Last week more than 150 aid transparency professionals met in Kathmandu at the IATI Technical Advisory Group meeting. Traditionally this meeting was a space for discussing the more technical aspects of the underlying infrastructure that supports the global aid transparency movement including the IATI Standard and the visualisation tools and mechanisms which support it. Today it also serves as an opportunity for data users and policy makers to come together to share their experiences and learn from one another’s work.

Three of the Publish What You Fund team were in attendance and led sessions on our new IATI Decipher tool, our work on US transparency, a behind the scenes look at the 2018 Aid Transparency Index, opportunities for data noise reduction and ways to improve past and future aid budget transparency.

We came away with a sense that while a lot of progress has been made, there is still work to be done if we want a world where aid and development information is transparent, available and used for effective decision-making, public accountability and lasting change for all citizens. However, we’re positive that the IATI community possesses the skills, solutions and passion to make this a reality.

So now we’re back at HQ with our sleeves rolled up and to-do lists to work through, let us share a few of our key takeaways from the event:

1. Doubling down on data users

It’s great to see how much energy and resource is being prioritised for identification and training of data users from a broad spectrum of organisations including government, CSOs and the media. It’s uplifting to hear stories from new users about the value they derive from accessing and understanding the data, encouraging to see the work of the IATI Data Use Fund and a positive step forward that Young Innovations has been awarded a grant to establish a user feedback mechanism.

However, here at Publish What You Fund HQ we’re starting to wonder if, as a community, we’ve struck the right balance between committing resources to finding new users versus supporting existing ones who face challenges when trying to access the data. Watch this space for a thought-piece on this topic.

2. Defining a future role for the TAG

Historically the TAG has been an opportunity for the technical experts in the wider community to come together and hammer out solutions to the pressing technical problems of the day. However as the movement has grown, and as we increasingly seek to incorporate the voices and opinions of data users and Southern actors, there is a risk that as the agenda grows in breadth the TAG doesn’t allow space for addressing the priority technical issues. We welcome the IATI Team’s thoughts on how best to adapt the event so that it still fulfils its practical and governance obligations as a technical forum, while not excluding policy maker and data user voices – no mean feat!

3. Travel fast alone, but further together

Spend a few hours on the IATI Discuss Forum and you can’t help but be impressed by the number, capability and enthusiasm of people interacting in the discussions, raising issues and posting solutions. No doubt, for the IATI Technical Team this can sometimes be a headache – some discussions inevitably won’t be a priority, some solutions will have consequences which aren’t immediately obvious. Understanding how we can best harness the energy and ideas of the wider community will be a key step if we want to realise the full potential of IATI and the aid transparency movement.

So it was in this spirit that we challenged new TAG Chair Steven Flower to think about how the Technical team could best share their work plans, or indeed use an approach such as Slack or Discourse (we’re agnostic about the best system) to engage and to help coordinate the efforts of the community. We look forward to following up this discussion in due course.

The TAG was also a great opportunity for us to talk about our current work on DFI transparency, to hear about the work being done in the humanitarian space, and generally to network with a diverse group all working towards the new goal. Thank you to the Nepalese for welcoming us so generously, and well done to the organisers. Now the real work begins!