IATI Training (OLD)

IATI was launched in 2008 and has emerged as one of the success stories of transparency and open data by providing access to critical aid information published by various development actors. 

This course has been developed to familiarise all stakeholders with key principles surrounding transparency and actions required to adopt the IATI Standard.

Introduction

Learning Objectives

Welcome to the training course on IATI implementation.

Development actors all over the world have acknowledged the need for greater transparency, including this as a political commitment in a number of global processes including activities related to development and humanitarian work. 

As the signatory to the International Aid Transparency Initiative (IATI), publishers are expected to fulfill their commitment to transparency in a way that benefits both donors and recipients of aid. 

What will you learn?

In this short training course, you will learn about aid transparency and the process of implementing IATI within an organisation. 

Learning objectives;

You are able to;

  • Define the key principles of aid transparency and IATI;

  • Explain the process of adopting the IATI Standard;

  • Describe how aid information is published to IATI;

  • Understand the data review process of IATI published data;

  • Demonstrate how IATI data can be found and used to support your own work;

  • Become aware of ways to champion IATI among your co-workers and counterparts outside the organisation;

Desired outcome;

This course is designed to give you the opportunity to learn about the concept of IATI and its implementation and to apply what you have learned at work to support the efforts to improve data quality and its compliance with the IATI Standard.

Commitment to aid transparency and IATI

Aid transparency

Why transparency matters

Transparency is a key principle of development effectiveness. 

Information on who is funding what, where and to what effect can be transformational and correctly put in use can lead to higher development effectiveness. It could lead to;

  • Better planning and coordination: Access to timely and quality information enables development partners to plan their work and manage resources effectively. 

  • Effective decision making: Having necessary information available will lead to improved policy formulation and more evidence-based decision making 

  • Greater Accountability: Hold aid organisations accountable for the use of aid resources and ensure that aid resources reach their intended recipients 

  • Improved beneficiary feedback process: Making relevant data available helps citizens to voice their feedback and engage with policy makers. 

  • Maximizing development impact: More widespread availability of information enable effective collaborations and maximize development impact.

What is IATI

The International Aid Transparency Initiative (IATI) is a voluntary multi-stakeholder initiative aimed at increasing transparency by enabling organisations to publish information on their aid, development, and humanitarian activities in a common format.

The following short video will provide a brief introduction to what it is and how it works.

The need for the IATI standard

At the High Level Forum on Aid Effectiveness in Busan, 2011, development actors committed to "implement a common open standard for electronic publication of timely, comprehensive and forward-looking information on resources provided through development cooperation,” that takes into account the statistical reporting of the OECD-DAC and work of IATI. United Nations agencies were part of this agreement and are required to fulfill the commitment.

The significance 

A number of systems and databases exist to report and capture aid information, but IATI is the only recognized system to make aid and development information easier to access, use, and understand in an openly accessible and comparable format

IATI provides the common format for organisations to publish their information which can be compared and combined with other datasets and used together. It is aimed at improving the availability of historic, current and future resource flows reported by a broader range of development cooperation providers.

IATI has been designed to enable all organizations to:

  • Publish in a standardized format as other organizations, so datasets from various sources can be easily combined
  • Update regularly on a monthly, quarterly, or six-monthly basis, to keep information as current as possible
  • Publish data using a flexible standard, allowing all kind of development cooperation providers to adopt
  • Publish in one central location. The IATI Registry provides links to the data published by all organizations using the IATI Standard
  • Provide, where possible, forward-looking information, enabling developing country governments to plan and budget more clearly and comprehensively
  • The common format makes the information published comparable with one another

The importance of IATI adoption for UN agencies

Publishing detailed information about development projects to IATI demonstrates and strengthens the reputation as an organisation committed to achieving positive results by effectively managing aid resources. Publishing to IATI:

  • Fulfills the Busan commitment made in 2011

  • Satisfies requirements of donor countries and other stakeholders to publish information to IATI.

  • Promotes organisation's image as one of the most transparent global development organisations.  

  • Provides access to internal information in a comparable format which can be combined with other aid agencies' data and used effectively by data users including developing country governments and other aid actors.

  • Promotes collaboration with other development partners to improve aid effectiveness by making quality information available for better decision-making

  • Improves internal data quality which in turn helps organisations carry out better planning and management of resources. 

Key dimensions of IATI

Making information transparent alone will not help to improve aid effectiveness. The information must be useful enough to act upon to make better decisions. IATI operates on three key dimensions which could contribute better decision-making and greater effectiveness. 

It is critical that IATI publishers pay more attention to these important dimensions in producing IATI data. 

Timely

Data is kept up-to-date and updated regularly. 

Comprehensive

The publisher reports the maximum number of activities (eg. all development projects) and includes maximum level of information (IATI elements) of those activities.  

Forward-looking

Usability of data for the indicative purpose such as planning and budgeting. 

Adopting IATI standard

How it works

Adopting the IATI Standard starts with preparing the organisation. It may involve establishing the business case for the organisation, getting buy-in from senior management and other stakeholders and setting up teams and processes to start publishing. 

Once an organisation joins IATI it has to first decide what information it is able to publish. IATI implementation schedule outlines the details of an organisation’s commitment to publication and the publisher could refer the schedule to confirm the commitment to publish relevant information. Submitting an implementation schedule to IATI is no longer mandatory but completing the schedule helps the organization to think through the elements it will publish as well as the timeframe.

Initially, the organisation could start with publishing a basic set of information available for public disclosure in its internal system. Identified data will be mapped to IATI elements and extracted for IATI publishing. Gradually, the organisation can increase the amount of information is being published by creating new platforms or using other existing platforms to collect data which was not available initially. 

The data extracted from relevant systems is then converted into IATI’s agreed electronic format – eXtensibleMarkup Language (XML), a format which can be easily converted into other formats and used. The information is published in two different datasets - organization and activity XML files. The organization file contains financial information and documents at the corporate and country level, while the activity file captures the project and output level information and documents. 

The organisation and activity XML files are made available to the IATI Registry where all IATI publishers' information is registered. Once the file is available on the IATI Registry, it is open and can be accessed and used by anyone around the world. 

Over time publishers look to improve their datasets by increasing the amount of information published, updating the datasets more frequently and more importantly, improving the quality of data. 

The IATI Standard continues to evolve to accommodate emerging needs around development cooperation and humanitarian responses following a rigorous and consultative change management process. IATI publishers are expected to keep up with standard updates while improving and complying with the Standard, which requires the correct application of standard schema, codelists, and rulesets. 

  • Codelists: Key to making data comparable from different publishers;
  • Schema: Describes the structure of the IATI XML;
  • Rulesets: Provide additional instructions on conditions and logics within the schema. 

Key considerations;

  • Publishing policies: Determine what can be made public
  • Data specification: Decide what level of information included in the IATI dataset
  • Technology for publishing: Availability of systems and tools required for data collection, XML generation, and publishing
  • Skills and knowledge: The level of IATI knowledge and technical skills internal staff possesses to implement the IATI Standard within the organisation
  • Publication processes: The need for sustainable publication processes describing all IATI related activities from data collection to publishing. 


IATI activity elements - what can be published

IATI activity elements

The IATI activity standard contains the following types of information:

  • Basic project information such as project title and description, project start and end dates, status, donor and implementing organizations and contact details
  • Geopolitical information  such as recipient country or region and sub-national locations
  • Classifications such as sectors, policy markers, humanitarian scope, aid type, flow type, finance type, collaboration type and tied status 
  • Financial information such as budget, expenditure, disbursement, donor commitments and incoming funds
  • Related document and links such as project level documents (objective, budget, evaluations, results, impact appraisals, procurement and contract documents) and activity web pages
  • Performance such as conditions and results data

Mandatory elements

Depending on the IATI standard version in use, the publisher must include the mandatory elements required by the specific version of the standard.

IATI publishers should try to keep up with the IATI standard upgrades and ensure the datasets are successfully validated against the XML schema in use.

The latest XML version 2.02 requires the following activity elements;

  • A valid activity identifier: A globally unique identifier for the activity (eg. System generated project or programme id)
  • A valid reporting organization identifier: The identification of the organisation issuing the report (eg. The reporting id of a UN agency is the OECD channel code of the respective agency) 
  • Title: A short, human-readable title that contains a meaningful summary of the activity (eg. Project title stated in the project document)
  • Description: A longer, human-readable description containing a meaningful description of the activity (eg. Project descriptions used in the document)
  • Activity date: The planned and actual start and completion dates of the activity (eg. Planned Project start and end dates available in the system)
  • Activity status: Current status of the published activity (eg. implementation or completion)
  •  Participating organisation: At least one of the organisation involved with the activity (eg. donor or implementing organisation)
  • Recipient Country or Region: The country or region that will benefit from the activity
  • Sector: Classifying the purpose of the activity. (eg. the OECD DAC sector or SDG on which project or programme fund is spent on) 


What should I publish?

IATI is a voluntary initiative which allows publishers to determine what information they will make available using the standard. However, the publisher needs to satisfy the requirement by including the mandatory information required by the standard, while deciding to publish additional information voluntarily. The publisher also has the option to publish information on all of the organisations' activities or only selected activities. The decision on what to publish and what not to publish is generally driven by the organisation's Information Disclosure Policy (or open data policy) and the data availability.

Information Disclosure Policy (IDP)

Public disclosure is guided by an organisation’s Information Disclosure Policy (IDP), which is not only used to define what type of information the organisation can make public but also highlights the restrictions through “exclusions” for confidentiality, security purposes, and commercial protection. It is also used for expressing the commitment towards transparency, both internally and externally.

The IDP not only provides the guidelines for IATI data publication but also provides the general guidelines for organisation's public disclosure. It also explains how the public can request additional information and the procedures for handling those requests. 

Organisations should consider adopting good practices in developing disclosure policies and make their employees follow the policy  by providing clear guidelines for making information available;

  • Policy should be aimed at providing maximum access to information
  •  In contrast to spelling out the information that can be published, an orgnaization with high ambition would set out a clear list of exclusions and allow disclosure of any information in its possession that is not in the exclusion list
  • Allow exclusions but consider only when it is truly necessary. Do not allow the principle of exclusion to hinder the effective disclosure. 

  • Set out clear procedures for requesting information which is not readily available in open.  

  • Recognize requesters’ rights to an appeals process when a request for information is denied.  

Data review

Internal data review

Why is data review important?

Organisation's reputation for accurate and complete information should be a chief priority for units that are uploading IATI-compliant-data into the system. Transparency alone does not ensure organisatio’s reputation as an effective organisation but must achieve the highest quality of information in internal systems so that published information is accurate, meaningful, and easy to understand by the non-specialist external audience.

Open data provides a strong incentive for all IATI publishers to improve the quality of information they share, and this begins with capturing quality information in their internal systems. 

Organisations should ensure proper quality assurance processes are in place. Following actions could help publishers to ensure that all information provided is accurate, complete and up-to-date.

  • Monitoring of IATI dashboard: IATI dashboard (http://dashboard.iatistandard.org) presents various statistics for publishers' data. Regular monitoring of organisation's dashboard page will help to identify the issues related to the data or schema and take corrective actions. 
  • Develop internal dashboard to monitor data quality: UNDP, for example, has implemented own internal transparency dashboard which enables projects managers to review their project information to ensure that all information provided is accurate, complete and up-to-date for IATI publishing.
  • Prepare IATI specific guidelines for data input: Mostly, IATI publishing is carried out at the HQ level while the data is largely provided by the country offices or other operating units. In order to generate quality data, it is important that the staff involved in providing data is aware of data quality concerns. Sharing organisation-wide IATI related guidelines will help to ensure all internal stakeholders are sufficiently informed and educated on data requirements. 
  • Carry out periodic data review exercise with country offices (CO): Having regular data review exercise with COs will help to ensure project managers have taken adequate actions to confirm the data availability and quality
  • Embed IATI related functions into regular project management and monitoring processes: Making IATI attributes an integral part of project management will help orgnaisations to reduce extra efforts put into data reviews and create of transparency throughout the oragnisation
  • Establish a feedback mechanism with internal and external data users: The feedback from data users is essential to ensure the published data is, in fact, usable and if not, to know how it could be improved. 



External review of IATI published data

IATI data is open to public scrutiny 

IATI data is often used by donors and other independent agencies to assess a publisher's performance on transparency indicators. Since donor countries are increasingly recognising the importance of IATI as a universal reporting standard, IATI publishers are subject to scrutiny, more than ever. 

Transparency should be at the core of aid organisations' work and it is vital to achieving improved trust and confidence in development work. Most organisations take transparency assessments seriously to exhibit the transparency culture and successful implementation of the IATI Standard across the organisation. 

The Aid Transparency Index

The Aid Transparency Index is an annual transparency assessment carried out by Publish What You Fund (PWYF), an international NGO based in the UK. It is the most widely recognised independent measure of aid transparency, and currently assesses the aid transparency among major aid organisations. After an initial pilot assessment in 2011, the Aid Transparency Index was first launched in 2012 and has become the global benchmark for aid transparency.

The Index methodology assesses IATI data according to multiple indicators, developed following the key principles of IATI;

  • Timely and current

  • Open and comparable

  • Comprehensive

  • Forward-looking

Based on the final score, PWYF ranks each organisation in the Index and places them into five categories – Very good, good, fair, poor and very poor. 

In 2016, UNDP managed to retain its top position as the most transparent organisation in the world for the second consecutive assessment with an overall score of 93.3. 


Global Partnership Transparency Indicator

The Global Partnership for Effective Development Co-operation (the ‘Global Partnership’) was established in Busan in 2011, and carries out regular global monitoring exercises to track the progress on the implementation of development effectiveness principles through a range of indicators, focusing on strengthening developing country institutions, increasing transparency and predictability of development co-operation, enhancing gender equality, and supporting greater involvement of civil society, trade unions, parliaments, and private sector in development efforts. Transparency is one of the ten indicators. 

The transparency assessment is based on the three key dimensions - Timeliness, Comprehensiveness, and Forward-looking, and these assess IATI data along with OECD CRS and FSS data to provide a four category scale rating from ‘Needs improvement’ to ‘Excellent'. In 2016 monitoring round, UNDP and WFP were the only UN agencies categorized in the top category of 'excellent' according to the transparency assessment based on IATI.“


Donor reviews

Donor countries are increasingly recognizing the importance of IATI as a reporting standard, and major donors such as the United Kingdom’s DFID and the Netherlands have already made IATI reporting as a mandatory requirement for their implementing partners. Transparency has become an important aspect of multilateral aid, and the organisations are now subject to scrutiny on what they publish and what they do not publish.

In 2016, DFID carried out a Multilateral Development Review which assessed the performance across the multilateral system examining the agencies receiving funding from DFID. 'Transparency and accountability' was one of the three components used in the assessment framework for assessing the organisational strength, and IATI publishing was the indicator to determine the transparency component.

In 2016 review, UNDP scored the top rating of 3.5 out 4 for the Transparency indicator as the review recognized UNDP's effort in implementing IATI, as follows;

"Some agencies, for example, UNDP, have gone beyond the basic requirements and are demonstrating a culture of transparency across their operations, such as increased use of client surveys and beneficiary feedback mechanisms. Such behaviour was necessary for agencies to achieve the highest scores."

Data in use

Access to IATI data

IATI Data Store CSV Query Builder

IATI datastore is an online service that collects all data published to the IATI Standard into a single queryable source. The store pulls all data recorded on the IATI registry on a nightly basis and helps data users access the extract in different ways (eg. by country, publishers, sector) and deliver the data in different formats (XML. JSON or CSV). 

The store is mainly aimed at providing services for data technologists, analysts, and developers. However, the CSV query builder in datastore can be easily used by less-technical users to generate CSV spreadsheet of the IATI data they are interested in.

Access link: http://datastore.iatistandard.org/query/index.php 

 (Create a short video to show how the Query builder is used)

The information published to IATI registry is in the agreed IATI electronic format of XML which is readable but not exactly understandable for humans. Transparency portals use these XML files to visualize the data and present them as meaningful information.  Some of these transparency portals are mentioned here:

Agency portals: open.undp.org

An IATI publisher could present the same information that it publishes to IATI on its own transparency portal. This provides the public with easy access to the information published in the not-so-human-friendly format of XML in the registry. 

This short video briefly demonstrates how IATI published UNDP data can be accessed via open.undp.org

d-portal.org

d-Portal is the official IATI country-based information platform that tracks resource flows and aims to provide developing countries and others with information that can help plan and monitor development activities. It presents all data published to the IATI Registry and enables UNDP data to be compared with other IATI publishers at country and sector levels. 

open.undg.org

The UNDG portal presents the IATI data in a similar format to d-portal.org but is restricted to showing only UN publishers. This portal provides the opportunity to view aggregated aid flow data from UN agencies to partner countries and sectors.  

The usability of IATI data

Within a short period of time, IATI has enabled various types of organisations to publish a great deal of humanitarian and development data in a comparable format which has opened the door for a range of possible use cases. IATI data has been already used by recipient countries and other development partners for planning, budgeting, monitoring and advocacy purposes.

  • Currently, IATI data is mainly used to showcase the organisation's commitment to transparency and the credibility as a development partner. Data portals are created by using IATI data to visually present comprehensive information about the organisation and its activities. 

  • D-portal shows who is funding what and where within a country. Partner countries use these details of external resources coming into their countries to lead in coordinating development partners and to direct resources to sectors or areas that needed most.

  • IATI data has been successfully tested for automated data integration into partner country Aid Information Management Systems (AIMS). An effective integration will allow partner countries to avoid the painstaking manual effort of inputting data into AIMS. It will also increase the information available for AIMS by providing data from those IATI publishing donors who are not part of the local AIMS. 

    Note: Data quality is one of the main reasons many countries still not using IATI data to feed in local AIMS and therefore, require publishers to pay more attention to the data quality in order to maximise the data use.
  • IATI data enable donors to gain insights into an organisation's work and results, which can be potentially used for monitoring purposes to hold implementing partners accountable for where the money goes and what are the results.

How an organisation put IATI data into own use

IATI publishers are encouraged to use IATI data for internal planning and decision-making processes;

  • At the project planning phase, country offices should be encouraged to use IATI data to identify other development partners working in a sector or location in order to leverage synergies and avoid duplication.

  • IATI helps organizations to produce high-quality internal data which can be used for improving internal management and programme efficiency. It also increases the accountability as the data includes results which can be scrutinised by donors, public, and media. 

  • IATI data is used to improve donor relations by providing access to up-to-date information on those activities funded by the respective donors. It serves as a single point of access to check all relevant information and critical documents. 

  • It can be used as an effective communication tool. Agency transparency portals (eg. open.undp.org) and d-portal.org can be used to demonstrate the project interventions and results effectively to donors and partner countries. For example, a simple use of project map to show intervention areas and relevant financial flows can tell an effective story.

  • IATI data should be used in the donor and beneficiary feedback process. Improved data availability and sharing mechanisms are an essential element of the feedback process, and IATI data could provide just what the donors and recipients are looking for. 

  •  IATI data provides better insights of organisation's activities around the world and can be used as a quick access point to search and find information on its own activities. 

Best practices

How to champion information disclosure

So, here is a short guide on how to champion IATI implementation;

1. First and foremost understand the requirements. Knowing the requirements will help you better prepare for collecting complete and accurate data

2. Buy in. Understanding the corporate priority of being a transparent organisation and accepting the responsibilities in making it a reality will help you embed IATI related functions into your work routine effectively

3. Share all information available, but be conscious of exclusions. Make sure all relevant information is shared but make sure not to share anything contained in the information disclosure policy exclusion list.

4. Know your systems and internal procedures for data input. Knowing the steps involved will help you provide information effectively and reduce the time spent on data input.

5. Always review the data before saving. Make sure you always double-check the details to ensure the completeness and accuracy of the information provided.

6. Don't forget to monitor what you are publishing

7. Use your judgement. What to publish or not is guided by the IDP, but not all circumstances are explicitly specified. So, be aware of the consequences of making sensitive information available for IATI publication and if you are not sure, seek advice from legal or transparency team.

 

 

Know the ultimate goal

(include a short video or animation to summarize and capture the importance of aid transparency and IATI) 

Congrats!

Thanks for completing the course! I hope this course has helped you to understand the IATI implementation process better and lead to perform IATI related tasks better in future. 

Sample assessment questions (Total of 20 questions to be included)

Which one of the following best describe IATI

  • An accounting standard publishing project financial information
  • A common reporting standard publishing aid and development information
  • A monitoring tool to evaluate aid effectiveness
  • The statistical reporting standard available only to bilateral and multilateral donors

Which one of the following is not a characteristic of IATI standard?

  • It allows to publish in a standardized format
  • It allows the data to be compared among multiple publishers
  • It allows organizations to publish forward looking information
  • Only available to bilateral and multilateral donors

What are the key dimensions of IATI?

  • Timely
  • Comprehensiveness
  • Forward-looking
  • Historical

Match the components correctly

  • Implementation schedule
    outlines the details of commitment to publication
  • IATI registry
    Central location where data is publishe
  • eXtensibleMarkup Language (XML)
    IATI’s agreed electronic format of data publish
  • Schema
    Describe the structure of XML standard

Which one of the following is not considered a best practice in developing Information Disclosure Policy?

  • Set out clear list of exclusions
  • Include clear procedures for requesting information
  • Aim to minimize the access to internal information
  • Recognise requester's right to an appeal process

True or false

  • IATI does not allow organization to exclude any information required by the standard
  • IATI is a voluntary initiative

Feedback questions

Does the course provide enough information to understand aid transparency and IATI?

What topics were you expecting, or would have liked addressed, that were not covered?

How consistent was the course content with the objectives?

Is the content arranged in a clear and logical way?

Does the content adequately explain the knowledge, skills and concepts it presented?

What additional material would you like presented in the course?

Did you feel the amount of time it took to complete this course was appropriate for this content?

Are the animations or videos posted in the course content useful? How can it be improved?

Does the questions adequately test the material presented in the course?

  • Not at all
  • To some extent
  • To a moderate extent
  • To a large extent

Any suggestions to improve understanding of the course content or the overall experience?