About The Project

A Concise Definition of the Transparency Evaluation Network

The Transparency Evaluation Network is a collaborative, research and advocacy based effort to develop, apply, compare and compile evaluations of compliance with public transparency obligations, such as freedom of information laws, Open Data statutes, or campaign finance regulations.

What is a Transparency Evaluation? 

A Transparency evaluation can involve a number of different methodologies, both quantitative and qualitative. Above all, the idea is to measure a realistic user experience to assess transparency policies. This could involve sending out requests for information to gauge responsiveness, timeliness, and the quality of information disclosed; or it may involve an evaluation of the accessibility and qualities associated with finding and using public information by means of the internet. The overarching purpose is to provide a scorecard for how well governments inform citizens and comply with transparency obligations. Examples include:

  • Evaluations of passive transparency: researchers send out a number of requests to different governmental entities in order to measure how they respond. This could mean assessing many indicators, but primarily the timeliness and completeness of responses.
  • Evaluations of active transparency: researchers examine, among other factors, the completeness, accessibility, and formats of information on public websites.
  • Evaluations of perceptions and processes: Less commonly, researchers evaluate perceptions of FOI among the public or government officials through interviews or surveys. They may also examine the degree to which governments have created and integrated systems for handling FOI requests and where problems and challenges lie.
  • Evaluations of disclosure processes: with the objective of highlight governmental performance, journalists or researchers may tell stories about a struggle to obtain information or principled behavior in the disclosure of public information.

How Does it Work?

We have 3 principal goals:

1. To compile all extant transparency evaluations published over the last ten years. We summarize the evaluation and its methodology, and store all important data (response rates, levels of government, year undertaken, etc.) in our database so that it can be retrieved and visually compared to other evaluations. We know that most evaluations are not perfectly comparable, but the idea is precisely to move discussion in this direction - how to come up with comparable general standards for evaluating transparency. Which leads us to...

2. To leverage a network of advocates and academics to develop and make available universally applicable transparency evaluation templates to assess compliance with transparency norms at the sectoral and global level. For example, one might want to evaluate the transparency of police crowd control operations, or the transparency of primary school teacher performance measurement. The idea would be to:

  • Download the transparency template for this policy issue, created by associated advocates and academics from around the world.
  • Apply the evaluation template, following the standards used by the organization that authored the template or as outlined in the tools section of Transparency Evaluation.
  • Send us the written results.
  • Compare your results with those of other organizations around the world.

3. To create general tools that help citizens and organizations undertake transparency evaluations. These tools include standard definitions (e.g. what is a response to a request?) and guidelines for interpreting compliance (e.g. judging accuracy or completeness of disclosed information) as well as suggested methods and forms for data collection and analysis.

Why is it Important?

Comparing compliance with transparency norms

  • Moves discussion forward regarding public policy priorities and better ways of evaluating transparency.
  • Provides opportunities to collaborate on developing evaluations, research, advocacy, and standards.
  • Helps motivate compliance or reform by making governmental leaders and advocates more aware of their country’s relative performance.

Who runs the Transparency Evaluation Network?

The Transparency Evaluation Network is a collaboration between the Open Society Foundations and the Getulio Vargas Foundation (FGV EBAPE & DIREITO RIO) in Rio de Janeiro, but is an open network in which individuals are invited to contact us and contribute their evaluations and collaboration.