What is Publish What You Fund?

Publish What You Fund is the global campaign for aid transparency. Launched in 2008, we work to make information on aid and development finance open by default and to make sure it is shared and used.

What does Publish What You Fund want to achieve?

We envisage a world where aid and development information is transparent, available and used for effective decision-making, public accountability and lasting change for all citizens. Our 2016 – 2019 strategy aims to improve the amount and quality of information donors publish to the International Aid Transparency Index (IATI) and to increase the use of this information by governments and people everywhere.


Who does Publish What You Fund target to achieve global aid transparency?

Our focus is on governments and institutions that provide aid and development finance. The scope of this work is growing as more money flows to the private sector, through climate finance and to humanitarian emergencies. We concentrate on the largest providers of aid and development finance as we want the maximum amount of information as possible to be open.

Who funds your work?

Most of our funding is derived from grant-making foundations who share our values and objectives. A full list of our funders is here. Some of our work is also supported by Friends of Publish What You Fund an independent 501(c)(3) organisation registered in the District of Columbia.

What is the Aid Transparency Index and how does it work?

The Aid Transparency Index is the only independent measure of transparency among the world’s leading development organisations. It is a periodic publication researched and produced by Publish What You Fund. The Index tracks and encourages progress towards aid transparency, while holding donors to account.

For the 2018 Index, 45 donors were assessed. Details on the criteria for inclusion in the Index can be found here.

The Index is an interactive process and Publish What You Fund strongly engages with the donor organisations it is assessing. At the beginning of data collection, Publish What You Fund shares a preliminary assessment of each organisation’s level of transparency and remains available throughout and after the data collection period to respond to questions and queries. Additionally, for the first time in 2018, Publish What You Fund provided donors with the Data Quality Tester, a new open source tool that allows organisations to independently test the quality of their data against the Index methodology.

To ensure both the accuracy and impartiality of the Index, independent reviewers also provide feedback, comments and suggestions on assessments. They typically came from CSOs, think tanks or universities familiar with the donor organisation concerned or the development sector more broadly. Further input is provided by a group of peer reviewers, comprised of recognised experts in the development sector and/or on open data. They advise Publish What You Fund on the methodology and related assessments.

What is the methodology for the Aid Transparency Index?

As the global aid landscape changes and donors make progress towards this goal, the methodology for the 2018 Index was revised and developed to remain relevant. This means that the 2018 Index results are not directly comparable with previous Aid Transparency Index results. For the 2018 Index, data was collected on 36 indicators which are categorised into the following five weighted components of aid transparency:

  • Organisational planning and commitments (15%)
  • Finance and budgets (25%)
  • Project Attributes (20%)
  • Joining-up Development Data (20%)
  • Performance (20%)

All organisations’ data was collected in two stages. First, their IATI data was put through the Aid Transparency Tracker, which runs automated checks and tests on data published to the IATI Registry. Second, data is collected via a manual survey for indicators that are either not published to the IATI Registry or do not pass the tracker tests.

Additionally, a total of 16 out of the 33 indicators tested by the tracker require additional verification to ensure the information published to IATI is of a consistently high quality. The Publish What You Fund team manually samples data and documents provided for these indicators in order to ensure the information is current, useful and meets the definition of the indicator.

For further details on the methodology changes and the 2018 methodology as well as for a full list of indicators, please consult the 2018 Aid Transparency Index Guidelines and the technical paper.

Do you review the same organisations every year?

The list of organisations included in the 2018 Index has changed due to a review of the criteria for donor selection. The 2018 Index ranks 45 agencies – 43 of the donors that were included in the 2016 Index have been retained. Not included in the 2018 Index anymore are the International Monetary Fund, the United States Department of the Treasury and the French Ministry of Economy and Finance (MINEFI). The Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade of New Zealand (New Zealand-MFAT) as well as the United Kingdom Foreign and Commonwealth Office (UK-FCO) are again included in this year’s Index after they were not included in 2016.

Why do you select more than one agency for some donors?

The Aid Transparency Index assesses more than one agency for some large donors (European Commission, France, Germany, Japan, United Kingdom, United Nations, United States and the World Bank) with multiple ministries or organisations responsible for significant proportions of ODA. We have opted to maintain the disaggregation of agencies for several reasons. First, no two agencies from the same donor country or organisation in the Index score the same. There is often wide variation in the amount of information made available by different agencies in a single country or multilateral organisation. Second, agencies often retain a large amount of autonomy in deciding how much information they make available and have different publication approaches, which they should be held accountable for. Third, it would be unfair for high performing agencies within a country or organisation to be pulled down by lower performing agencies. Similarly, lower performing agencies should not have their poor performance masked in an average score. Finally, it is unclear how we can aggregate agencies into a single country or organisation score in a way that reflects wide variations in performance. It would be necessary to take into account the proportion of a country’s aid delivered by each separate agency in order to create an aggregate country ranking that fairly reflects that country’s level of aid transparency and this information is not always available.

Are you the same organisation as Publish What You Pay?

No we are not. Publish What You Fund and Publish What You Pay are two independent organisations. We work on aid transparency and Publish What You Pay focuses on transparency in the extractives sector. Publish What You Pay supports the Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (EITI), which shares similar aims to the International Aid Transparency Initiative (IATI), but in a different sector.

More detailed questions about the Aid Transparency Index

What are manual checks and sampling and how does it work?

Manual checks and sampling are conducted by Publish What You Fund staff on 16 indicators published in the IATI Standard. The purpose is to ensure that the information published for these indicators is what it should be and encourages the publication of high quality information to the IATI Registry with the aim of benefiting data users.

Manual checks and sampling are conducted twice: first, as part of the initial assessment; second, at the end of data collection. The results of the first round of manual checks and sampling are shared with the donor organisation, giving them the chance to fix any issues. After data collection has closed, Publish What You Fund will notify donors of sampling results in order that any data errors can be fixed. However, improvements to this data will not be taken into account for the final Index results.

For five indicators relating to organisational planning, Publish What You Fund’s team will manually check that the documents published on the IATI Registry are up-to-date and meet both the requirements of the IATI Standard and the Index indicator definition. A single document is expected for each of the following indicators: organisation strategy, annual report, allocation policy, procurement policy and audit.

For individual projects and operations, 11 indicators are sampled to manually verify that the information provided meets the required criteria and definition against which they are being scored. This includes, among others, project budget documents, reviews and evaluations as well as sub-national locations. Sampling is conducted on 20 current projects and operations. These are randomly selected. A minimum of ten project documents or data need to pass sampling to be scored as IATI data.

For a full list of sampled indicators and more details, please see the technical paper.

What do you mean by “current data”?

Data must be current for an organisation to be able to score on each indicator. For purposes of the Index, “current” is defined as published within the 12-months immediately preceding the end of the data collection period, i.e. “current” information was published between the 9th of March 2017 and the 9th of March 2018. Information published before this period is not accepted as current and information published after the close of data collection cannot be considered in the assessment. Documents that are not current under this definition are accepted only if they are up to date with their regular cycle of publication or if they have explicit extensions written into them.

What do you mean by “format” of the data? How did you score data formats?

Information published in machine-readable formats is presented in a structured way (not free text) that can be read automatically by a computer. Formats such as XML or spreadsheets (XLSX, CSV) are machine-readable formats. Data in traditional word-processed documents, HTML and PDF files are easily read by humans but are difficult for machines to interpret. Publishing data in a structured, machine-readable open format allows activities of different organisations to be quickly collected and compared. By contrast, comparing activities across multiple organisations or countries would require searching multiple websites and aggregating information published in different PDF files. This difference is reflected in the Index scoring, whereby organisations can get more points on indicators published in machine-readable formats. Data published in the IATI Standard, the only open standard for aid and development finance data, scores highest, followed by data published in other machine-readable formats, then websites and finally PDF files.

For details on the scores given per format, please see the technical paper.

What is IATI?

The International Aid Transparency Initiative (IATI) provides a standard framework for publishing aid information. IATI is a ‘multi-stakeholder initiative’ with over 70 members including governments, multilateral organisations and civil society groups. The IATI Standard allows funders and implementing organisations to publish their data on aid and development finance in a common format that allows for comparison across organisations.

Publishing to the IATI Standard requires set information, such as a project’s title or the type of work being done, to be entered. The advantage of this is that information between donors can be easily understood and compared and it is timely (e.g. publication of current data as opposed to historical data as with the OECD). It is the only standard where project level data is entered, so it can be disaggregated to a high level of detail and – critically – the data is open. This means that it can be used and reused by anyone and everyone for free.

The IATI Standard is machine readable, so computers are able to quickly analyse the data, rather than people having to copy data from lengthy PDF or written documents. Importantly, IATI allows forward-looking data to be uploaded, which allows partner countries and organisations receiving aid and development finance to plan their budgets better as a result.

What is the difference between the Aid Transparency Index and IATI?

The Aid Transparency Index measures donor progress towards aid transparency and is produced by Publish What You Fund, an independent civil society campaign. The Aid Transparency Index does not only include IATI publishers but also looks at other donors. IATI is an initiative that promotes and maintains an open data standard. Publish What You Fund was an early supporter of IATI, and held one of two civil society seats on the IATI Board until March 2018. We are not funded by IATI, and our financial contribution to IATI is limited to our membership fee.

Why do you focus on some donors over others on the website?

Our current strategy is focussed on improving the publications of six key US agencies, two German, two French, the EU, the UK and the World Bank. This is because these donors represent the majority of global development aid and are influential both politically and due to membership on global bodies. They have also engaged with the IATI process to some degree.

Do you publish your own information to IATI?

As an organisation we are committed to high internal transparency standards and as a result we publish our information to IATI. You can see our publication here: https://iatiregistry.org/dataset/pwyf-998

Aid Transparency Index FAQs

Do you have questions specific to the Aid Transparency Index?

Find them here