Forty participants, representing various corporate foundations, non-profit organisations, associations and foundation networks, gathered in Bogota, Colombia, to exchange ideas on the conditions of transparency and accountability practices for private social investment organisations in the Latin American region. The workshop took place on 4th June 2013 and was hosted by WINGS and the Association of Corporate Foundations of Colombia (Asociación de Fundaciones Empresariales – AFE).
image: Flickr, David Berkowitz
The workshop was divided in two panels and two working sessions. On the first panel, GDFE (Argentina), GIFE (Brazil), CEMEFI (Mexico) and AFE presented trends and challenges for transparency and accountability in the region. One of the common threads in all countries is a lack of demand from the general public for accountability, and the existing initiatives from the government or the civil society are not sufficient to reach the objective, especially given that many of them are only available to a group of privileged individuals. The lack of transparency and accountability practices are present both in private social investment donors and in the recipients of these donations.
The panel was followed by a session that identified challenges and obstacles for a system encouraging good practices:
- Creation of an accountability culture
- Need to standardize data collection and sample results
- Competition for cooperation resources from social sector organizations: both donors and recipients
- Need to develop internal capabilities
- Recognize the concrete uses of accountability
- Lack of funding for accountability processes
- Lack of trust among organizations regarding information management
- The desire to quickly execute projects without the necessary internal capabilities
- The complexity in the identification of indicators and impact measurement tools
- Financial backers fearing their involvement in sensitive issues and disclosing their private social investment amounts against the profits received from their trade activities
- Mistrust regarding the use of information provided
The second panel discussed “Essential Aspects for Transparency and Accountability”, and presentations focused on: 1. Essential aspects for transparency and accountability in relation to the disclosure of financial information (Transparency for Colombia, member of Transparency International); 2. Good governance and governability, concentrating on if an organization is capable of organizing itself and reaching its goals (Avina Foundation); 3. Effectiveness, coherence and mission impact (RedAmerica).
The final working session focused on practical steps and recommendations:
Good Governance and Governability
- Transparency in the election and incorporation processes for Board/Council of Directors
- Collective creation of codes of ethics and management and ownership processes inside the organizations
- Application of good practices.
Financial Statement Disclosure
- Creation of relevant indicators.
- Financial statements understandable for all interest groups.
- Include source and destination of resources
Effectiveness and Impact
- Concrete and relevant indicators
- Benefit from the available tools.
- Knowledge of the desired impact, through the development of a mission statement.
- Coordination with public policies in order to guarantee sustainability of the initiatives.
- Analysis of impact indicators for social investment.
- Create spaces for mentoring and collective learning in order to share experiences and knowledge.
- Clear chain of command.
- Training and ownership by all members of the organization regarding management and accountability processes.
- Appointment of the ideal personnel for the tasks required.
For more on our accountability work in international philanthropy, visit our transparency and accountability page.