Guest blog from Laia Grino, Senior Manager, Transparency, Accountability and Results at InterAction. This blog was originally published on InterAction’s website on 3 November 2015.
InterAction has just published information on its grant-funded activities to the International Aid Transparency Initiative (IATI) for the third time. Since first publishing in March 2015, we’ve considerably improved our publication process. It’s only a slight exaggeration to say that we can now publish to IATI with just one click of a button. In case it might be of use to others, here’s how we did it.
Though the process we set up to publish the first and second time certainly got the job done, it was far from efficient. This is what it looked like (individuals involved are in italics and tools in bold blue text):
Some might fairly ask why we didn’t just use AidStream, a tool that would have allowed us to simply enter our grant information and then publish to IATI directly. The most important reason is that we needed this grant data for our own internal purposes. Using AidStream as a grant management tool was not an option because we capture additional data on grants beyond what is covered by IATI. We also didn’t want to make grant managers manually enter data in two places: the grant forms and AidStream. So although this process did take some time to set up, in the short-term it was slightly more efficient than the alternatives.
Even at the time, however, we knew this process would not be sustainable. And indeed, once our resource development manager left – which meant their role in the process fell to the IATI lead – we made it a priority to streamline the process.
Around this time, we learned that we could make use of the Salesforce database InterAction has been transitioning to. Working with our IT director and another tech-savvy colleague, we created a more comprehensive version of the grant form in Salesforce using the “Opportunities” functionality. This is what our process looks like now:
We are thrilled to have gotten to this point. Though we will continue making tweaks, the process is now so simple that anyone at InterAction could conceivably serve as the “IATI lead.” In other words, InterAction’s publication to IATI is no longer dependent on the expertise of one or two people.
As happy as we are to have gotten here, the process was admittedly painful. Making sense of what IATI requires was much more time consuming than it should have been. Setting things up in Salesforce was similarly difficult and complicated. Fortunately, that actually had an upside: after struggling unsuccessfully to get Salesforce to generate a file with all the grant information we needed for IATI, my colleague discovered he could just write a code that would generate an IATI XML file (for those who’d like to see this code, visit this GitHub page). This breakthrough allowed us to simplify the publication process even more than we’d hoped, as we no longer need to use the IATI2CSV converter.
Based on our experience, we’d like to offer the IATI community two recommendations:
- For the IATI Secretariat: Invest in improving the guidance for publishing to IATI. As it is, publishing to IATI remains a daunting task, turning off many who might be willing to publish voluntarily.
- For IATI publishers: Don’t just write about why you’re publishing to IATI, but also how. This will help others trying to figure out their own process, and make it possible to identify pain points that new tools or changes to existing tools could help solve.