Thursday, March 22, 2012

The most transparent grantmaker

Twitter made my day this morning when I received this:

Check out David's blog post for what he's up to - here's a short list of what he's aiming to post
"I commit to publishing a blog post within 15 days of the signing of a grant agreement that I have facilitated between Omidyar Network and a partner organization. The blog post will contain the following information:
  • Amount of grant
  • Date that grant agreement was signed
  • Name and link to receiving institution and other organizations involved in the project
  • Name and link to co-funders
  • Summary of grant
  • Contextual analysis of related issues
  • Metrics to gauge the impact of the grant
  • Date and manner that the relevant project will be evaluated"
He goes on to note that he'll be using the IATI schema and will get to the XML version of this information soon.

I jumped at this news and hope to speak with David next week to learn more. In the meantime, we have a responsibility to help David's efforts succeed. Let's use his effort to push further on our own transparency initiatives. It's a great opportunity for Glasspockets to chime in, for other grantmakers to think about their information sharing  and for the rest of us to use the information that does get provided.  It's great that one grantmaker has committed to put this information out there - but transparency improves practice only when the information is used. We need others to follow David.  Perhaps you'd like to surpass him, you're not going to let him get away with this "throw down challenge" as most transparent, are you?!

We need activists and grantees to respond, request, use the info; we need sites that can mash grantmaker data with public information, political giving, results data, other financial flows, etc. We do need to focus, as Phil Buchanan of CEP notes, on "the transparency that matters." As important as what we share is why we share it and what we do with it. In other words, transparency is part of a series of behavior, actor and organizational changes (it's part of institutional conversations) not just "another thing to do."

We need to see the sharing of the info as the first step in a conversation that aims toward better results.

Thanks, David, for your efforts. Everyone else, how will you use the information and join the conversation - what will you do to be more transparent?


Bruce Trachtenberg said...

Just wanted to say "hurrah" to your comment that "transparency only improves practice when the information is used." In other words, let's make transparency a means to an end, not an end unto itself.

Bradford Smith said...

Thanks Lucy for grabbing this and amplifying it into the blogosphere. I admit to at first being distracted by the phrase: "...a grant I faciliated." David does not work for Omidyar and blogs for Global Voices, which runs a small grant program, but does not himself appear to be a "grantmaker" in the classic sense. But that is secondary. What this does show is the early signs of something I have been talking about to whoever will listen: foundations need to think about their own data as something that can and will be consumed and used by others. Up until now, foundation data, particularly grants data, has been used for internal control purposes (to process grants, make payments, and insure compliance). Some, but not the majority, of foundations have put searchable grants databases on their websites (though many do not have websites at all).

A few--like Hewlett, Kellogg, Energy and Rockefeller--are "streaming" data on their approved grants in near real-time on the Foundation Center's Glasspockets website That data is open and can be grabbed, via an RSS feed, by anyone wanting to mash it up with anything ranging from foreign aid dollars to cupcake consumption per capita!

This is only the beginning.

Bradford Smith said...

Let me correct myself. It appears that David does work for Omidyar, but for whatever reason is not listed on the ON site under "Team". So he is a grantmaker/investor after all!

Ruth said...

I am glad that there is increasing awareness and attention being paid to this topic. At Nonprofit Investor, we are trying to work around the issue from another side, namely, standardization behind the amount and quality of business and financial diligence done when making a decision about a donation. I look forward to seeing where David goes with this

Bradford Smith said...

for further opinion/analysis on David's initiative, Omidyar, philanthropy and transparency see

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