AMREF’s Open Information Policy

19 May, 2008

In September 2007 I suggested that AMREF should develop a Disclosure Policy to govern what sort of information it should make publicly available, and under what circumstances. Such policies have been adopted by other international organisations such as the World Bank and Action Aid.

In November 2007 AMREF’s Board approved their Open Information Policy, and it was subsequently made available on the AMREF website. ( NB: It is possible this document was already under discussion before my suggestion was made)

After reading the Open Information Policy (OIP) and associated Implementation Plan I provided feedback on a number of areas:

Positive developments

  • The OIP has been drafted, approved and made public
  • There is an associated implementation plan, with targets and responsible persons
  • There is a proposal in the OIP to annually review compliance/implementation of the policy
  • The OIP will include information on AMREF’s human resource policies
  • The intention to provide information on AMREF’s partners on AMREF’s websites. It is surprising how often they are not listed on aid agencies websites, or if they are, how hard it is to find this information

Areas for further attention

  • Although the OIP refers to public sharing of information about “Feedback: A periodic presentation of our stakeholders’ views of us and our performance through annual reports and reports of external evaluations conducted by donors, in conjunction with AMREF”, this has not yet been included in the Implementation Plan
  • The one conspicuous gap/omission in the Implementation Plan is project documentation. Possibly the most important of these would be project memorandums/agreements with donors, progress reports and evaluation reports. Given the number of these it would make sense for AMREF to do what they do in libraries when re-classifying books: start uploading this info on all new projects started this year and thereafter, and when time permits upload info on old projects (esp. those still in operation).
  • Both the household and community baseline surveys recently carried out in Katine have generated sets of data that would be of interest and value to other parties outside AMREF, both within Uganda and outside. Unfortunately it is common practice for aid organisations to not routinely make this information public. Ideally the Katine survey data should routinely be made public. The only proviso being that in the case of household survey data respondents’ names should be replaced by ID numbers, to preserve anonymity. Or, where the survey is about politically or socially sensitive issues). The village profile data should be especially useful to other NGOs working in the Katine area (8 or more). It would also be useful to external evaluators, both myself and any mid-term review teams, as a continuing record of where AMREF is doing what.
  • Given the volume of information that will be involved it will be essential that the new AMREF website has clear and usable ways that visitors can navigate around the webs site. There are at least three ways, all of which need to be offered: (a)a good key word search facility, such as that provided by Google, focused on AMREF’s own website, (b) a site map showing how the pages of the website are linked to each other, usually shown in a tree diagram form, (c) well structured pages that show what is available on other web pages e.g. by using tabbed menus at the top, etc.
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