TAI Weekly

TAI Weekly | No Escape
Print Page


  • No escape
  • No time to be shy
  • Seeking democratic immunities
  • On the wrong side of the curve
  • Go local and innovative
  • We have a winner!
  • TAI Spotlight: Institutionalising Learning: How to become a learning organisation

Photo credit: Alberto Pizzoli/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

No escape

Alas, there is no escaping coronavirus impact, not even in your TAI Weekly. Yet the health crisis has been a wake-up call if you think transparency and accountability are wonky concepts far beyond daily concerns. Issues of trust, institutional capacity, sound use of data – mainstays of our content are at the fore of shaping virus responses. South Korea’s Vice Health Minister, Kim Ganglip, emphasizes the importance of keeping the principle of a transparency and open society.  What to do? “First, public participation must be secured through openness and transparency; second, respect creative thinking and use cutting-edge technology to develop the most effective means of response.” 

Learn how South Korea’s infection rate fell without citywide lockdowns, how Taiwan used transparency and big data to control the virus, and what Singapore’s commitment to transparency can teach other countries in their responses. Yet care, is needed too. We don’t want personally identifiable data being shared without due care – interesting to see the UK information commissioner’s office rush out privacy guidance in relation to covid-19. More broadly, the International Center for Not-For-Profit Law (ICNL) remind us of the need to uphold human rights amid a pandemic.

No time to be shy

Last week we pondered the knock-on effects of the crisis for foundation endowments and future giving. As stock markets continue to tumble, there are even more immediate threats to nonprofits. Canceled events, lost fundraising opportunities, pressures of helping staff work remotely. These are stressful times. Our members are offering reassurances to support grantees in any way they can (see TAI Spotlight below) – take them at their word and ask for help, be it repurposing travel funds or revising project timelines. Industry watchers are offering ways to ensure non-profits recover from coronavirus spread, but there is no avoiding the urgency for NGOs to shore up their finances. Nonprofit Finance Fund CEO, Antony Bugg-Levine, warns that a lack of flexible funds and reserves can be crippling.

With cross-border travel pretty much stopped, we imagine you are spending a lot more time in virtual meetings. Stay tuned for our resource listing on hosting successful virtual forums, but in the meantime, here is a teaser of tips from Adam Kessler.  

Long Read #1: Building regional strategies for media development in the Middle East and North Africa

The Centre for International Media Assistance details collective priorities for supporting independent media in the MENA region, who call for stronger bonds and cooperation among defenders of free expression and independent media in the region.

Seeking democratic immunities

Voting is getting problematic given current global health concerns. Standing in long lines is not conducive to minimizing disease spread. Online voting may become the new norm. So perhaps we should all be reading up on the lessons from the Decide Madrid e-participation scheme that generated high expectations early on, but – as authors of a new report suggest – was hampered by a lack of transparency. Pair with Hans Kundnani’s take on the role of digital technology in future democratic participation and this piece by Carnegie Europe, examining how local civil society is standing against the worrying trend of democratic backsliding.

Interesting times then for TAI member Luminate (together with Sandler Foundation) to launch Reset, which aims to reform tech rules and standards so that big tech is working for democracy, not against it. Also, don’t miss the Center for High Impact Philanthropy toolkit which identifies elements for strengthening democracy and strategies that are working now.

We wonder what Thomas Piketty makes of philanthropic efforts to safeguard democracy. After all, he takes aim at tech moguls like Bill Gates, Jeff Bezos, and Mark Zuckerberg and the “philanthropic Illusion” in his new book ‘Capital and Ideology’. His argument?  While we glorify these billionaires, “their quasi-monopolistic behaviour is ignored as are the legal and tax breaks they are granted and the public resources they appropriate.”

On the wrong side of the curve

Image credit: Woopdedo

As oil prices continue to plummet, so too the incomes and budgets of petrostates, like Algeria, Iran, and Nigeria. These shocks can have drastic rammifications for the populace, as public services become strained in times of austerity. Chris Miller writes in Foreign Policy how some large oil-exporting states can weather the storm, while others may crack. Nigeria is a state that may crack, as the original 2020 budget was created under the assumption of oil remaining at $57 a barrel, not under $30. Just last week, Nigeria approved a loan plan of $22.7bn, but will that be enough to stave off recession? The Nigerian government must remain cautious however, as Lebanon’s announcement of defaulting on their loans shows the crisis that can unfold.

The OECD asked for public comments on its revised country-by-country reporting plan and has now published all 79 responses, including that of the Independent Commission for the Reform of International Corporate Taxation (ICRICT) calling for more coverage, quality, and accessibility of data for both governments and the general public.

Given current pressures, some government and companies might be tempted to get creative in their accounting practices. Sadly, they are likely to find some willing accomplices. Adam Leaver, Leonard Seabrooke, Saila Stausholm and Duncan Wigan say we are past due for reinjection of accountability into the audit profession and offer some concrete suggestions (see more under TAI Spotlight below).

Open Ownership reviews Myanmmar’s EITI beneficial ownership portal and they are pretty impressed with the features and identifiers. Of course, the bigger picture in Myanmar remains bleak. Those in charge may want to read this new study of human rights-based approaches to extractives by the Stockholm Environment Institute.

Long Read #2: Parliaments and independent oversight institutions

This Westminster Foundation for Democracy study explores independent oversight institutions – such as human rights and anti-corruption institutions – and their relationships with parliaments, proposing approaches that can help strengthen the relationship between both.

Go local and innovate

Peace Direct has released a new report on how donors can be more strategic with their funding in an age of local activism. The three areas of improvement are an antiquated funding system, poorly structured funds, and inadequate funding for local actors (reminiscent of concerns that ODI researchers flagged in our report on civil society engagement in tax reform).

Talking of going local, TAI just spent time with the Voice team interviewing grantee applicants with ideas on leveraging transparency and accountability for greater inclusion. Some exciting ideas. Yet are we reviewing appropriately? Submittable’s guide reminds you of how to identify and eliminate bias to ensure a fair process for your applicants.

Ian David Moss, Julia Coffman, and Tayna Beer examine the barriers preventing effective use of evidence in the social sector to improve outcomes, and outline five ideas to improve the effective use of evidence. Beyond the use of randomized control trials, discover how the Abdul Latif Jameel Poverty Action Lab and the Evidence to Policy community are integrating innovation and evidence into social policy and practice at scale. Also, learn more about the lowlights and highlights of impact evaluations and how to close the evaluation gap. And, if you haven’t already, check out our Solutions in Context report with MIT GOV/LAB for inspiration on how to sift through, and use, the evidence in your own work.

Finally, we could all do with some inspiration this week, so kudos to International Budget Partnership for launching their new stories platform showcasing how budget work impacts people’s lives around the world.

Stay healthy, stay sane. Read lots about transparency and accountability.


We have a Winner!

Some of our favourite pictures from the TAI Photo Grant submission

In case you missed the initial announcement on our website, Damir Davlatov is the winner of the maiden edition of our photo grant competition. Damir, a theoretical physicist, film director, and videographer from Russia will receive an $8,000 grant to produce pictures related to the themes of government and corporate transparency and accountability. All pictures will be available for use under the Creative Commons license (CC BY-NC-SA 4.0).


TAI Spotlight: Institutionalising Learning: How to become a learning organisation

Institutionalising Learning: How to become a learning organisation | Transparency and Accountability Initiative

What makes a good learning organization? Tax Justice Network Africa (TJNA)’s Omondi C. Paul sheds more light on the myths and realities of a learning organization in a new article published on TAI website.

Ford’s response to Coronavirus (COVID-19) | Ford Foundation

Find out how Ford Foundation is addressing rising concerns about the Coronavirus and how it is supporting its grantees as the implications of COVID-19 unfold.

MacArthur Coronavirus guidance | MacArthur Foundation

MacArthur share prudent steps it is taking to protect the well-being of staff, visitors to the Foundation, and people participating in convenings. Also read this op-ed featuring MacArthur Fellow, Atul Gawande on how to help stop the spread of Coronavirus.

Hewlett temporarily close office building in response to COVID-19 | Hewlett Foundation

As part of the community’s effort to reduce the spread of COVID-19, The foundation closed its Menlo Park office building on March 16 and will reevaluate its decision early April. Staff will continue working full time to ensure that foundation processes continue uninterrupted while observing the type of social distancing necessary to reduce the spread of infectious disease.

The women’s movement is leading reform in Argentina| Open Society Foundations

Learn how the #NiUnaMenos grew into a movement and how Argentinian feminists expanded their initial calls to end abuse and violence to include other women’s rights issues. “Argentinian women’s movement will continue to mobilize to ensure that government officials are held accountable to their political commitments,” says Marina Durano, a senior program officer with the Open Society Women’s Rights Program.

Reforming audit in the public interest | Luminate

The Auditing with Accountability report funded by Luminate and commissioned in collaboration with the Joffe Charitable Trust has been published. The report makes a strong case for reform of the audit industry. It also calls for a reaffirmation of the founding principles of audit: credibility, objectivity, and integrity around the scrutiny of financial accounts to increase stakeholder confidence. 



Job postings at Ford Foundation – Ongoing
Job postings at Luminate – Ongoing
BetterTogether Challenge for innovators – Ongoing
Job postings at Democracy fund – Ongoing
Hewlett Foundation Call for Expressions of Interest (EOI) to review its grantmaking impact in Mexico – March 18, 2020
Call for Applications: Shaping Policy with Evidence professional development course – March 23, 2020

Co-Impact systems change grants (round three) – March 31, 2020
Indela, Digital rights in Latin America (call for proposal) — April 4, 2020

Call for proposals – Swashakt: Empowering women through collectives and group-based approaches – April 14, 2020
Call for Applications: WE EMpower UN SDG Challenge 2020 – April 15, 2020

Global Tech Challenge: Solutions for Women – April 15, 2020

Call for Applications: Making a Difference Awards (highlights and promotes how the best of research has made a significant difference to Charities and Not-For-Profits) – April 27, 2020

Request for proposal: Independent Public Interest Journalism – April 30, 2020
Call for suggestions on Humanitarian and Development Data Forum agenda – May 2020

Call for Projects Paris Peace Forum 2020 – May 12, 2020

Call for applications: Intensive Anti-Corruption Training for Future Leaders – May 20, 2020

Proposal Submission for the 2020 Summer Evaluation Institute – June 7-10, 2020
Amartya Sen Essay Contest 2020: Illicit financial flows – August 31, 2020
Call for Submissions to SSIR Series: Social Change in an Era of Extreme Polarization – Last Thursday of every month until early 2021



Please double check the websites for these events to make sure they are still happening – most likely they are not, though some may now be reconfigured for virtual participation.

Media and democracy: the way forward – March 20, 2020 (Rue des Tanneurs 60A, Brussels)
Nesta Sparks: Impact Investment (lunch and learning event) – March 24, 2020 (London, United Kingdom)

The Impacts of Civic Tech Conference (TICTeC) – March 24 – 25, 2020 (Reykjavik, Iceland)
The Nonprofit Technology Conference presented by NTEN – March 24-26, 2020 (Baltimore, United States of America)
Testing the frontier of collective intelligence  – March 25, 2020 (London, United Kingdom)

Register for the 2020 OECD Global Anti-Corruption & Integrity Forum – March 25-26, 2020 (Paris, France)
EGAP Learning Days workshop – March 30-April 3, 2020 (Addis Ababa, Ethiopia)
[Webinar] Evidence into Policy and Practice Seminars: Research uptake and impact – how do funders see its future? – March 31, 2020 

Devex Development Career Forum (exhibitor registration closes 17 March) – March 31, 2020 (Washington, D.C., US)
Second Meeting of the Tendler Network – April 3, 2020 (MIT, Cambridge, United States of America)
Harambee – Let’s All Pull Together (largest gathering of Black professional in philanthropy) – April 16-18, 2020 (Raleigh, North Carolina, United States of America)
Global Technology Governance Summit – April 21-22, 2020 (San Francisco, United States of America)
Shaping the Future Forum 2020 – April 22 – 23, 2020 (Washington, DC)
British Expertise International Awards 2020 – April 23, 2020 (Kensington, United Kingdom)

3ie London Evidence Week Conference 2020 – April 23, 2020 (London, UK)
Personal Democracy Forum CEE 2020 – April 23-25, 2020 (Gdansk, Poland)
2020 International Symposium on Online Journalism (ISOJ) – April 24-25, 2020 (Austin, United States of America)
Frontiers of Social Innovation: People, Power & Resources: The Redistribution Wave – May 12-14, 2020 (Stanford University, California, USA)
2020 Media Impact Forum (funder-only gathering) – June 2, 2020 (New York, United States of America)
Transparency International: 19th International Anti-Corruption Conference – June 2 – 5, 2020 (Seoul, South Korea)
Human Rights Litigation Summer School at Berlin, Germany – June 8-12, 2020
Women and Girls Africa Summit – June 9-12, 2020 (Durban, South Africa)
RightsCon 2020 – June 9-12, 2020 (San Jose, Costa Rica)
2020 Neighborhood Funders Group National Convening (philanthropy support to grassroots power building) – June 29 – July 1, 2020 (Washington, DC)

WE EMpower UN SDG Challenge 2020 – September 18 – 27, 2020 (New York City, United States of America)

The 2020 Journalism Funders Gathering (funder-only gathering) – October 6-7, 2020 (Philadelphia, United States of America)
Humanitarian and Development Data Forum – November 2-4, 2020 (Chambery, France)
International Open Data Conference –November 18-20, 2020 (Nairobi, Kenya)