A very pertinent conversation, and well-timed considering the amount of proposals relating to Results currently in discussion.
The changes that have been proposed in the 2.03 Upgrade come from consultation with NGOs who feel that the IATI Standard does not allow them to accurately describe their work. In all honesty, I believe this is the first time I have heard the phrase 'snapshot' with relation to publishing using the IATI Standard! (Although I admit, I was away for 14 months prior to April 2017, and it may have come up in my absence).
The key issue, from conversations that I have been involved in, is that donors have made IATI a reporting tool. For example:
Dutch MFA Reporting Guidelines:
"The Netherlands Ministry of Foreign Affairs has made progress reporting using the IATI standard mandatory from the 1st of January 2016 onwards for all ODA activities it is funding and which have a financial envelope of more than 250.000 Euro" pg.7
"The primary means to assess the progress of the activity is the result element of the IATI publication." pg.10
Clause from contract with Dutch MFA:
"Type of Report: Narrative progress report, consisting of: 1. Periodic updates on progress, drawn up in accordance with the standards described in the Guidelines"
"the narrative reports you provide on the activities financed must comply with the International Aid Transparency Initiative (IATI) standards."
Representatives of DfID recently suggested (in a consultation about the updated AGA template) that DfID will accept narrative reports in an IATI format. This confirms what was implied in the DfId Civil Society Partnership Review:
"DFID will work collaboratively with both Bond and other donor governments to explore the possibility of reducing DFID reporting requirements where CSOs proactively publish their data through IATI. "
Sida are also planning to replace traditional reporting with requiring partners to publish IATI.
If donors have made IATI a reporting tool then NGOs need to know what the limits are, especially when donors encourage organisations to publish using as many of the Standard elements as possible:
Dutch MFA Reporting Guidelines:
" the ministry strongly encourages partners to also publish any other, non-mandatory fields for which they have data. The more information available, the more useful IATI publications become, and the better the insights to improve development outcomes."
"At a minimum, by the end of 2017, centrally funded CSOs will be required to meet the full International Aid Transparency Initiative (IATI) standard on all their funding, and ensure that all the organisations in their delivery chain also meet the standard."
To suggest that IATI is designed to only provide a snapshot is contradictory to a lot of material that NGOs receive. Clarification on what is actually expected is pivotal. NGOs are concerned that they will not receive funding if they do not fully comply with donor requirements.
We also need to consider the fact that by publishing IATI data, an organisation is making themselves open to assessment, analysis and criticism to the outside world. Does a 'snapshot' mean only publishing the good stuff, or the data that is easy to quantify? How does this match the perspective of IATI making the sector more transparent and accountable?
If NGOs are expected to publish all their transactions and results (to demonstrate VfM etc), then the Standard should be adapted to add as much data as possible to ensure an organisations can accurately portray the richness of their work. The NGOs take the risk of otherwise misrepresenting their work, and facing consequences, either through anti-aid media or withholding of funding.
If NGOs are only expected to use IATI to provide a snapshot, fantastic. This would save a huge amount of work! But please make that clear in the guidance and reconsider the move towards IATI as a reporting tool.
One more tiny note, if IATI is about a snapshot, does it still provide usable, comparable data across the sector?