TAI Weekly

TAI Weekly | Saving Democracy – Tech Hindrance or Helper?
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  • Saving democracy – tech hindrance or helper?
  • From democracy tech to regtech
  • Fuller disclosure
  • Tax tech
  • Clock ticking
  • TAI Spotlight: On the internet’s evolving role in politics


Saving democracy – tech hindrance or helper?

Illustration by James Melaugh via The Guardian

While recent events in Iowa may make election bodies worldwide pause before shifting to voting apps, Robyn Scott still sees “democracy tech” as a hot investment space, while Rana Faroohar highlights more successful examples of tech being used to promote transparency and enable greater participation in democracy from Taiwan to Israel. For example, expect to hear more about quadratic voting in years to come.

Not that tech is a savior as noted by Joe Mitchell, who reflects on his experience working on reinforcing democracy in the United Kingdom and offers 6 suggestions for improving democratic health including finding better ways to measure it and investing in civic education (the recent $1 billion pledge from George Soros on that front might be one way to test that angle).

Want an example of blending data transparency with good old-fashioned grassroots advocacy? Check out the story of the women of Caltongo Organized and their partnership with ControlaTuGobierno in harnessing information for social accountability on the outskirts of Mexico City

Turning to resourcing for such civil society action, good to see a renewed European Union commitment to support civil society in Morocco building on 150 projects previously supported.


From democracy tech to regtech

Transparency, openness, oversight, and accountability. Perhaps not the terms you expect to hear Facebook exec Mark Zuckerberg emphasize, but core to his case for more regulation of big tech. Yet potential music to the ears of those providers rushing into the data governance market that is projected to reach USD 5.80 billion in the US alone by 2026. More regulation will necessitate new compliance systems, but in the meantime, a new UK report pinpoints five ways the private sector can build effective data governance.

What about one of the prime examples of existing data regulation? Vera Franz, Ben Hayes, and Lucy Hannah explain what the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) has meant for civil society in the EU (supported by TAI member Open Society Foundations). For civil society groups in India, the future looks more threatening – Benjamin Parkin and Stephanie Findlay argue that the government’s data protection bill will emulate more of a Chinese than EU approach which could be bad news for civil liberties.

Turning to data for development, the presidents of Rockefeller Foundation and MasterCard reflects on two decades of data.org, and celebrate the coming relaunch of this platform geared “to create effective, evidence-driven policies to fight poverty and address societal problems.”

Essential Watching #1: The Enablers

You won’t want to miss The Enablers, an investigative report by Open Secrets and Shadow World Investigations into the world of bankers, accountants, lawyers and consultants facilitating criminal conducts.


Fuller disclosure

Image credit: Football Perspective

Helen Clark, Chair of the Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (EITI) was discussing how transparency matters for the energy transition last week in Oslo. In the meantime, oil producers continue to see value in the initiative. Niger has rejoined EITI while the Petroleum Authority of Uganda (PAU) seeks to prepare youth for careers in the oil sector.

With minerals making substantial portion of its economy, experts urge Zimbabwe to adopt EITI’s standards for extractives governance as a win for all. A call backed by Joyce Nyamukunda Machiri, Publish What You Pay Zimbabwe Coordinator. So far, the government response remains frosty.  

Meanwhile, Chinese companies may have to get to grips with tougher Environmental, Social, and Governance (ESG) disclosure requirements. Starting in July 2020, Hong Kong will require all exchange-listed companies produce a statement setting out the board’s consideration of ESG risks, as well as how it determines what ESG matters are material to the business. The stock exchanges of Shanghai and Shenzhen are expected to follow Hong Kong’s lead this year, and the China Securities Regulatory Commission has announced such a plan, albeit with no details yet for the 3,000+ companies affected.

Tax Tech

Nigeria’s new Finance Act enables it to tax the likes of Google and Facebook to close off profit shifting practices, while TaxWatch in the UK is gaining some traction in pointing to missing millions in taxes from tech giants. Not that the tech sector is the only way to face scrutiny. Italy has recently increased the taxable gain on Chrysler by USD 2.5 billion. Fiat, Chrysler’s parent company, was accused of undervaluing the car brand.

How can we make taxes work for women? Find out by joining two weeks of action in March on the topic. We’ll be looking to cover the campaign in the TAI Weekly.


Clock Ticking

Alison Evans argues that 2020 will be a pivotal year for M&E as we begin the decade count down to the deadline to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals with many measurement challenges still to address. Perhaps some encouragement then that the World Bank Group and UN have signed an MoU as first step towards establishing a “global partnership to support evaluation capacity development.”

Of course, funders are increasingly supportive of adaptive approaches in development programming, but what does that mean for the choice of M&E approaches? The Global Learning for Adaptive Management team urge us to get intentional on M&E for effective adaptation.

TAI members are increasingly funding independent media, so we were glad to read Katie Donnelly’s reflection on years of tracking what makes for successful media impact evaluation in a rapidly-shifting media landscape. Among the takeaways from Media Impact Funders, there are different frameworks for measuring media impact for different areas of practice, grantees require financial and logistical support in implementing digital analytics and we should not miss opportunities for funders to collaborate with each other to share best practices and increase collective impact.

TAI’s ears similarly pricked up when we saw the title “How can foundations promote impactful collaboration?” Although based on experiences in the US in the health sector, we suspect many of the recommendations hold for global work, not least the care needed when a funder engages directly in shaping collaboration. Given power dynamics, authors Douglas Easterling and Laura McDuffee urge this approach be limited to where the funder has built “strong, honest, give-and-take relationships” with other participants in the collaborative.  


Essential Watching #2: A path to security for the world’s deadliest countries

Inequality, Polarization and Death. Watch Rachel Kleinfeld’s TEDTalk, based around her new book on the path to security in the world’s deadliest countries. Did you know you are more likely to die violently if you live in a middle-income democracy with high levels of inequality and political polarization than if you live in a country at war? 


TAI Spotlight: On the internet’s evolving role in politics

On the internet’s evolving role in politics | Luminate

Did everything we did over the last 10 years to promote this technology of open markets for speech and commerce all around the world lead us to a moment where that technology, which we thought was democratizing and liberating actually hijacked that democracy and turned it into a machine of social control that could be either sold to the highest bidder or hijacked by fraudsters and conmen? Listen to Luminate’s Ben Scott on the Big Tech Podcast as he discusses digital threats to democracy and role of the internet in politics.

Larry Kramer on risk, change, and the year ahead| Hewlett Foundation

President of the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation, Larry Kramer talks to Northern California Grantmakers about the need for philanthropy to adapt thoughtfully in a turbulent political landscape. “There is a balance that needs to be struck between continuing to work on problems that you have been working on and adapting to changing circumstances. Finding that balance is a challenge…. Keep your eye on the long term, because that’s something philanthropic organizations are uniquely able to do” says Kramer. 

Civil Society Organizations and General Data Protection Regulation Compliance – Challenges, opportunities, and best practices| Open Society Foundations

Check out this CC-licensed report from the Open Society Information Program, which looks specifically at the ways that the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) – the world’s most comprehensive data privacy law – impacts nongovernmental organizations. The report also provides best practices guide that can be used to ensure compliance and limit risk.

Why journalism is key to Chicago’s prosperity | MacArthur Foundation

Director of journalism and media at the MacArthur Foundation, Kathy Im joins Kyra Kyles of Field Foundation, Carrie Davis of Joyce Foundation, and Andres Torres of McCormick Foundation to advocate for more business and philanthropic investment in journalism.

Ford goes to the Oscars | Ford Foundation

Let the Ford Foundation take you on a journey across the world. Relive the tragedy of conflict in Syria, the disappointment of democracy unravelling in Brazil, and American labor rights struggles in a world of globalization. Find these stories in the cinema and read more about them in the link above.

DFID research commissioning centre early market engagement event | UK Department for International Development (DFID)

In a move being welcomed by many researchers, DFID is considering changing how it commissions research. They are shifting from competitions to grants.



Job postings at International Budget Partnership (M&E positions too) – Ongoing
Job postings at Ford Foundation – Ongoing
Job postings at Luminate – Ongoing

BetterTogether Challenge for innovators – Ongoing
Democracy Fund: Sr. Associate, Strategy & Learning – Ongoing
From Open to Inclusive Government: Global Innovate and Learn grant – February 14, 2020

Funding opportunity for fostering safety and resiliency for CSOs in MENA – Feb 28, 2020

Co-Impact systems change grants (round three) – March 31, 2020

Call for suggestions on Humanitarian and Development Data Forum agenda – May 2020
Proposal Submission for the 2020 Summer Evaluation Institute – June 7-10, 2020
Amartya Sen Essay Contest 2020: Illicit financial flows – August 31, 2020


Feedback+San Juan: Listening Reimagined – February 26-28, 2020
The Impacts of Civic Tech Conference (TICTeC) – March 24 – 25, 2020 (Reykjavik, Iceland)
Register for the 2020 OECD Global Anti-Corruption & Integrity Forum – 25-26 March 2020 (Paris, France)
EGAP Learning Days workshop – March 30-April 3, 2020 (Addis Ababa, Ethiopia)

Shaping the Future Forum 2020 – April 22 & 23, 2020 (Washington, DC)

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)
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)
Humanitarian and Development Data Forum – November 2-4, 2020 (Chambery, France)
International Open Data Conference –November 18-20, 2020 (Nairobi, Kenya)


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