It’s time to open up. Over the past few years, more and more development organizations have answered the sector’s call for greater collaboration and transparency, taking steps to share data and make a bigger impact.
InterAction is the largest US-based alliance organization, helping over 180 international non-governmental organizations (INGOs) working in international development and humanitarian assistance to mobilize and enhance their impact, align common interests and build community, and promote learning and innovation.
InterAction released NGO Aid Map in 2010 in an effort to increase the amount of publicly available data and help promote transparency; educate donors, NGOs and the general public; enable users to explore potential partnerships; and support decision-makers in making more informed decisions. The platform details members’ work at a project level around the world, showing the breadth of InterAction’s work as a collective. Today, the site houses data from over 12,000 projects from 135 member organizations operating in 173 countries, representing close to $15 billion in programs.
During the webinar, InterAction Director of Innovation and Learning Julie Montgomery gave a demo of the site to show how easily users to can interactively search and find members’ projects by sector, location, country and organization. Using the IRC as an example, Julie showed the scope of information shared on project pages (e.g. budget, donors, timeline and people reached).
Significant spikes over a steady rise in site traffic in the last year are indicative of the map’s value. In September alone, the map attracted over 25,000 visits. When InterAction asked members and stakeholders why they use the platform the top three answers were 1) to learn more about NGOs’ work, 2) for communications and marketing, and 3) for research purposes.
Though still in the nascent stages of using the platform, the IRC team has “very high hopes” for it for the future. As a larger humanitarian organization operating in over 40 countries, the IRC sees heightened transparency and the ability to provide up-to-date detailed project data as the greatest potential benefits of use.
“This is an incredibly important tool and I think it will be great for collaborating and demonstrating transparency to our donors and observers,” shared Sam Grigsby, International Programs Department Manager at the IRC. “It’s great for showing where we are, how much we’re working with, and the types of projects we have.”
The IRC also intends to leverage the resource to raise visibility. Potential uses for the IRC may be embedding maps on their website, adding pictures and videos to projects and using the map to promote work via social media.
Sam said that one of the main challenges in adopting the tool thus far has been ownership of the Aid Map. Though saving time is one of the potential long-term benefits, transporting data into batch upload forms takes time – especially for those organizations without a dedicated data team. Once the Aid Map is established as the foundation for sharing project information, though, Sam believes it will be “an excellent investment of time upfront.”
Going forward, InterAction is looking to increase the number of participating organizations and improve the quality of data. The team is continuing to roll out new features, working on International Aid Transparency Initiative (IATI) compliance, and adding more geographic information to make data more accessible.
While uploading data to NGO Aid Map is currently only available to InterAction member organizations, Julie emphasized that the team is looking to expand participation to non-member NGOs early next year. InterAction is also focused on encouraging other NGO platforms to replicate the initiative.
Have suggestions on how InterAction can improve NGO Aid Map and encourage more NGOs to participate? Contact firstname.lastname@example.org