(Originally posted on our sister blog PhilanTopic.)
There are certain moments in your life that you never forget. Some of mine include graduating from college, buying a home, and having a baby. The same thing happens in one's career, and for me, Wednesday was one of those moments.
For the past six years, InterAction has been using online maps to help tell our members’ story. Wednesday was important because we launched a new global map on InterAction's NGO Aid Map, one that will allow us to tell this story as it applies to all countries and all sectors.
As the world of development actors continues to grow and expand, it is more important than ever to make aid smarter. One way to help improve aid is through data sharing, but in the midst of a data revolution, how does one make sense of it all?
It may sound simple, but gathering up-to-date, standardized data from NGOs is no small feat, even for InterAction — an alliance made up of more than one hundred and eighty individual organizations working to advance human dignity and fight poverty around the world.
Collecting data is one thing, but ensuring that it stays relevant, useful, and accessible is a massive undertaking. That is why we built the NGO Aid Map, an online platform that demonstrates, using maps and other data visualizations, where our members work and what they do around the world. Through data, we can help determine whether we are on the right track to fighting poverty.
Now that you know why Wednesday mattered to me, I'd like to share five reasons why NGO Aid Map should matter to you.
1. NGO Aid Map is a tool for educating the world about the work of U.S. NGOs. As a collective, InterAction members work in more than two hundred countries in a variety of sectors. NGO Aid Map provides a picture of the breadth and depth of our members' work, both at the macro and micro level. The site features data from close to three thousand active projects from at least eighty organizations. The detailed project information provided on this platform cannot be found in any other single location.
2. NGO Aid Map shows where the money goes. If InterAction's membership were a bilateral government donor, it would be the sixth largest in the world, after the United States, France, Germany, the United Kingdom and Japan. Together, InterAction members mobilize more than $8 billion annually from individuals and other private donors, including foundations and corporations. While official donor assistance data are easy to find, private development assistance data are much more difficult to locate. NGO Aid Map provides some of this data, which makes up a significant piece of the international aid puzzle.
3. NGO Aid Map improves decision making. Access to information empowers people. NGO Aid Map provides data so the international aid community can make better decisions. The site visualizes the data in a user-friendly, accessible format, while allowing users to download the data for their own analysis. NGO Aid Map gives NGOs, donors, governments, and the public access to high quality up-to-date data they can use to determine the best way to invest resources.
4. NGO Aid Map provides context to project data. Because our members are only one piece of the international aid puzzle, NGO Aid Map includes data from other sources like the World Bank. Map layers can be used to display poverty rates, malnutrition figures, and other statistics to help provide context for the NGO project data. Understanding the context in which NGOs work can help development actors make better, more effective decisions about aid.
5. NGO Aid Map encourages transparency. We should be able to hold implementing organizations and donors accountable. Transparency is an important part of accountability. Where is aid money going, for what purpose, and with what results? Being transparent involves more than just publishing data on a website: It requires a change in culture and attitude toward sharing information. NGO Aid Map enables participating NGOs to take that first step in building an open and transparent organization.
Simply put, InterAction's NGO Aid Map collects and shares NGO data so that you can see more and, ultimately, do better. Still need more convincing on why NGO Aid Map matters? Watch this video to hear others explain why it matters.
As the director of NGO Aid Map, it has been truly remarkable to be a part of this initiative since its inception. Although there were moments I wanted to just publish a global map, I think the process of building the site slowly, in close consultation with our members, has been necessary. Sometimes, the process is just as important as the product. In this case, both are equally important and it has been well worth the wait.
Joing our conversation online. Use the hashtag #SeeMoreDoBetter to tweet about why NGO Aid Map matters to you, and to learn why InterAction members participate.
Julie Montgomery is director of innovation and learning at InterAction, the largest coalition of U.S.-based NGOs working on international development and humanitarian response. This post originally appeared on the InterAction blog.