Do transparency advocacy groups practice what they preach?

Transparify so far has primarily looked at the transparency of think tanks. Yet transparency also matters in many other sectors, including policy advocacy.

Citizens should be able to find out who pays for that advocacy. 

Transparency is particularly relevant for pro-transparency organizations. In line with that idea, we assessed 34 organizations who feature prominently at the Open Data Conference (#IODC15) in Ottawa, Canada. The #IODC15 event, which runs May 28-29, 2015, brings together the leading pro-transparency organizations, experts and donors, from across the world. It thus allows an excellent assessment of the field of pro-transparency advocacy.

Using Transparify's well-established methodology, we rated the extent to which participating organizations publicly disclose through their websites where their funding comes from. 

How transparent are the pro-transparency advocates? 

The news is fairly good, but there is quite some way to go before the sector itself is a role-model. Of the 34 organizations we assessed:

  • 12 are already transparent about who funds them
  • 7 told us that they plan to become transparent in the near future
  • 15 are opaque and seem not to want to disclose more funding data. 

With an average of 2.7 stars, the pro-transparency sector still is less transparent than the leading 35 US think tanks are (3.2 stars). 

Follow us on Twitter to keep up to date about reactions to this report from #IODC15 participants.

We believe that non-profits should embrace transparency for a variety of reasons:

  • non-profits are key actors in democratic societies
  • non-profits enjoy tax free status
  • transparency builds credibility with donors, clients, policy-makers and other stakeholders
  • the sector as a whole is huge, e.g. in the United States it accounts for over 8% of GDP
  • voluntary transparency is the best way to dissuade burdensome external regulation.

We will re-assess all 34 institutions later this year to track and document their progress. To receive our follow-up report by email, sign up here.

To find out who the most transparent pro-transparency advocates are, read our MAY 2015 IODC TRANSPARENCY REPORT.

Five Stars for our Fellow Transparency Advocates

How transparent are transparency advocates about their own funding? Are pro-accountability advocacy groups setting a good example for governments, businesses and others to follow?

In order to answer this question, Transparify recently looked at the websites of 15 NGOs focused on transparency and accountability issues, applying the same rating methodology that we apply to think tanks. We then contacted each organization with its score and invited it to comment and, if applicable, put more data online.

We are happy to report that some transparency groups were already 5-star transparent when we visited their websites. Many others welcomed our initiative and said that they plan to update their websites soon.

Among the most enthusiastic organization of those we contacted was Global Integrity, which champions transparent and accountable government around the world by producing innovative research and technologies that inform, connect, and empower civic, private, and public reformers seeking more open societies.

Global Integrity immediately went to work on their website and produced a concise yet crystal clear funding page. Global Integrity now lists every donor together with the exact sum given by that donor, and the purpose of the donation, plus the time frame of related activities. In other words, Global Integrity is clearly 5-star transparent.

Corruption Watch, one of the leading anti-corruption watchdogs in sub-Saharan Africa, has also updated their website to reach 5-star transparency, by giving detailed information on its donors and projects.

Now that Global Integrity and Corruption Watch have shown how easy becoming 5-star transparent can be, we trust that many others will be keen to follow in their footsteps, and to be publicly recognized for doing so.

Transparify will publish more on transparency in the transparency sector, early next year. Right now, we are busy rating nearly 200 think tanks worldwide, and preparing to publish the results of this second round of think tank ratings in early 2015.

To keep up to date about our work with think tanks and NGOs, and to receive our next report straight into your inbox, sign up for email updates here.