TAI Weekly | October 18, 2017
By TAI
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TAI spotlight…

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

  • How Changing Funder Practices Can Change the World  (Ford Foundation) – The fight against inequality is difficult and the way the non-profit sector is currently financed does not make it any easier. Read Kathy Reich’s insights on five practices by which funders can enable social justice organizations to innovate and scale up, and how Ford Foundation attempts to puts theory into practice.
  • Engaging Young People in Civic Action | Why We Invested: DoSomething.org (Omidyar Network)–  Learn how Omidyar Network supports the potential of today’s millennials and Gen Z to do good through DoSomething.org
  • Azerbaijan’s Wrong Turn (Open Society Foundations )- Featuring grantee Freedom Now’s documentation of the Azerbaijani government cracks down on dissidents and the plight of the Azerbaijani exiles in Georgia.
  • When are Big Bets the Right Bet? (William and Flora Hewlett Foundation) – Watch Hewlett Foundation’s Larry Kramer outline his stance on philanthropic big bets, and why learning and collaboration with other funders are crucial to achieving real social change over time.   

In case you missed it…

https://www.georgesoros.com/press-resources/

Source: Georgesoros.com

George Soros is a controversial figure, often the target of conspiracy theories (with varying degrees of accuracy) and increasingly subject to protests from Europe to the US. Emily Tamkin of Foreign Policy Magazine asks “who is really afraid of George Soros?” and chronicles the octogenarian’s philanthropic work and the politics behind his demonization.
 
#RenewTrust was the main call at the recently concluded UN General Assembly. Easy to hashtag, harder to fix. Polls suggest the US is experiencing a steady decline of public trust in democratic institutions so it is intriguing to see Knight Foundation partner with the Aspen Institute to create a new commission focused on strengthening the media, journalism and the information ecosystem. Read the co-chairs rationale. Maybe focusing media attention on good governance champions could help? If so, nominations for the next round of Integrity Idol are now open. Can future idols help us overcome the seven challenges for accountability outlined by Anuradha Joshi? TAI members will watch closely in their search for second-generation approaches that can deliver.
 
What role for open government? While Spain is roiled by Catalan moves towards independence, the Basque government is taking a different tack, exploring the potential of platforms such as the Open Government Partnership to deepen citizen trust through subnational pilots. They might be encouraged by the remarks of Côte d’Ivoire Minister Bruno Nabagné Koné, who emphasized that transparency has become an idea “inseparable from participatory democracy and good governance,” in his remarks on International Right to Know Day.
 
Another path to trust might be through clamping down on corruption. In Latin America and the Caribbean more than half of survey respondents in a Transparency International study claim their governments fail to address corruption, and around 90 million report paying bribes to access public services. The same study shows that more people are willing to protest against corruption (around 70 percent), Mexico included. There are more than enough reasons to do so. Investigators are currently looking whether endemic graft contributed to the death toll and destruction during the earthquake in Mexico City. Will this lead to a shake-up of a corrupt system? Access to information that can spark citizen action will help but you also need capacity to sanction. In relation to the former, a new report assesses the state of the right to information in Africa, concluding that while passing legislation is crucial, it is insufficient to realize citizen access to information. For the latter, it is encouraging to see the creation of an independent European Public Prosecutor’s Office (EPPO) to handle fraud, corruption and other crimes involving EU funds.
 
How do you increase data quality, publication and use? ODI is testing its hypothesis that better publishing tools and integration of existing tools can make the difference. Robert Palmer in turn offers his take on  four main tools for assessing open data publication. Maybe these can help speed up and automate Bulgaria’s processes as it expands its open data portal? Meanwhile, Martine Durand of the OECD argues that improving sustainable development data is a task for everyone, Nepalese citizens are already relying on open data to monitor procurement in Nepal, and UK government data reveals the varying experiences of different ethnicities in accessing public services, such as health, housing and education.
 
For his part, Paul Ogwu argues the centrality of open data for accountability in the extractives sector. But does the sector merit a continued governance focus? Yes according to Alex Tilley, the shift towards renewable energy will have far-reaching effects on the extractives sector given that 37 percent of the minerals and metals needed for energy in a low-carbon future are in countries with “weak” resource governance.
 
The Dutch government is set to cut its corporate tax rate and Francis Weyzig of Oxfam Novib is fired up against “race to the bottom tax competition” arguing that only a tiny business elite benefits at the expense of the rest of us. Weyzig’s analysis resonates with IMF analysis that taxing the rich more will cut inequality without negatively affecting growth. UK’s Labour seized on the report to call for a fairer tax system, but the US debate veers further away from the evidence. At least there is incremental progress to governments sharing tax info with each other – the OECD announced that there are now over 1000 bilateral exchange relationships activated with respect to more than 40 jurisdictions committed to exchanging country by country reports. Explore the full list. The data should start flowing in 2018 (for those who can see it).
 
Of course, the gap between policymaking and evidence from research goes beyond tax. So how do you ensure research influences policy? According to Babu Rahman, a research analyst at the British Foreign and Commonwealth Office, politicians do not require a “here’s the answer”, but analysis of a range of possible solutions covering what has and has not worked under different conditions. Of course, just as governments should start with their own data, so should funders. To that end, Taryn Davis offers the latest on the good, bad and ugly of using IATI results data. Want to test the limits of grants data? Ford now offers a decade of grant info in one download (though not in IATI format – yet).
 
In light of the Equifax data breach, data scientist Cathy O’Neil reiterates the need to reframe the debate from who owns our data to controlling how companies and governments can use it. One thing for sure, safeguards must be in place to prevent data from being used by governments to violate civil and political rights. Take the case of the US’ order to reveal data of 1.3 million visitors to an anti-Trump website to crack down on protestors at Trump’s inauguration. This digital age has major implications on human rights and we wonder whether public policies are coping with changes and where lessons from the transparency and accountability field can be leveraged. Protection International’s monitoring of global developments in national protection mechanisms and public policies for the protection of human rights defenders may provide insights. Meanwhile, women human rights defenders and their organizations are more at risk than ever and community organizing and movement building are crucial to their protection.  A new paper from V-Dem finds that gaps in measuring and understanding regime changes may affect funder and practitioner responses to changes in civic space.
 
Such trends are disrupting not only social fabric, but even employment prospects. In past Weeklies we’ve flagged that smart young things might wish to train to be “algorithmic auditors”, but China is already pointing to the growth of another new job category – “content auditors” – who are playing an important role in China’s intensifying government censorship. 
 
More lessons on scaling solutions to today’s social problems? The conversation between David Sasaki and Glenn Fajardo generate insights on how funders and grantees can interact with each other more honestly. A new report examines the factors that allow organizations to expand and achieve system-level shifts and the role/s that funders and funding can play. USAID’s documents its approach towards effective gender programming. Forbes identifies the hidden threat to successful non-profits and Heba Ghannam offers tips on how to better integrate M&E across sectors (very welcome as TAI refines our learning, monitoring and evaluation plan.)

Of potential interest…

On the Calendar…

  • #TAI Weekly  #BirdsEyeView

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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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