TAI Weekly

TAI Weekly | November 12, 2019
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In case you missed it…

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Flashes in the pan
Image: Katie Loncke from Buddhist Peace Fellowship

TAI members continue to be intrigued by failures to translate popular frustration at exposed corruption into lasting reform (with more research in the works). New analysis of corruption reporting in Nigeria over the past two elections only complicates the picture. Volume of coverage did increase, but still much of it is scandal driven. The Anti-Corruption Evidence team could not draw direct links between media reporting of corruption and actions taken by relevant government bodies.

However, authorities might want to follow reporting a little more closely if they care about taxpayer monies. Read how using investigative journalism and right to information laws helped uncover a counterfeiting scheme and saved Bangladesh hundreds of thousands of US dollars. Meanwhile, Armenia is taking steps to ensure transparency of beneficial ownership data to help curb money laundering and corruption. More reasons for optimism? Anne Wrede offers four: Corruption is now on the agenda, young people are demanding action, technology offers new tools, and more people are joining the fight.

Sadly, there is much still to lament. Ukrainian activists are demanding justice one year after the death of anti-corruption activist Kateryna Handziuk from an acid attack, while Kenya’s chief justice is lashing out over budget cuts set to undermine the country’s court system and hamper an anti-corruption drive.

With the Global Partnership for Social Accountability Forum just a couple of weeks away, Transparency International’s Patricia Moreira’s lays out why the World Bank should be doing more to engage with civil society organizations at the national and global levels.

Essential Listening: Undercurrents: Illicit Financial Flows, and Geopolitics in the Indo-Pacific

Luminate Managing Director for Africa, Ory Okolloh discussed how illicit financial flows can lead to civic disengagement on Chatham House’s new podcast, Undercurrent. According to Ory, “Africa alone is estimated to lose 20% minimum of its trade revenues to people not declaring their profits.”


In our previous weekly, we highlighted the all too prevalent risks journalists face. This time around, we focus on the risks of retaining relevance amid the prevalence of fake news worldwide. Investigative reporter, Tina Kaiser offer publishers and reporters tips on how they can build trust and credibility with their audience. More lessons from three newsrooms — RapplerThe Quint, and Daily Maverick – on how media organisations can maintain sustainable connection with their audiences

Credible and compelling stories also are part of the activist arsenal. For the latest approaches, check out Mobilisation Lab’s 21st-Century Advocacy Playbook and for those near Washington DC come to our upcoming Storytelling and the Future of Advocacy discussion.

Enjoy a different form of story in these 17 “radical visions” of the future of government. Can governments revitalize the delivery of public services and inspire trust in public institutions? (Given theses visions are based on the British context, it apparently requires the leap to year 2030 to even have hope of seeing past Brexit).

Also, check out lessons learned on defending democracy drawn from twelve case studies from around the world.


Tech threat
Talking of saving democracy, Laleh Ispahani of Open Society Foundations says it’s time to take on Facebook’s monopoly power, while Julia Carrie Wong worries that the debate over political ads  ignores 90% of Facebook’s users globally.  If the social media giant says it does not want to be the one to constrain speech or news in a democracy, she finds the firm persistently silent on what to do in non-democratic contexts (a significant share of the user base).  

Recognizing the trends, Graciela Selaimen of Ford Foundation draws our attention to the new online surveillance battleground in Brazil. She is asking philanthropy organization to step forward to protect democracy in the cyberspace.

Elsewhere, as Sudan embarks on a three-year transition toward democracy and civilian rule, Mohamed Suliman ask transitional authorities to consider reforms aimed at promoting and protecting the right to privacy.  Analysts in India are also worried that the government’s plan to install a nationwide facial recognition system could lead to social policing and control without a data protection law.

Not that all data sharing is automatically a bad thing, but stronger data governance would help. Facebook’s commitment to share data with academics is faltering. Perhaps they could take some tips from GovLab’s new report on how to leverage private data for public good and Maria Savona’s recommendations for policy considerations and a research agenda that could shape the future structure of data governance more at large.

Oh, and don’t forget your own digital safety. You may have been protecting your password and digital footprints all wrong. Good to check these resources courtesy of Alex Hern.


Billionaire math

From digital protection to digitation taxation. The OECD revealed details of its proposed second pillar of reforms to global digital taxation. It will allow home countries to charge a minimum level of tax on big tech and other large multinationals even if they try and shield profits in tax havens. As with the proposals last month on unitary taxation, do not expect agreement on who wins and loses, especially over the consequences for poorer countries.

While the OECD process trundles on in search of consensus, Tax Justice Africa held discussions on how African countries can effectively tax the digitalized economy. What’s the solution? An African tax coordination platform where unitary and alternative minimum taxes play a part. Maybe more could be done to tax Africa’s hi-net worth individuals? Could other countries take a leaf from the US wealth tax debates and replicate the calculator for billionaires? Let the ultra-rich see what they would owe under proposed rate hikes. It’s unlikely UBS will be encouraging their clients to use it as they come out with a (conveniently self-serving) defense of the economic contribution of billionaires.

Meanwhile, Nick Shaxon highlights the parallels between monopolies exploitation of tax competition and of users’ data. Monopolies and tax havens make for a bad combination for workers and societies [beware this is a long read]. Mauricio Cardenas would likely agree given that his concern that the competition to lower corporate taxes is incompatible with government desires to achieve the SDGs.

Returning to digital, but this time of the currency kind, we find more shady dealings. Hannah Lucinda Smith explores the crypto-rush along the old Soviet border regions in Eastern Europe. Well governed it is not and probably not what blockchain enthusiasts would want to highlight. Instead, they will likely encourage you to check out this visual of theoretically more positive real world applications of blockchain from government contracting to digital id.

While much the world is catching on and disclosing mining contracts and licenses, Indonesia’s government seems to be holding out and actively resisting. Hundreds of CSOs in Indonesia are protesting to demand an investigation into the death of an activist lawyer who spoke out against a Belt and Road hydropower project, claiming that he may have been a target for opposing the damn. In another Belt and Road project, Myanmar is working with China to build other infrastructure projects, but at the same time, facing challenges to win over a skeptical public.


Hard to come out on top
New analysis from the Center for Global Development suggests there are few women in senior roles at US think tanks. Our ten minutes of scanning the lists of think tanks’ stated “governance experts” suggests the balance may be a little better but there is still a male predominance.

Françoise Girard, president of the International Women’s Health Coalition, is asking philanthropy organization focused on women’s rights to think beyond “women empowerment” and invest directly in women’s movements around the globe. Her argument? “If even a fraction of US foundations acknowledged the critical role of consciousness-raising, coalition-building, and advocacy—and funded accordingly—we could be exponentially closer to achieving women’s rights.” Girard is frustrated at the persistence of project funding versus core, long term support, so might be cheered that 5 foundations (including 4 TAI members) have come together to devise a way to stop the ‘starvation’ cycle among their grantees.

For his part, Jeff Raikes, co-founder of the Raikes Foundation, is calling  on CEOs and philanthropic leaders who have profited from systemic inequality to listen to the individuals who have been most harmed by it. He asked us to discover how shifting from generosity to justice can transform our society (more on this from Ford Foundation in the TAI Spotlight section).

Hear from grantees of the Segal Family Foundation on what they are looking for in a funder. How does this match with what you look for from, say, TAI members? The Segal grantees touch on some of the same themes highlighted in TAI’s Smarter Grantmaking for Grantees guide – asking tough questions, exchanging ideas, and more. 

As a donor collaborative we are always living change in the donor community, so enjoyed reading the history of Nesta’s evolution from small ‘quango’ to large impact investor.
Finally, to help us reduce the amount of bad events we put on, the OpenGov Hub has released version 2 of the Guide to Great Events. Hope you use it.


TAI spotlight: States of Change
States of Change | Open Society Foundations
A new study conducted across seven Central and Eastern European countries shows how citizens feel about freedom of speech, democracy, the media, the market economy, and rule of law in the former Eastern Bloc and Germany 30 years after the fall of the Berlin wall. Also, find out how the Foundation’s support helped to bring down the Iron Curtain at a time when few saw hope for democracy’s future in Europe.Using data to strengthen accountability | Transparency and Accountability Initiative
Read about the learning agenda on harnessing data for accountability with Global IntegrityPublic and Private Development Center (PPDC), and the Human and Environmental Development Agenda Resource Centre (HEDA). Learnings from this project will be used to inform the work of anti-corruption activists across the globe—beyond Nigeria and Colombia—so that, eventually, the field can learn to close the data impact gap.

Generosity to Justice | Ford Foundation
Hear from the many voices shaping the conversation around philanthropy today from Darren Walker’s new book “From Generosity to Justice A New Gospel of Wealth”.  Each chapter features conversations with leaders, thinkers, and activists from philanthropy, business, the arts, tech, and beyond and their bold visions for the future of philanthropy.

Pursuing equal, full citizenship rights for all Kenyans | Luminate

Stan Getui explains the importance of helping people to know, use and shape the laws that affect them and hence the value in supporting groups like Namati in East Africa.


Calls and job listings

Co-Impact Director of Programs and Learning – Ongoing
Global Integrity Managing Director of Programs and Learning – Ongoing
Democracy Fund: Sr. Associate, Strategy & Learning – Ongoing
Frontier Data Study – Global Stakeholder Survey – November 17, 2019
Mawazo Institute fellowship (for women pursuing PhDs at universities in East Africa) — November 22, 2019
Small Charities Challenge Fund for UK registered NGOs and Charities – November 28, 2019
WinterSchool for Thinktankers 2020 – December 1, 2019
TAI Photo Grant – January 13, 2020



Global Partnership for Social Accountability – Global Partners Forum 2019 – November 19-21, 2019 (Washington DC, United States) 
Storytelling and the future of advocacy in the 21st century – November 21, 2019 (Washington DC, United States)
Association for Research on Nonprofit Organizations and Voluntary Actions (ARNOVA) conference – November 21-23, 2019 (California, United States)
The Story Conference – November 27 – 29, 2019 (Melbourne, Australia)
The Impacts of Civic Tech Conference (TICTeC) – March 24 – 25, 2020 (Reykjavik, Iceland)
Transparency International: 19th International Anti-Corruption Conference – June 2 – 5, 2020 (Seoul, South Korea)
Women and Girls Africa Summit – June 9-12, 2020 (Durban, South Africa)
Amartya Sen Essay Contest 2020: Illicit financial flows – August 31, 2020