The following ratings of think tanks transparency were intended to be a kick-starter for a discussion regarding transparency of think tanks in Latin America.
The ratings have not been peer-reviewed and are based on a quick assessment of the organisations’ websites between 4th – 13th October 2014. So if there have been updates please let me know.
There are some caveats that should be made before hand. By and large, this is a very heterogeneous group of think tanks. Some are university based, others are associations, others are entirely membership and subscription based, and yet others operate as research consultancies. There are even some public think tanks and one international agency. It is therefore quite hard to rate them across consistently.
There is also an issue of terminology. It seems to me that most think tanks are not hiding information, rather, their websites do not make it possible to find it.
In general, however, the idea is that a 5 star rating is possible for all organisations regardless of their origin, development and current structure. 5 starts do not only denote that the information is present but that it is easy to find. This can be called ‘proactive transparency’. More information about Do it Your Self (DIY) ratings like these can be found here: A new opportunity thanks to Transparify.
In any case, each rating is accompanied by a short explanation of what I found -and that is really what should matter.
The 5 star rating:
- 5-star*: the most transparent: 2 clicks or less from the front page to find who funds the think tank, how much, and for what. Also, the think tank discloses information about the nature of the funding they receive -that is: is it a project-based contract? a grant? And, it provides information about their most senior staff salaries.
- 5-star: highly transparent: 2 clicks or less from the front page to find who funds the think tank, how much, and for what. Some information about the nature of funding is offered, too. (4 think tanks plus one with 4.5)
- 4-star: fairly transparent: the information is there but harder to find -.i.e. more that two clicks away or it has to be ‘put together’. As if the think tank was not too keen on it being found or that there is an intention to do better but don’t make it just yet. (1 think tank)
- 1, 2, and 3-star: incomplete funding information: this includes not providing detail about who funds them, or not putting it into a single table or easy to read page. (24 think tanks)
- 0-star: no (zero, nada) funding information: this is not good.(6 think tanks)
The average in this group was 2 stars.
How to get 5 stars?
- Have a “Who funds us” page with a table like the one that CGD or Grupo FARO
- Mention the funder, the amount, and the type of ‘contract’ (e.g. grant, consultancy, or own funds) in each project or initiative page.
- Include financial information in your Annual Reports.
5 stars: CIPPEC provides information one click away from the front page (go to the Accountability –Rendición de Cuentas- tab) and this information is detailed and disaggregated to great detail. It could be even better if the list of projects funded by the State included the amounts (instead of having to get this information from the list of projects section in the Accountability tab). It should not get a solid 5 because the links to the projects lists are broken. But it gets extra points for outlining its funding rules.
2-3 stars: CARI is clear about how it gets its funding a combination of membership contributions and support from a range of sources. There is a list of supporters in the About us section of the website. This list is not hard to find but it is not possible to determine how much they provide nor what issues or projects they support. However, in some cases it is possible to identify the funder (yet not the amount) from an acknowledgement in the document itself.
3 stars: FIEL provides a list of sponsors and there is a tab for subscriptions. This last section is very detailed. But there is not detail about how much or for what is the support. However, it gets extra points for outlining its funding sources and clarifying that it does not get funding from the state.
1-2 star: CEDES could get 2 stars but it does not list the amount and the purpose of the funding it received from its various supporters. It is possible to find who funds what if one goes to the list of research projects under each thematic area. It is also important to know that CEDES runs a financial transparency programme and therefore it should take its own transparency a lot more seriously.
4-5 stars: IPEA provides extensive information about its funding and expenses as one would expect of a public organisation. But the information could easier to find and could be clearer.
2-3 stars: CEBRI provides information about its funders partners in its annual reports –which are not hard to find. But it does not seem to differentiate between organisations that may have paid for services and those with whom they may have collaborated. Because it is a membership based organisation, maybe it should be more transparent about who pays how much.
0-1 stars: It was not possible to find any information about who funds Instituto PVBLICA except for a link to two ‘institutional supporters’ right at the bottom of the page.
2 stars: Rating a large and complex organisation like FGV is hard. Although the university provides quite a lot of information about its work, and it is possible to assume that its research is funded partly by income from teaching and the foundation’s endowment or reserves, this is not entirely clear. It is not clear, either how the work undertaken by FGV Projects (and their clients) affects or influences the more ‘think tanky’ aspect of the think tank. Therefore, it gets 2 starts and not more simply because it could, should, be easier to find out who funds them.
1 or 2 stars: I was about to give INESAD 0 starts but found some funding information in their publications. Their papers mention who supported the research. It did take quite a bit of looking around to get this information. The usual searchers did not help, either. So, borderline 1 star. They provide a short list of ‘partners’ at the very bottom of the front page that includes their funders.
0 stars: It should not be difficult for CIDES-UMSA to clarify that it gets probably most of its funding from the University. It was not possible to find any information on who funds it or how it funds its activities.
0 stars: It was not possible to find any information about who funds Instituto Prisma. It was not possible to find an annual report, either.
0 stars: Although CEPAL is part of the UN and could therefore draw its resources from it there is no detail about the amount or mechanisms used. Neither does it mention who funds the various projects it implements. As a UN agency it should be much more transparent. It should be said that the website’s design looks like it has not been updated in a very long time. This could solve many of its transparency challenges.
2 stars: CEP starts with a solid first step forward: there is a clear explanation about how it gets its funding and funding rules one click away from its front page. But that is it. There isn’t a list of people or corporation that support it. The studies themselves do not include this information, either. Granted, the membership model that CEP uses makes it hard to clarify who funds what.
0-1 stars: CIEPLAN could get one star for providing a brief description of who has funded it since its foundation. But there is no detail about this. A random search of documents did not provide any information about funding, either.
0-1 stars: There is no information about funding in its website and the site’s design itself, makes it hard to understand how each activity is funded or supported. Only once one reads through the annual report is it possible to identify possible funders and sponsors for specific activities. But not the amount.
1 star: Espacio Público mentions its current funders in its about us page but does not provide any more detail. The latest Propuesta does not include funding information. The annual report does provide a total income figure but not breakdown for it.
1-2 stars: It cannot get more because it was not possible to find any amounts but it gets two because it was easy to find who funds its projects. Each project has been listed and it includes the funder. We could not find an annual report.
2-3 stars: ICP has a tab for funding on its front page and described how it is funded. It provides a sample of funders and ‘friends’ of ICP but it is not clear how much they provide and for what. ICP has a number of project pages and these do have information about their funders. However, not all project provide the same information.
5 stars: Although it could be 4.5 because it does not provide detailed information about the amount that its corporate sponsors provide, it gets a 5 because finding the total amount and a list of corporation was a pleasant surprise. It also has a list of projects and funders in its annual report. It could get a 5* if this information was on an HTML page rather than on the annual report.
0-1 stars: It is close to 1 star because we were able to find some information about who funds it by opening some of its outputs. There wasn’t an annual report, however, and the website does not describe how it gets its funding.
2-3 stars: FUSADES gets a bit over 2 stars because it differentiates their different types of members and includes those that ‘sponsor’ the organisation. There is no information, however, about how much they provide in support of FUSADES.
3 to 4 stars: FUNDAUNGO could have received a 3 star rating as well. It gets a bit more because it provides a long list of funders just two clicks away from the front page. Also, it differentiates between grants, services, and partnerships. This is rare for a think tank. Well done!
5 stars: Grupo FARO gets 5 stars because it presents information about who funds them, how much, and for what.. in several ways (although this could be made tidier): http://www.grupofaro.org/content/resumen-anual-de-ingresos and http://www.grupofaro.org/content/presupuesto-institucional for example. It could be tidier.
1 or 2 stars: It is hard to find any information about funding in the ASIES website. The “about” section does not list its supporters with the exemption of the Think Tank Initiative (but no amounts are provided). From its “history” it is possible to infer that there is domestic private support but no more information is offered. A search of “funding” did not offer any relevant information. Neither did “annual report”.
2-3 stars: It provides information about its funding models and lists its corporate members. But there is no detail about how much each provides nor what for. Its annual report is not up-to-date. The latest was from 2011/12; although it offers a broad breakdown of its sources of funding.
5 stars: CIDE provides an awful lot of detailed information about its funds and expenses. It even provides information about how much its staff is paid (and the number of days they have for holidays!), However, finding this information is rather difficult. The strategic plan also outlines its income and expenses. The information could be better presented but it is all (and more) there and not too hard to find.
2 stars: Fundación Ethos offers the names of some of its funders but no more detail about how much or for what. The link to accountability leads to the annual reports but this does not provide more detail either. It could get 3 stars if they provided information about their funders for each of their projects –as they do for the “Hecho en Mexico” project.
4 stars: Fundar offers information about its funders with a very good infographic that is then unfortunately not supported by more detailed annual reports. Fundar does, however provides information about salary brackets for its staff. It is not clear, however, who pays for what. So some wins and some fails but overall, the way it uses infographics is encouraging.
1- 2 stars: CADEP shows who supports them on the front page but this is only provided as widgets along a right-hand side bar. It is not clear if they provide them with funding or other kind of support. The same search for “funding” and “annual report” did not lead to any more information.
1 or 2 stars: GRADE provides some information about who funds them (via alliances and initiatives) but does not go as far as saying it. Its latest annual report doesn’t offer any information about funding, either. A search for “Funders” or “financing” does not lead to any more information.
3 to 4 stars: IEP gets almost 4 starts because it provides information about financing two clicks away but it is not desegregated. It does list who funds every project so that can give a better sense of who is funding what but it is yet now clear how much they fund and whether it is a grant or a contract. Still, lots of information and not hard to find, but mostly a 3.
0 stars: ILD is a global organization so it is understandable that its website is in English and not in Spanish, even if it is based in Peru. But the site provides no information about its funding; not even of the projects it implements. It is set up as a showcase of Hernando de Soto’s work and influence.
0 stars: There is no information about funding on FUNGLOBE’s site. The link to the annual reports takes one back to the main website.
Institute of International Relations Anton de Kom University of Suriname
0 stars or No rating: Could not find the website for the Institute
1-2 stars: CERES provides easy to find information about who funds them but not more. It is assumed that the funders (mostly private companies) are subscribers and therefore pay an annual/monthly fee but this is not clear.
0 stars: CLAEH’s website seems to be under construction so this could explain why there is no information about who funds it. One could assume that it gets most of its funding from its academic teaching but this is not clear. It was not possible to find an annual report.
2-3 stars: CURI gets two stars because it is easy to find its ‘sponsors’ and 3 possibly stars because it includes them in the invites to its events. But there is little more information about how much each of its sponsors provides.
0 stars: CEDICE Libertad does not provide any information about who funds it. There are links to awards and allies only. CEDICE is a kind of think tanks not seen much in Latin America –publicly ideological. This is refreshing in a region where most think tanks try to hide their ideology. However, it is for this reason that they should be more open about their funding sources.