TAI Weekly

TAI Weekly | Conference Room vs Barricades
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TAI Weekly is taking a short break for the holidays.  We will be back with a bumper edition on January 14th. In the meantime, enjoy this week’s digest. Sending best wishes for the holidays and for a more transparent and accountable 2020!

Conference room vs barricades


Image Credit: @GPSA_org

Are we missing out on an accountability revolution? Naomi Hossain reflects on discussions at the recent Global Partnership for Social Accountability (GPSA) Forum and fears those of us caught up in the aid industry are failing to adequately account for both the risks for those challenging specific interests and the new dynamics of cross-class alliances among the non-rich that are bringing people to the streets. She argues that social accountability should be about creating channels for communication and spaces where grievances can be aired and addressed. Hence, each new protest is a sign of institutional failure.  

Turning to a GPSA holy grail of sectoral uptake, more encouraging news that the Global Partnership for Education’s new funding call is explicitly interested in efforts to promote transparency and accountability of national education sector policy. (Application details here.)

What of the accountability of development finance institutions themselves? Check out  Publish What You Fund’s  DFI Transparency Initiative, which aims to create an actionable framework that DFIs can use to better share information publicly. Time to unpick the commercial sensitivity arguments as has been done for open contracting?

Not that those arguments have fully won the day. In Kenya those seeking to assess the contract between the Kenyan government and China Road and Bridge Corporation (CRBC) for a Sh327 billion standard gauge railway (SGR) hit a dead end as the contractor refuses to provide key information protected by the confidentiality clauses in the deal. This as the Kenyan government has to mobilize Sh35 billion in supplementary budget for a project loan repayment to China’s Exim Bank. Meanwhile, CSOs want the US congress to hold the International Finance Corporation’s (IFC) accountable before approving the $5.5 billion proposed capital increase.


Protest driven

What is bringing people on to the streets from Hong Kong to Iran to Chile? Alina Rocha Menocal looks at what protests around the world have in common, the pressing need for democracies to deliver on inclusion and equality, and how to overcome polarization. She suggests two needs that governments must address. One, finding ways to promote inclusive governance that enables marginalized or excluded groups to have greater voice and influence on decision- and policy-making processes. Two, helping democracies to deliver on critical needs and expectations of the population in more equitable ways. So, no easy wins then.

CIVICUS agree that 2019 has been a year fought on the streets and in the face of growing repression. The review of 2019 CIVICUS Monitor data does not make for pretty reading and further reminds of the continued urgency of the situation facing so many activists. Not that there are not brighter spots. Devin MacGoy argues that Romanian civil society has proved its strength and citizens are more politically engaged now than ever before. That bodes well to promote a culture of democracy (and accountability).

What of those working in fragile and conflict affected settings (where many of the most recent protests have been concentrated)? See TAI Spotlight below re prospects in Iraq. More broadly, International Budget Partnership believes shrinking civic space requires special tactics to help the marginalized. K4D review what is effective in helping civil society engage in peace processes, while Patrick Blessinger, Enakshi Sengupta and Craig Mahoney call on higher education to help us shape a better civil society.

Of course, even doing research in fragile settings can be dangerous, so intrigued to see reflections on what support is in place for researchers.

Image Credit: ArmstrongEconomics


Quote of the week
“There are revolutions ‘from above’, revolutions ‘from below’ and also the mysterious revolutions ‘from abroad’ where foreign assistance is a major revolutionary force. How successful they are (and could be) in their attempts to improve the governance of foreign countries is the fundamental question this very important and thoroughly researched book has dared to answer.”

– Ivan Krastev, Chairman of the Centre for Liberal Strategies, Sofia and Institut für die Wissenschaften vom Menschen (IWM), Vienna.


Participate in the TAI photo contest to promote conversation around transparency and accountability issues.


Fix me or my machine?

What of digital threats? Mozilla Open Web Fellow, Aurum Linh makes a case for why it is vital for litigators and technologists to work together to dismantle the drivers of surveillance-based business models and hold those applying harmful tech to account. Tina Sikka wonders if we should reject technologies and revolt against public health models whose sole objective is data collection, surveillance, and sales.

Meanwhile, Sendhil Mullainathan argues that it is easier to change data algorithms than to change people’s attitudes. That may be some cause for hope in addressing bias in decision making by algorithm.

Data oriented CSOs who are looking to be more involved or helpful in litigation on artificial intelligence and human rights can take this short survey.

Building on Europe’s recently enacted privacy protections, India charts a new path on digital privacy as it prepares to pass a legislation that places restriction on how corporations can collect and use information. But some lawyers say the bill will move India closer to China, where the internet is tightly overseen by the government.

Long Read:  Appropriate use of data in public space

Image Credit: Dutch Digital Government Initiative

This sextet of essays by Nederland Digital Government examines relevant legal and ethical framework for data reuse. Find answers to key questions like: Who owns the data that is being collected in public space? How can resident or visitor in that space take more control over data and technology? How can government get the most out of data and technology while at the same time protecting social values?


Normative shifts

Shifting implicit biases is hard as is shifting behavioral norms, but not impossible. Elizabeth Robinson argues that we should be more proactively using social media to change corrupt behaviors.  In Nigeria, a radio show helps ordinary Nigerians take on officials to account. In Pakistan, the recently launched ‘Report Corruption Mobile App’ is designed to enable the general public report corruption against anybody. (Time for more sharing of cost-benefit analyses of such reporting schemes?).

Staying in Pakistan, the National Crime Agency secured £190m in ‘dirty money’ from the family of one of Pakistan’s wealthiest businessmen. Meanwhile, Open Ownership has been hard at work in Armenia where beneficial ownership data is now at the heart of the country’s anti-corruption strategy. Moldova is already reaping the benefit of its transparent e-procurement system, MTender, which saved the country $27.5m in public contracts within two year. Good progress as 70% of users finds the e-procurement platform useful for their work. And of course, there are some challenges to read up on.

We promised an update, and, yes the Nigeria Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative did unveil a beneficial ownership register for extractive companies operating in Nigeria this past week. Meanwhile, the Sydney Morning Herald calls for more investigations in the extractive industries to “dig out corruption” as Erica Westenberg, Descartes Mponge Malasi and Patrick Heller flag the corruption risks and challenges for sourcing the minerals needed for production of electric and other sorts of vehicles.


Powering down

TAI members fund a lot of international NGOs doing a lot of amazing work.  They share a claimed interest in helping empower local groups and actors, but just as we ask if funders are ready to relinquish power to grantees, are INGOs ready to give up power? Deborah Doane lays out the power dynamics among INGOs and southern civil society. She thinks the local (stigmatized) NGO may need to find ways to take power, rather than wait for it to be ‘shifted’ to them.

Co-Executive Directors of the Whitman Institute, John Esterle and Pia Infante, advocate for foundations to move away from command-and-control style relationship with grantees to giving the non-profits they support more decision-making power. Find more reasons from donors on why it is important to cede decision-making power to those affected by the outcomes. Pair with Ruth Levine call to global philanthropists to balance giving and purpose with a healthy dose of humility and introspection.

What can participatory programing learn from market systems analysis? USAID offer insights on market segmentation for democracy and good governance programming.

We’re excited to see the Center for Effective Global Action partnering with Ghana Institute of Management and Public Administration and others to connect researchers and policy makers in West Africa with US academics around impact evaluation, including strengthening the economics curriculum at GIMPA to train future academics.

Talking of evaluation, the Natural Resource Governance Institute sets a positive example of sharing the evaluation of its work in the past five years. While the Westminster Foundation for Democracy shares their journey towards becoming a learning organization.

Still need a guide to the Randomized Controlled Trials evidence debates? Vox has some explanation

Essential ListeningWhose Data Is It Anyway? Collaboration in Digital Health

As healthcare innovation foster collaboration between healthcare and tech companies, McDermott partners Jiayan Chen and Jennifer S. Geetter explore key legal concerns on data privacy and their impact on digital health collaborations, the role of regulators in regulating data use, as well as common questions about secondary use and identifiable and de-identified data.


Digital chat for digital tax

Kudos to Tax Justice Network for organizing a virtual global tax rights conference this past week around the technical and political analyses of international tax reform. We assume it was quicker to organize, generated fewer emissions, more inclusive. (We look forward to gut checking those assumptions with the organizers.) Despite the format, participants did find points of consensus ranging from problem recognition – the global distribution of taxing rights is unjust, and deeply so – through to there being ‘no turning back’ on either the shift to a unitary approach, or on the political imperative of addressing global taxing rights. Alex Cobham argues that too many people know about the injustices in the global taxation system now for change not to happen.

What will that change translate to? Martin Hearson and Rasmus Corline see an uncertain future of global corporate taxation.  What we do know is that  OECD tax revenues stagnated in 2018, with nearly no change from 2017 in terms of tax to GDP ratios of member countries. This could be an extra motivation for all to pursue the much-awaited tax reforms to its conclusions.

Finally, the OECD held a public consultation in Paris, providing a forum for stakeholders to express their views on how to best design the global anti-base erosion (GloBE) tax. Second convening will be on March 2020 with the goal of having an Inclusive Framework by June or July 2020. If you are a tax activist, make the most of the holiday break – all energies will be needed in the new year!


TAI Spotlight: Peer Influence – Exploring relationships in a grantee network
Peers of Influence: Exploring Relationships in a Grantee Network – Transparency and Accountability Initiative
What follow up conversations to smarter grantmaking can funders and program officers explore to nurture “smart” relationship among their grantees? Our Monitoring, Evaluation, and Learning fellow, Mavra Zehra shares influence grantees can exert on each other and how to capture the influence that happens in a network.Building capacity for diversity, equity, and inclusion – Hewlett Foundation
How can nonprofits build stronger muscles around diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI)? Jennifer Wei, the Organizational Effectiveness Officer in the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation’s Effective Philanthropy Group and Jasmine Sudarkasa Program Fellow, Effective Philanthropy Group shares lessons in grantmaking from two years of organizational effectiveness grants related to building for DEI.

Betting on the most promising news organisations in Latin America – Luminate
At a time in which democracy is being threatened in Latin America, find out how Luminate’s Velocidad fund is supporting free press  and helping citizens to hold power to account in
the region.  The program is led by SembraMedia and ICFJ.

An Iraq for all Iraqis – to a new form of governance – Open Society Foundations
A rising generation of Iraqis are demanding more form their government as youth-led protest mounts over corruption and joblessness. “Systemic change should not be held hostage to constitutional rupture or the loss of any more lives. Change must start now in support of a transition to a new form of governance, which can then build on its own progress,” says Yassir Khudayri, an Aryeh Neier Fellow with the Open Society Justice Initiative.


Calls and job listings

Job postings at International Budget Partnership (M&E positions too) – Ongoing
BetterTogether Challenge for innovators – Ongoing
Co-Impact Director of Programs and Learning – Ongoing
Managing Director of Programs and Learning – Ongoing
Democracy Fund: Sr. Associate, Strategy & Learning – Ongoing
IMF Anti-Corruption Challenge – December 20, 2019
Research Fellow and Lead Researcher for ICTD for DIGITAX programme – January 5, 2020
TAI Seek Evaluation Partner  – January 9, 2020
TAI Photo Grant – January 13, 2020
Call for proposals for Education Out Loud transnational advocacy grants – January 31, 2020
WinterSchool for Thinktankers at Geneva, Switzerland – February 2-8, 2020
$2.5 million support for 32 partner research projects on health, water and sanitation, agriculture, and economic growth in developing countries – February 10, 2020
From Open to Inclusive Government: Global Innovate and Learn grant – February 14, 2020
Proposal Submission for the 2020 Summer Evaluation Institute – June 7-10, 2020
Human Rights Litigation Summer School at Berlin, Germany – June 8-12, 2020
Amartya Sen Essay Contest 2020: Illicit financial flows – August 31, 2020




The Impacts of Civic Tech Conference (TICTeC) – March 24 – 25, 2020 (Reykjavik, Iceland)
Frontiers of Social Innovation: People, Power & Resources: The Redistribution Wave – 12-14 May 2020 (Stanford University, California, USA)
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)
International Open Data Conference –November 18-20, 2020 (Nairobi, Kenya)