Interpreting IATI’s Standard - made easier with new guidance

  • Sept. 19, 2019

This post was written by Amy Silcock, IATI Business and Data Analyst from the IATI Technical Team based at Development Initiatives.

Over 30 technical and data experts from the IATI community came together in August to help the Technical Team review and develop guidance - guidance to help both publishers and data users better interpret the IATI Standard.

The need for additional guidance

The IATI Standard sets out rules and guidance for publishing data on development and humanitarian activities. Since 2011, over 1000 organisations, from government agencies to NGOs, have used the IATI Standard to publish data on over a million activities. However there is growing demand for additional guidance on how to use and interpret IATI data for several reasons.

For one, new guidance documents are needed to help make the technically complex Standard easier to understand, particularly for non-technical audiences, thereby ensuring that IATI guidance materials meet the needs of all stakeholders. There is also a need to address gaps and inconsistencies in the Standard, which have arisen from the Standard’s expansion over time to reflect changing policy agendas and data needs. These inconsistencies and gaps have led to publishers interpreting and applying the Standard in different ways.

Proposing recommendations and consulting the IATI community

To create the new guidance, the Technical Team reviewed existing materials, identified inconsistencies or gaps and proposed changes for consultation with the wider IATI community. Community input happened by feeding back directly on 12 guidance pages, followed by two webinars to discuss the findings.

In this first round consultation, revising the guidance on some of the bread and butter (mandatory and recommended) elements of IATI, which are useful to all groups, from new users to those who want to check their interpretation of the IATI Standard, were prioritised. This covered how to report activity dates, geography, budgets and thematic areas (sectors).

Many thanks to our community's experts

The consultative process allowed reflection from a wide range of stakeholders. Feeding back individually allowed us to capture each person or organisation’s views and concerns, which then provided further focus for two webinars in which we explored the feedback in more depth and from different angles. As a result, we were able to make changes to the guidance, both in what was being recommended and how to explain it in a user-friendly way which could be understood by non-technical users.

New guidance published

IATI’s Technical Team is pleased to launch the 12 IATI Standard guidance documents in their final versions. For now, they can be found on both the Activity and Organisation overview pages on the IATI Standard Reference site. However, they will eventually be easier to access when they move to their permanent home under a ‘guidance’ section of, later in the in the year.

Activity Dates & Status

Budgets (Overview)

Activity Participants

Organisation Budgets & Spend

Activity Thematic Focus (Sectors)

Activity Budgets

Activity Geography

Financial Transactions

Geography - Countries and Regions

Additional Activity Classifications

Geography - Sub-national Locations

Related Documents

Next steps

Over the course of the next year, the IATI Technical Team will identify additional areas of guidance for the community to review and feedback on. This will likely be through a mix of guidance review webinars and working groups - depending on the nature of the guidance. We look forward to tackling some long standing challenging issues of the Standard, including hierarchies and double counting, as well as updating guidance such as humanitarian reporting in IATI.

If you would like to be a part of the guidance review process then do let us know by emailing the team at [email protected]. Alternatively, keep an eye out on Discuss and the IATI newsletter for additional information .