solving problems is a team issue. When designing resources, consider all of the problem solvers, including funders, grantees, and peer organizations. We know that solving complex problems in transparency and accountability does not take one step or one actor, so there is an emphasis on the key actors in each strategy – whether it takes funder action, grantee action, or both.
  3. Disseminate in the direction the wind already blows. If you want a tool to create immediate value in existing workflows, ask your intended user how they have solved problems in the past, and ensure your resource follows that path, or can be tailored to do so. Grantee organizations frequently have limited bandwidth- by placing a product right into their existing problem-solving protocol we can make sure it helps without siphoning off time from programs. If your intended users are already active on social sharing sites, such as Whatsapp or Facebook Messenger, consider providing sharable “bites of information” to fit into that existing channel.
  4. Recognize the value in a tool that draws its strength from chaos. In spite of the push to maximize efficiency and reduce redundancy, many organizations and social movements still find strength in receiving information from a variety of sources and taking action across an array of platforms. This has been especially true in recent social movements, therefore leaning into this chaos and using the existing momentum to work towards a truly peer-to-peer resource could be beneficial towards the goal of dissemination.
  5. Design for all users safely. When providing resources to those doing dangerous work, you need to make sure all users benefit from your tool, and are not put at risk by using it. This will entail good network and data security, as well as thoughtfulness around reporting on usage. You also need to be intentional about who your user is and how your product will benefit them, and if you have two different audiences, think about how two products, with the same content but different approach, could be useful to each.

We had a great time hosting the Transparency and Accountability Initiative for LabStorm and we are energized by the conversation. Do you have advice as to how to ensure transparency in feedback loops? Let us know in the comments or email us at [email protected]

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