A quick and dirty “Transparify-like” assessment of the KSI think tanks

19 May 2014

Last week I published a quick and dirty “Transparify-like” assessment of Think Tank Initiative think tanks. This week I am giving the Knowledge Sector Initiative a go.

As a reminder, this effort is inspired by Transparify. By focusing on think tanks funded by the same agency I hope to provide a sense of perspective.

I have added extra marks for publishing information about the salaries of senior staff. My rating system:

  • 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 their 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-star: average 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, 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.
  • 0-star: no (zero, nada) funding information: this is not good.

The think tanks

The KSI think tanks (and policy research organisations) can be found in the programme’s website.

AKATIGA: website could not be accessed.

Article335 stars: Article 33 offers information about their funders in the ‘About us’ section and in their Annual Report. The Annual Report outlines, in detail, who funds Article33 and for what. If this information was included in the same page in the About us section it would have been even better.

CHPM –Centre for Health Policy and Management (PKMK – Pusat Kebijakandan Manajemen Kesehatan UGM): 2 to 3 stars: Interestingly, CHPM is pretty good at showing who funds them (not the amounts or what for) but not very good at sharing anything else. The site has very little information about the think tanks and no publications.

CSIS –Centre for Strategic and International Studies1 to 2 stars: CSIS gets part of its funding from its own endowment fund (it says so in the About us section but right at the bottom of the page). It also mentions that it received funding from other agencies but it does not mention them. There is no other information in the website.

ELSAM –The Institute for Policy Research and Advocacy0 stars: ELSAM does not offer any information about its funders on its website yet it has a link to request funding from the public. Funding requests should be accompanied by funding transparency.

IRE –Institute for Research and Empowerment1 star: Almost unintentionally IRE provides information about its funders in the About us page where it lists a number of projects. These include information about who funded them. This is not enough, however.

KPPOD –Komite Pemantauan Pelaksanaan Otonomi Daerah (Regional Autonomy Implementation Monitoring Committee): 2 to 3 stars: It took a while to find the information but in a link to a PDF in the About us section, KPPOD provides some detail about the funders of their projects from 2001 to 2013. This information could very well be in the body of the website.

PPIM –Pusat Pengkajian Islam dan Masyarakat, UIN (Centre for the Study of Islam and Society): 2 stars: PPIM presents a list of funders in the Partners page. Like most think tanks it prefers to label them partners rather than funders. Also, it separates its work along: research, consultancy, training, and advocacy. While it does not say who funds what it does suggest that it is funded to do different things.

PSHK –Pusat Studi Hukum dan Kebijakan (Indonesian Centre for Law and Policy Studies): 0 stars: PSHK started well. It has a page under About us called: Transparency and Accountability. I thought that would contain lots of information about its finances but instead it had a text on why transparency is important.

PUSAD Paramadina –Pusat Studi Agama dan Demokrasi, Universitas Paramadina (Centre for the Study of Islam and Democracy): 0 to 1 stars: PUSAD’s website did not provide any information about funding. No list of funders, no reference to who supports the, or a link to an annual report. One may infer that it is funded by the Paramadina Foundation.

Pusat Penelitian HIV AIDS, Atma Jaya (AIDS Research Centre): 2 stars: The centre presents information about its sponsors on its front page. There is no detail about how they fund or how much but the information about who they are, at least, is readily available.

Puskapol UI -Centre for Policitcal Studies, University of Indonesia: 0 to 1 star: Puskapol UI seems to be funded by the University of Indonesia but this is not clearly stated -it can be inferred form the name.

Sajogjo Institute0 stars: there is no information about its funding on the website -which needs an urgent overhaul.

Seknas Fitra -National Secretariat of the Indonesian Forum for Budget Transparency:  3 stars: FITRA has an interesting donor analysis matrix to assess how close they are to their funders. More information is provided in the financial framework page. And there are easy to find audited financial statements. But it is not clear who funds what.

SMERU2 stars: SMERU “starts” with its funder. A large Australian Aid Kanguro makes it clear who fund it. But it does not offer more detailed information. It takes a bit to find the Annual Report (SMERU needs  a new website). There, only Australian Aid is mentioned by name.

SurveyMETER2 stars: SurveyMETER has a list of clients and partners in the About us section but no information about what they fund or how much they provide.

The average for the think tanks, then is: 1.63 and the median 2.

The programme and the contractors

And what about KSI? As in the TTI’s case I also had a look at KSI and its main contractors.

Knowledge Sector Initiative2 stars: KSI is, we all know, funded by Australian Aid, but the website does not provide any information about the amount it provides. Much more information is provided in the Australian Aid website for the programme. In fact, the team in DFAT behind the KSI was very open about the programme during the planning and procurement process.

RTI International2 stars: RTI lists their clients but not the amount each provide and for what. This is also not a current list, only one of clients that usually contract them. I checked out the KSI page in their website to see if maybe they list funding detail under each project but they don’t. From their site, one can infer that they also benefit from royalties from patents and other IP but it is not clear how much this is.

Overseas Development Institute3 to 2 stars: ODI gets a 5 in the Transparify exercise but the data used by them is a year old. ODI’s 2012 annual report did contain an annex in which it outlined every project’s funding. It was a great step forward for ODI. But in its latest report this information has been dropped. So, the organisation has gone back. It is possible to infer who pays for what though if one goes to each project page, but why did it remove the detail from its annual reports?

Crawford School of Public Policy0 to 1 stars: As most university based centres, the Crawford School must get funding from its university and teaching but this or how much is not possible to verify from its website. Also, it is not possible to find project funding like the one for KSI. Only when one goes to individual staff can one infer who funds their work. But only in passing.

Nossal Institute for Global Health3 to 4 stars: Nossal presents its funders and describes the various ways in which they generate income, although they do not provide easy to find detail on this. I do like that the separate contractos from funders -few organisations do this preferring to lump them all as ‘partners’. Finally, they have a whole section on working with the Australian Government, thus acknowledging and clarifying this relationship. This is why I am tempted to give them a 4.

All together can be seen in the diagram below (the average does not include the KSI or the contractors):

KSI transparify

Findings and recommendations

As in the case of the Think Tank Initiative’s think tanks, the centres in Indonesia present funding information in different forms. By and large, this group is less transparent than the TTI lot. But just as in the TTI cohort, there are extremes here, too. Article33 gets a 5 while others have been rated with 0 stars. Again, the argument goes, if one can do it why can’t the others?

Part of the problem found in the analysis of the RTI think tanks has to do with their poorly designed websites. It wasn’t only that information was missing but that the sites themselves made it difficult to present it. Communicating one’s activities in an effective way is one way of being transparent.

Very specifically, then, all parties should improve their websites, starting with the KSI. RTI’s, ODI’s, Crawford’s and Nossal’s are already excellent. For RTI’s, ODI and Crawford the question is one of having a better transparency policy. KSI, I understand, faces difficult ‘bureaucratic’ challenges related to what it can and cannot communicate -and how; still it will have to make this a priority if it wishes to lead by example. I think it is safe to say that this is a challenge that other funders, like the TTI and the Think Tank Fund, also face. It would not be fair to single them out.

Another recommendation, of course, is for the programme itself, KSI, to look into its own transparency. It should aim to at least as transparent as the most transparent of its grantees. In their case, however, this should include not just who funds them (this is easy) but also how much and what the funding is for. This recommendation may make for uncomfortable reading for most Aid contractors, but it is undeniable that this will help build a better relationship of trust between the programme and the think tanks it aims to support over the coming years. This is particularly important since there are several think tanks among the grantees focused on budget transparency advocacy.

The KSI contractors ought to show the way, too. They have the technical skills to make this happen and could show/help the grantees to do it themselves. There is an excellent opportunity to work together here.

Transparify’s recommendations for getting a 5 star rating (above) are worth taking into account and using as a guide:

They are role models in the field. In practice an institutions can do this by

  1. citing its supporters
  2. providing funding amounts
  3. highlighting project specific vs core funding, ideally indicating project duration
  4. making this information accessible, just a few clicks from the homepage.

There are a number of great examples of 5-star institutions. These typically are also institutions that are recognized for being leaders in their fields.

  • The Sunlight Foundation, although not a think tank, shows how you can make funding information very accessible.
  • The Center for Global Development has a similarly attractive presentation of their funding data.
  • Bruegel, a European think tank based in Brussels, explains clearly how it is funded, and highlights its supporters at the beginning of its annual report.
  • The Center for the Study of Democracies, Bulgaria, posts a separate financial report with details on funding and project funding.
  • Grupo Faro, a think tank in Ecuador, also offers funding information in its annual report.
  • The Centre for Policy Research (CPR) in India has a neat listing, with notes, from page 78 of its annual report.
  • ECDPM, the European Center for Development and Policy Management, is a good example of disaggregating core and project funding.
  • The World Resources Institute (WRI), shows how an institution with many dozens of donors can be transparent.

These examples illustrate what can be achieved different degrees of technical capacity. All, however, share a commitment to be transparent. I think that is what characterises those organisations with 5 stars.