Anna is a staff writer for the Sustainable Development category of JustMeans. She has experience working for international organisations – both in the public and private sectors – in Africa, Asia and Europe. Anna is interested in collaborative approaches to sustainability, poverty reduction and international development....
Katine: Transparency in Development
The Guardian's international development project in the village of Katine in Uganda has shown the merits and downfalls of testing transparency in NGO and media activities. While Guardian journalists reported on how AMREF, an African health organisation, was conducting its development project in Katine, the public was then allowed to cast its own skeptical eye over both AMREF, and the reporting processes of the Guardian.
The Guardian launched the Katine project back in October 2009, aiming to track donor funds towards a development campaign, and see where it is spent. AMREF's work in Katine was the chosen project, and Barclays pledged to match fund donations up to £1 million. Over the last three years, journalists have kept Guardian readers up to date with how things were developing in Katine, covering both the positives, and the negatives.
For AMREF, this meant increased scrutiny over each step they took. However, whilst initially being wary of the project, AMREF UK's CEO, Grace Mukasa, says that the organisation has learned that they can successfully do development alongside the private sector and the media.
At an event this week, which summarised the key learnings from Katine, the investigative nature that was so integral to the project, was heralded as key to its success. Richard Kavumo, the journalist appointed to the village, said that the Katine residents found the presence of the media helped ensure that AMREF fulfilled all its promises. The scrutiny that the Guardian gave was also necessary to help increase accountability and transparency between stakeholders, especially to let readers know where their money have gone to. "Accountability," said Alison Evans, Director of the Overseas Development Institute, "is the key to development projects. It is the connecting tissue."
Yet Evans continued to say that the aspect of scrutiny was not a sufficient condition for development and could sometimes create problems. AMREF's Uganda Country Director, Joshua Kyallo, noted that one of the biggest issues encountered was over confidentiality, privacy and ethics, particularly the need to protect the privacy of the AMREF staff.
Transparency was a key issue online, where commentary on the Katine website blog was left open for the public to interact, but this not only left the journalists exposed to bloggers' views, but also the residents of the village. Heated debates ensued, which sometimes had detrimental effects. The responsibility of leaving channels of communication open, and consequently leaving the community vulnerable to the outside world, was something that had been underestimated.
However, whilst uncontrolled forums may attract uncontrolled views, it was through the philosophy of open discussion that a situation could be calmed down. In one incidence, when a blog post provoked multiple complaints, the Guardian got the family implicated in the article to chat online with readers, to help dispel the debate.
Photo Credit: Dan Chung, Guardian