TAI Weekly

TAI Weekly | October 10, 2017
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TAI spotlight…

In an adaptation for the Weekly, we start close to home with updates from TAI members.

  •  The Moral Case for Evidence in Policymaking – Speaking at the USAID-hosted Evidence Day, Ruth Levine of Hewlett Foundation stresses that evidence-based policymaking allows for morals such as truth, justice, equality, creativity, and love of others to be translated into practice
  • Trust and Privacy – First Issue of Constituent Voices from ON – Omidyar Network launches Constituent Voices series to help ground development work to realities and perspectives of communities served.  The first issue highlights results of a global survey indicating the scale of the “Data-Trust gap” –  a majority of respondents in 60 countries lack trust in sharing personal data with either governments or companies
  • Ford Releases Investment Returns; More Grant Makers May Be on the Way – A new effort is underway to help trustees and others better see how charitable endowments compare with peers and other investment indexes. Foundation Center found that only three of the 10 biggest US foundations by assets disclose their endowment performance. Those three include TAI members Ford Foundation and Hewlett Foundation
  • On the Spot- Hewlett grantees had the opportunity to ask questions of Foundation leadership this past week. Based on what we heard, stay tuned for forthcoming efforts to integrate gender into TPA grantmaking, more collaboration among grantees (including through grantee convenings to which relevant funders may also be invited) and efforts to share common strategic communications practices

In case you missed it…

Photo: Unsplash

Tempted by the posh lunch option for the team retreat? Beware. In Paraguay, the publication of a catering contract for a government meeting resulted to student mobilizations and eventually, education reforms. How did open data gain ground in Paraguay, and how did it elicit citizen uptake? Sophie Brown and Georg Neumann document the country’s experience. The experience of Brazil (the birthplace of, and a regional leader for, participatory budgeting) can also provide lessons on citizen engagement around fiscal policies and government accountability. Reboot’s Laura Freschi offers three mantras for “outsiders” to build partnerships with governments on tactical data engagement (check out the webinar.) Also, focused on citizen-government collaboration, Sunlight Foundation offer tactical tips of their own – this time a guide to push for open data that makes a difference. Another helpful read- Publish What You Fund’s discussion paper on using open data for accountability in Benin and Tanzania. More creatively, what if we turned our massive datasets into art to make data “speak to people”?

Concerns over fake news and the spread of misinformation continue to escalate. While Facebook and Google received flak in the US this week for being vehicles for false reportsregarding the Las Vegas shooting, the scale of the problem in India is far larger.  Millions of users fall victims to fake news, often spread through WhatsApp, and with all too serious consequences. But why are false rumors so difficult to counter? Brian Resnick talks about the psychology of the illusory truth effect – the more we are exposed to fake news, the more likely we are to believe they are true. So even as Facebook release a button offering links to publisher information and Google introduce algorithmic updates, it is hard to envisage these stemming the tide. 

TAI members are active too in seeking to counter fake news, including Ford’s News Integrity InitiativeOmidyar Network’s 100 million grant, Hewlett Foundation’s webinar series, and  Open Society Foundation’s grant for fact-checking tools with Omidyar Network. Yesterday, Pierre Omidyar detailed concerns on the dangerous influence social media is having on democracy in The Washington Post, linking to a new report on the topic developed with Democracy Fund (who offered an interesting recent take on understanding trust to strengthen democracy.) Omidyar’s foray into the press is an interesting example of putting mouth where the money is, and no doubt welcome news to Aaron Dorfman who calls for the philanthropic sector to stop hiding “behind a false perception of neutrality”. 

Amid all this, it is perhaps not the best time for big tech companies to be clashing with internet freedom advocates. The point of contention? Privacy. Will this be the same scenario in 2035? Check out Nesta’s exploration of the future personal data economy. Meanwhile Tim O’Reilly offers warning signals on algorithm’s “gone rogue” and AI risks in his new book.

Number of the week? 235. $235 million that is – the reported cost of internet interruptions in 10 sub-Saharan Africa countries since 2015 as calculated by the Collaboration on International ICT Policy in East and Southern Africa (CIPESA).  Internet shutdowns are becoming more frequent in worldwide, including India. We featured the impact of Cameroon’s long shutdown in the previous Weekly only for the government to order another in Anglophone regions effective October 2. Even SMS has not been spared from government restrictions and interventions (e.g. TogoIndiaUkraine). Yet aside from being a means of communication (and tool for protest), the mobile industry is looking into the potential of cellphone data to fill development data gaps. 2 billion connected anonymous data for SDGs. That’s a pool of anonymous data from 2 billion connected people across 100 countries. The challenge? Over 1.2 billion people without coverage, and 3.5 billion who do, but choose not to connect. 

Internet restrictions by governments have been observed to follow protests, and protests are on the rise globally. What does that mean? Richard Youngs of Carnegie breaks down the characteristics, triggers, and outcomes of this “age of rage”. Of course, protest does not guarantee reform. Will Young offers insights as to why corruption demonstrations in Bratislava have not changed the status quo

Contestable number of the week? 3. The $3 billion in prospective Zambian revenues reportedly lost to illicit outflows according to the Lusaka Times. That would equate to 40% of the country’s new 2018 budget which many are not happy with due to perceived failures to address tax evasion and illicit financial flows, not least from the mining sector. While the accuracy of such projections will no doubt be contested, the call for a more holistic approach to tax issues is harder to dispute. How to generate accurate assessments of tax gaps? Perhaps Nigeria will soon offer a model given the launch of the Nigeria tax research network focused on generation and exchange of tax knowledge.

From tax secrecy to tax transparency – major INGOs lay out three key elements to ensure EU country-by-country reporting legislation will enable citizens to follow the money and ensure taxes are paid by multinationals where they are due. Would these effectively prevent illegal activities, such as the one between Amazon and Luxembourg?

Exploring new ways of working within your organization? How about revisiting reporting? The Center for Effective Philanthropy is conducting a survey to look into the current practice of donor reporting, drawing out effective practices. We look forward to comparing notes with suggestions emerging from TAI’s scan of generating results stories.

Grantee reports are just one way to assess effectiveness of funding. John Eyers argues that we are ill equipped in general to compare effectiveness of INGOs. Perhaps they need more “delivery managers”? One UK civil servant reflects on shifting from project to delivery management as the concept spreads from the design thinking world.

Of potential interest…


Call for field-wide proposals…

On the Calendar…

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The TAI Weekly is an informal recap of news, research, and events relevant to our four work streams: data use for accountability, taxation and tax governance, strengthening civic space, and learning from improved grant making.The Weekly is in no way a reflection of TAI member views or thinking. The Weekly now goes to our mailing list and live on the website every Wednesday morning.

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