Realize a solution to make all(!) project information publicly accessible with a user-friendly interface, along with background information from a variety of external sources.
Prisma IT used the IATI standard to build a scalable solution that elegantly and effectively collects and presents information from disparate sources.
Project information is searched and presented in a visually pleasing manner. The turnaround time for information becoming available is reduced from oftentimes months to days.
Oxfam can now present integrated and in-depth information about its full range of projects and programs to employees and public visitors alike.
Java based backend. Integration of data from SAP, Box.com, and other systems with a REST API.
If you’re familiar with aid and development organizations, you may be aware that Oxfam Novib’s official tagline is ‘ambassador of do-it-yourself’. But in a sense, the variation in the title of this case study is equally applicable. Thanks to the vision and dedication of the organization itself. And with a little help from Prisma IT…
First some hard facts. One in nine people go to bed hungry. The causes can be basic – failed crops, water scarcity, forces of nature – but often the reasons are more complex. “Think of ingrained social inequalities, or corruption or conflicts. Oxfam Novib strives to eradicate these underlying mechanisms by providing citizens with the fortitude and means to stand up for themselves, so that they can repair the unbalance between, for example, citizens, companies and governments ‘from within’.”
Leo Stolk, wizened by years of experience for Oxfam Novib in Southern Africa, and deeply aware of unruly realities, explains. Leo no longer works in the field, having traded his position on the frontline of development aid for a project management position at the organization’s headquarters in The Hague, but he is still a passionate ambassador of do-it-yourself (“we play a catalytic role and aim to strengthen and facilitate civic movements”), and of transparency. “Transparency is an important issue for Oxfam Novib. It has been for quite a while. Our annual report won the PwC Transparency Award back in 2011. What is relatively new, however, is the degree of transparency that can be achieved, particularly thanks to technological developments.”
“Our ATLAS platform, developed for us by Prisma-IT, is a case in point. With ATLAS, you can zoom in on a world map or search by categories or keywords to learn more about our projects around the globe. And naturally you can refine your search criteria to zoom in on topics. For example, you can start by searching for female leadership and focus on projects that promote female leadership in local elections. We made a deliberate choice to include all of our projects. Our triumphs, as well as our less successful efforts. This is the essence of transparency. Everybody likes to boast about flattering results but it’s a different matter when things don’t go according to plan. Our policy is to make everything public, except when doing so could endanger participants or the project. Barring this one exemption, the system is completely open.”
The search for a platform that would enable all social stakeholders to examine project information ended at colleague development organization Icco. “They had a proprietary system that they were willing to share with us. That platform had been developed by Prisma IT, so one thing led to another.” ATLAS is ingenious in that it doesn’t store the information internally. Leo: “The platform retrieves information from several sources, mainly from SAP. Every evening, the SAP system exports content to ATLAS in IATI format.” IATI? “That’s the open standard of the International Aid Transparency Initiative, an organization that is dedicated to making information about aid and development projects accessible. But ATLAS also gathers information from other sources, including Box.com, which contains documents that ATLAS links to. And we created an image database that ATLAS has access to. This database contains photographs, but also videos and documents that give visitors an even better picture of our projects.”
All of this information is interesting for external stakeholders and an asset for Oxfam Novib employees and the 18 international organizations that have united within Oxfam. “If you were planning on setting up a project with coffee in Vietnam, you could browse ATLAS and discover that we have a project in Uganda with an organic coffee cooperation,” explains Leo. “Our experience and project evaluation are freely available so that other organizations don’t have to reinvent the wheel. ATLAS also raises our international profile, because we want colleague Oxfam organizations – from Oxfam Solidarité in Belgium to Oxfam New Zealand – to upload their project data to ATLAS, too. A ‘single’ Oxfam, such as Oxfam Novib, is generally too small to be consulted by the United Nations. Now, with the combined expertise of 18 organizations, we are a global specialist. This gets people’s attention.” Leo thinks that transparency is the way of the future, but he acknowledges and understands the resistance that some organizations put up. “A call for transparency is often met with a ‘yes, but…’ reaction, which is logical. You want to position yourself in a positive light. Communications people are used to polishing their data. ATLAS shows the unruly reality, even when mistakes are made. We don’t try to beautify things. ‘Crap in, crap out, quality in, quality out’. I believe this is the only way to inspire agents – think of project owners – to avoid certain pitfalls in the future. The ´hide your mistakes´ culture is a thing of the past. We have to choose to share all of our experiences. This is a culture change worth fighting for.”
Oxfam is an international confederation of 17 organizations working together with partners and local communities in more than 90 countries.
One person in three in the world lives in poverty. Oxfam is determined to change that world by mobilizing the power of people against poverty.
Around the globe, Oxfam works to find practical, innovative ways for people to lift themselves out of poverty and thrive. They save lives and help rebuild livelihoods when crisis strikes. And they campaign so that the voices of the poor influence the local and global decisions that affect them.