Blog

NGOs and transparency: do they work together?

Interview 

Martin, interviewed by Kim

Martin Drenth, Senior Architect at Flores.nl, discusses the development of IATI Insights, a tool to convert your IATI publication into a clear, organized Dashboard.

Can you tell us about the creation of the IATI Insights dashboard?

An important part of the work of an NGO is monitoring cash flows of various projects and results achieved by them. In that context, many NGOs report their results according to the IATI standard. IATI (the International Aid Transparency Initiative) is an initiative of the UN that strives to chart the money flows and the results of development organizations in a transparent and comprehensive way. Every organization that has joined this initiative reports by publishing an XML file on the public IATI registry.

In the Netherlands, the UK and Denmark you are obliged as an NGO to publish your data in IATI. One of our clients, Plan Nederland, also reports on IATI. They have a strong need to be able to view this published (publicly available) information in a well-arranged dashboard, in particular combined with the information from four other organizations with which Plan participated in a partnership. Together with Plan, we developed the first version of what is now called IATI Insights. The XML publication file that we extract from IATI is read by Power BI and converted into well-arranged tables & graphs in a number of interactive dashboards.

How does the IATI Dashboard increase traceability and transparency?

With the implementation of the IATI Dashboard we create, among other things, insight into the cash flows of the activities of an NGO. From the money flow in and out of an NGO, you can clearly see which activities it is linked to. You can see where the money comes from (for example, an incoming fund, incoming or outgoing commitment, transfer to another organization, etc.) and how it is spent.

Is it also possible to measure the impact of a particular result?

Measuring the impact of results is difficult, as all NGOs agree. What do you measure, how do you measure it and are these measurements representative? To create insight, indicators must be drawn up that make the results measurable. An NGO decides for itself which indicators these are and what the danger of subjectivity entails. There is also no (national or international) standard for this. This makes comparisons extra difficult. It becomes even more difficult if you want to relate these results to the 17 high-end sustainable development goals (SDGs), to which every NGO refers in its reports. There is still a long way to go here, but the beginning is there.

Is it possible to report your IATI data in Dynamics 365?

Yes indeed! As an NGO, you can work with your technical team to implement the IATI add-on to the Microsoft Dynamics 365 Nonprofit Accelerator. This extends the Common Data Model for Nonprofits with the IATI data standards and allows the NGO to directly enter the data in your CRM according to the IATI standard and generate an IATI publication file that you can report to the IATI registry.

Is the IATI Dashboard also visible within Dynamics 365?

Yes, we are busy making the data that you enter immediately visible in the IATI Dashboard within Dynamics 365. You will then only see the data from your own organization. That way you can see very quickly whether your data is correct according to the IATI standard.

How did you determine which information you display?

Together with experienced expert Thea Scheepers from Plan Nederland, we have looked at how the data can best be displayed on the basis of Plan Nederland's information needs. Based on interviews with other NGOs and seminars with NGOs, the graphs, tables and other visuals shown have been tested for their value. But the IATI Insights dashboard is never finished; if there are new insights and better suggestions, we can also implement them.

What do “blanks” in your dashboard mean and how do you handle it?

It is possible that something has been entered incorrectly on the input side or a field has been left blank. For example, if a budget is not or incorrectly registered then it is not shown in the dashboard. It is then important to return to the input side to enter or repair the data. The IATI Insights dashboard also helps you gain insight into the quality of your own input.

What is your future wish with regard to the development of the dashboard?

One future plan we have is to be able to read an IATI publication from one or more other NGOs and to combine it with your own data, so that you can compare your data with other NGOs. We are already working on this and we have the first designs ready.