Open Source Software would be impossible without collaboration

As a funder we strongly believe in being open and transparent about what we do. That’s why I’ve written this series of blog articles explaining what we look for in potential grantees and it’s also why we publish details of all the grants we award both on this blog and via the International Aid Transparency Initiative. This not only offers a way to raise the profile of our grantees and their projects, but also allows for greater coordination of aid efforts, thereby improving aid effectiveness. As part of this, we also expect our grantees to be  willing to share and collaborate. Although we understand that collaboration can be difficult – especially for NGOs competing for limited funds – we strongly believe that the pros of openness and transparency far outweigh any cons.

First and foremost, we want our grantees to be open and honest with us. We recognise that many of the organisations we support work in very difficult and challenging environments and that things will go wrong and mistakes will be made. Grantees often face huge difficulties – whether political, linguistic, technical or geographical – that can delay a project or necessitate major changes or revisions to the original plan. We want to see our grantees succeed and aim to do everything within our power to ensure that that happens, but if have no idea of the problems our grantees are encountering, there’s not much that we can do to help.

As well as being open and honest with us, we really like it when grantees are keen to communicate with other organisations and share the lessons they’ve learned. There are often hundreds, if not thousands, of organisations working towards the same goal, whether that’s expanding access to HIV services for expectant mothers in South Africa or improved governance in Nigeria. Frequently, NGOs are repositories holding decades of experience and vast amounts of knowledge. Sharing that information with others, talking about the challenges you have faced and how you overcame them can be extremely powerful. This form of openness can take many forms, whether it’s sharing evaluation reports, making your technology open source or simply being willing to talk to other NGOs in the field.

Transparency and openness are built into all the grants that we make. As part of their IntHEC programme, for example, Liverpool School of Tropical Medicine are compiling valuable information and experience on the delivery of sexual and reproductive health services in Tanzania and Niger. They have committed to making the findings of this research open and accessible to all partners in these countries in  the most suitable format. So, while health researchers might appreciate full reports and datasets, on-the-ground practitioners will benefit most from key pointers and recommendations to help them improve the services they offer to patients.

Very occasionally we will make an exception to our policy of being open and honest. Generally speaking, we will only agree to make such exceptions where we believe such transparency poses a threat to an organisation or to individuals associated with that organisation. Last year, for example, we awarded a grant to the team behind NotInMyCountry, a website aiming to expose corruption and failures in the higher education sector in Uganda. Because of the sensitive nature of their work, we agreed not to publish any details of this project until the site went live. Now that the site is up and running, however, we’re proud to talk about our involvement in it and hope that the NotInMyCountry will be willing to share their experiences with others who could stand to benefit.

In the next, and final, post I’ll look at the levels of funding that Indigo can offer and why our typical grants tend to be around £10,000.