Design, Monitoring and Evaluation for Peacebuilding

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Putting Transparency Into Practice

Author, Copyright Holder: 
Patrick Gregoire, Search for Common Ground
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Transparency is essential to the effectiveness of any peacebuilding organization. It supports evidence-based, data driven approaches to peacebuilding; helps uncover and share data, results, and improve monitoring indicators; lays the foundation for accountability by providing strong checks against corruption and visibility on how, when and by whom resources are being used; builds public confidence, supports informed stakeholder participation, and confers ownership of projects, programs, and organizations onto stakeholders.  Yet, challenges persist in how best to both promote the principle of transparency within organizations and put it into practice.

The Millenium Challenge Corporation has spent the last 10 years applying the principle of transparency into action for its programs and organization. From their experience they have distilled six lessons for putting transparency into practice.

These lessons were share and discussed at the Brookings Institute presentation "Transparency at the Millennium Challenge Corporation: Launching the Principles into Practice Report” on February 6th, 2015, and were discussed by Beth Tritter, Vice President of the Department of Policy and Evaluation at MCC; Aleem Walji, Director of Innovation Labs at the World Bank; John Adams, Head of the Business Innovation Team at the United Kingdom's Department for International Development (DFID); and Theo van de Sande, Policy Officer at the Netherlands Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

Patrick Gregoire of Search for Common Ground’s Institutional Learning Team took three of these lessons and wrangled them into applications for peacebuilding M&E:

Transparency Requires Leaders and Champions

It is easy to be transparent when things are going well, but the political costs and risks of admitting shortfalls can be high when things are not. This is why leadership is crucial to set the tone and create the incentives for staff to be transparent with stakeholders, partners, and with one another. Leaders must support and reward staff for taking such risks and develop enabling policies, which are essential for putting any principle into practice.

Being consistently transparent throughout good and bad times confers legitimacy and builds trust among stakeholders. Furthermore, it helps stakeholders within and without to identify the challenges and gaps in knowledge within programming allowing for a more comprehensive pool of potential solutions. Though, as Mr. Adams stressed, political leadership is crucial.

Build a Cross Cutting Team of Technical, Data, and Policy Staff

Specialized staff needs to be trained to better leverage technologies that enable us to analyze and understand increasingly large quantities of data. Yet, no one team is sufficient to make an organization’s data open and useful. This requires an integrated team of policy staff, data analysts, and technical experts to create the policies and internal incentives to make data open and useful. Additionally, this ensures that technical systems are adapted to new approaches, and promotes intra-organizational appreciation and learning for the roles that people in various departments play in the process.  

Adapt Practice Along the Way

Releasing data and results is often fraught with unexpected difficulties. These can span from technical issues and management information systems to new data collection processes and government regulations or challenges from internal and external culture. To ensure the effectiveness of transparency, organizations need to adapt to new circumstances.

As Mr. Walji pointed out, transparency externalizes accountability to insider partners on the ground, which helps illuminate what is being done with resources, what data is being collected, and what results have achieved. However, in many places where peacebuilding and aid organizations work data is simply unavailable because country partners lack the necessary infrastructure. As such, it is in the best interest of organizations to help build the statistical capacity of such partners.

On the other hand, Mr. Adams reminded that some local field partners may have a fear of exposure due to security concerns or other legitimate matters. For example, in some places receiving help from American organizations can lead to negative perceptions or outcomes). And so there are limits to transparency, but it is also important to be transparent about what cannot be disclosed.

 

Transparency is essential to good DM&E practice to ensure that results and data are not only available and shared, but are properly used. Putting the principle into practice requires strong leadership, interdepartmental communication and collaboration, and constant adaptation.

Questions to you readers! How can you ensure buy-in and leadership from actors in your organization? How have any these principles and applications come up in your own work? Tell us below in the comments section and we’ll get back to you!



Patrick Gregoire grew up as a part of a Foreign Service family and spent much of his youth living in conflict-affected contexts which spurred him to study peacebuilding and conflict transformation, eventually receiving his Masters from New York University. He and his many talents have recently come to work as Research Assistant to the Institutional Learning Team at Search for Common Ground.