Transparency is key in development effectiveness

Sheila Herrling joins in a panel discussion on progress in aid transparency within the U.S. government

On Monday, I joined U.S. Government colleagues—Gayle Smith of the White House, Don Steinberg of USAID and Rob Goldberg of State Department—at the launch of the 2012 Aid Transparency Index. The Transparency Index, published annually by Publish What You Fund, rates aid organizations on how transparently they do business. This year, MCC was named the ninth-most transparent organization out of 72 globally, and the most transparent U.S. Government agency.

Of course, we are proud of our individual ranking. But we are more proud of being part of an administration that is so firmly committed to transparency. We are proud to be part of an interagency team collectively striving to bring more sunlight to our foreign assistance. The Foreign Assistance Dashboard is a huge step forward for the U.S. Government—just a few years ago it was next to impossible to know what the United States was spending, where and on what. We are proud to be the first agency to publish obligation and expenditure data to the Dashboard. The release last week of the OMB Bulletin is another big step for the U.S. Government, as it brings other agencies into the Dashboard.

But we want to do so much more. MCC has our sights on two ways to push our transparency efforts beyond “show me the money” to “show me the evidence.” Two efforts are central to MCC’s evidence-based approach—putting more data in the public domain and bringing transparency to what we are learning.

First, more data. This week, we launched our Open Data Catalog,, which will over time become our one-stop shop for financial, performance and evaluation data. This is about exposing the data and evidence that MCC uses to make decisions and measure results and putting it in the hands of smart people to use it in new ways. Our first step was to put out MCC’s Fiscal Year 2012 selection data in XML format. Check back soon for FY13 selection data, financial data, program performance data, and a goldmine of household survey data that underlies our independent evaluation work.

Second, more transparent learning. MCC is pushing transparency beyond money and data to learning about what we are actually achieving. MCC has made a big commitment to independent evaluations to help us test assumptions about traditional approaches, and build better evidence for what works—and what doesn’t—in development. Our first impact evaluations will be final later this month, and we’ll make all the findings public. The learning distilled from these rigorous independent evaluations is enormous, for us and for others.

We look forward to you standing with MCC as we take transparency to the next level, even when the evidence points to things not going as we expected. That is often the greatest motivator for change. It is central to accountability and open government and is at the heart of MCC’s evidence-based approach.