I have been doing some investigation into the use of the XI identifiers for civil society organisations/networks. I’ll write it up properly, but I just wanted to open up some thoughts that I have had.
IATI organisation identifiers are unique to each organisation and their function is to tag an activity back to the organisation. But an IATI organisation ID is also another tool for data users to help them identify an organisation from the details in the ID, and thus to show the organisation is who they say they are. This is important because anecdoctally we are hearing that funders and international NGOs are using IATI data to find partner organisations.
I’d like to flag up the growth in issuing XI-IATI- identifiers to national and sub-national level NGOs (NNGOs) and civil society organisations (CSOs). Funders are pushing for transparency of the delivery chain and at the same time increasing funding directly to NNGOs/CSOs, which means that there’s a new market in NNGOs and CSOs having an IATI ID. Whilst most NNGOs and CSOs in countries with stable registration systems will have an IATI ID, XI-IATI- are being issued where the org-id.guide team cannot find out how NNGOs/CSOs are registered/deemed legitimate in country contexts that do not have easily accessible/online registration systems.
My challenge is therefore: how can we serve NNGOs/CSOs in these contexts better and ensure that they own a unique ID that reflects their reality and also provides the useful information to data users?
This is an important challenge not just for IATI, but for all the other data standards that use the org-id.guide to generate unique IDs for organisations. I know that the org-id.guide is on the surface just a centralised list of registries, but there is a risk of excluding NNGOs and CSOs from being properly identified, if this challenge is not solved.
Reviewing the list of XI-IATI identifiers and looking at the org-id.guide issues list on Github, I worked on the premise that the majority of CSOs that need identifiers, will need them because they are receiving funding. Therefore they will have a bank account or their nearest family member will have a bank account. To have a bank account they will need to be a registered entity. This also holds true for international networks and alliances that are receiving funding. If an organisation does not meet this criteria, it’s perhaps enough to be named in the funder’s data and not have an IATI organisation identifier.
In the 30 minutes I had to do a review, I found two organisations which could legitimately have a unique ID.
The second is a recent org-id.guide issue for Somalia Family Services. ODSC were unable to find a registry in Puntland, Somalia, that was suitable, so ODSC closed the issue and handed the request back to the IATI technical team to issue an XI-IATI identifier. However, a quick search shows that Somalia Family Services is a US registered organisation, and the Puntland organisation is a locally registered operational office:
The United States based Somali Family Services here after referred to as “SFS” is a non‐profit organization headquartered in Minneapolis, Minnesota registered under Federal Act 501(C3) and a leading Somali capacity enhancement entity, locally registered with the Ministry of Planning and Local Government in Garowe, Puntland
At the very least, Somalia Family Services could use the US-EIN number of the US office, which would show that the organisation is who they say they are. Even better, the US organisation should be able to provide advice on how their Puntland office is registered with the government which would help build up the list for Somalia.
I am still thinking through the solutions to this challenge. My feeling is that it includes the engagement of national NNGO and CSO networks to advise IATI and org-id.guide. At the very least by acting now, we can ensure that organisations take ownership of their own unique IDs rather than accepting the default of XI-IATI identifiers.
What do you think?