TAI Weekly

TAI Weekly | June 19, 2018
Print Page


  • Big data, corruption and the World Cup
  • Civil society in the 21st century
  • On money laundering – UK tightens visa laws; Delaware supports BO transparency
  • Rebuilding trust in media
  • The DON’Ts of doing development
  • Our blog: Why transparency of philanthropic funding matters?

In case you missed it…

Big data, corruption, and the World Cup

Photo: Fauzan Saari at Unsplash

 Brazil will be taking home the World Cup… or Germany. Sports companies are using big data to predict this year’s victor. Richard Gray explains how big data is revolutionizing sports analytics. But a reminder by the editorial team over at The Washington Post – “don’t let the World Cup mask Russia’s vast corruption”. Putin’s cronies (including those included in the US sanctions list) allegedly benefited from the $11 billion spent to prepare the country for the games. The real winner in this big spectacle? Vladimir Putin (himself not a big soccer fan) critics say, who hopes to improve the country’s image in the international arena. Here’s a complete guide to corruption at the 2018 World Cup for more information.

As we look at ways to build data use, relevance to what citizens care about is one critical factor. Hence the value of connecting to the World Cup, or, on a more somber note – people’s health. New US legislation seeks to open data on the opioid epidemic. Over in St. Petersburg, a new tool called St. Pete Stat, allows residents to access and interact with the city’s live data. Another helpful tool tracks development assistance for health from top European donors.

Those at the Global Open Data for Agriculture and Nutrition initiative lament the lack of open data and open access within the academic research community. Meanwhile, Visual Capitalist predicts that by 2019, 90% of large global companies will have a Chief Data Officer, and offer a nifty infographic on what their role will look like. How many major INGOs will be able to say the same?  Is it a problem if they don’t? Maybe so. Perhaps, something that should be on the Open Corporate Trust’s radar – we’re keen to explore their new innovative corporate structure.

Of course, access to data alone doesn’t bring change. We’ve previously featured CEGSS’ findings that government responds not to evidence alone, but to collective action spurred by community participation in the generation and presentation of evidence. Duncan Green asks an important question – why is this so? Why are testimonies and human narrative more influential than hard data? Perhaps something that the newly launched Open Government Network for Europe to consider. For ideas on how to use stories more effectively in driving and conveying impact, specifically in the transparency and accountability space, do check our latest report (if you haven’t already).

Civil society in the 21st century

Our weekly scan shows declining public trust and closing civic space as major concerns for the sector nowadays. Dan Cardinali offers three reasons behind the declining public trust in civil society in the US – rising inequality, shift in defining “community”, and increase in polarization. How will the sector adapt? Angela Glover Blackwell highlights the need to authentically engage diverse communities in an increasingly divided and exclusionary society. Check out the rest of the SSIR series on civil society.

Last week, various appeals have been submitted to the governments of Hungary, Thailand, Cambodia, and Nepal, condemning the repression of freedom of expression. Things aren’t looking up in Russia either. A new bill submitted to the State Duma in Russia seeks to prevent “foreign agents” and individuals from conducting independent investigations on corruption. What is the future of anti-corruption and pro-democracy movement in Russia? Wikitribune speaks with Russian dissident Nikita Kulachenkov. Saudi Arabia is also cracking down on human rights activists. Is democracy backsliding in Israel? Civil society criticized a controversial bill which would make it more difficult for media and human rights organizations to monitor Israeli police and military activities. All this on top of a new law now taking effect that stigmatizes NGOs that receive foreign funding. Why such antipathy to civil society? Perhaps Steven Cook’s think piece on why Middle Eastern leaders hate NGOs could lend answers.

In face of such actions, Ronald Krebs and James Ron argue that countries should “welcome, not fear, foreign funding of NGOs” – it’s good for democratic politics. So, what to do about it? Wendy Williams summarizes ICNL’s recommendations for the donor community. For the EU, develop a new culture of dialogue. For those on the ground, don’t hesitate to contact ECNL to seek legal advice about restrictive NGO laws in your country.

Can greater transparency help? Our own report found that proactive transparency can help push back. Donors have their part to play and Development Initiatives document progress among humanitarian donors that signed on to the Grand Bargain (a commitment to publish open data on their humanitarian funding within two years of the World Humanitarian Summit.)

On money laundering – UK tightens visa laws; Delaware supports BO transparency

As part of the efforts to stop illicit financial flows, the UK is tightening visa laws. Around 700 wealthy Russian visa-holders in Britain are being asked to explain and provide proof for their wealth, whereas previously, investors of at least $2.7 million were given 40 months of residency. Read Tax Justice UK’s submission to the parliamentary inquiry into tax evasion in the country. Not that such steps are without risks for a UK government that is still facing angry protests (and even demands for constitutional separation) from the Overseas Territories, whose leaders want talks with ministers to reverse transparency of beneficial ownership.

Apparently, the UK is not the only place where you are most likely to rub elbows with the world’s greatest kleptocrats – the OCCRP and Finance Uncovered identified a number of them residing on Emirates Hill in Dubai. C4DS warns about the global implications: “in an interconnected global economy with low barriers impeding the movement of funds, a single point of weakness in the regulatory system can empower and enable a range of global illicit factors.” Such contagion fears are part of the debate over beneficial ownership in the US where ructions on Capitol Hill prompted Delaware to endorse a bill for beneficial ownership transparency that is now in temporary limbo. Nate Sibley from the Hudson Institute reinforces the case for tackling dirty money.

Tax evasion “isn’t just for the west” according to the likes of Jason Hickel, who debate whether African investment is eclipsed by what is stolen. Sure tax havens facilitate illicit financial activities, but how these turn economic data into nonsense is often overlooked, says Max de Haldevang.

More academics may want to help out Tax Justice Network as they seek collaborators for the online book on the landscape of illicit financial flows – the first chapters are up for review. All might want to read Gabriel Zucman and colleagues’ exploration of the policy failure behind profit shifting. Reflecting such tactics, the DeFazio bill seeks to tax offshore profits of US companies the same way they are taxed domestically. Perhaps, tax authorities can get more of a handle on it with the boost of the Network of Tax Organizations – now up and running.

Rebuilding trust in media

The Knight Foundation has commissioned a series of white papers on the crisis in trust in media. In India for instance, a covert investigation by an Indian nonprofit news organization accuses the country’s top media companies of negotiating million-dollar contracts to spread misinformation and disinformation ahead of next year’s elections. Dig deeper into the nine key findings on how to restore trust in the news. And more broadly, Martha Lane Fox suggests ways to rebuild trust in the internet. Her key takes – design the internet for privacy, security and good values, and upskill legislators. We found Krista Kapralos’ insights on “why local journalism makes a difference” to be pretty relevant too.

The DON’Ts of doing development

The shift to recognize the complexity of global development challenges (not least on the governance front) is welcome, but Yuen Yuen Ang identifies three common “what not to dos” in embracing complexity. Complexity demands adaptive management responses and Nigel Simister explains the implications for monitoring and evaluation. And while you’re at it, consider Mary Kay Gugerty and Dean Karlan’s ten reasons for NOT measuring impact. Read their book The Goldilocks Challenge for more insights on how to find the right-fit monitoring and evaluation systems.

Designing your next event? Our blog – an appeal to liberate us from the tyranny of panel discussions – sparked conversations culminating in a crowdsourced public guide on designing events for deeper learning and higher impact (thank you Open Gov Hub!). A just-in-time resource for those planning sessions at the OGP Summit in Tbilisi next month.

More food for thought for the development community: why increased feedback has not fed into decision-making processes, and using ‘systems effect’ mapping for designing interventions. The digital age requires new ways of mobilizing and organizing, as demonstrated by Greenpeace’s experience. Jennifer Lentfer (our colleague here at the OpenGov Hub) asks what is the role for aid organizations in social movements, while Maurice Jones flags the key role of strong social networks.

Thank you for reading this week’s issue! Please feel free to get in touch with us if there are relevant materials you would like us to share with the rest of the transparency, accountability and participation community.

Long read: The future evolution of civil society in the European Union by 2030

Podcast: Introducing Leaders in Learning, a New Podcast Series from USAID Learning Lab


TAI spotlight

Read our blog:

How do we ensure our data really gets used to drive advocacy and action towards gender equality? “Look to girls’ and women’s movements and advocates”. Alison Holder of Equal Measures 2030 highlights the importance of designing transparency and accountability initiatives with gender in mind from the beginning.

Michael Jarvis’ editorial on the OECD publication highlights the benefits of transparency of philanthropic funding on development.



On the calendar