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Spending Data Handbook

About this book

Why are we writing this?

As people who work with this data, we know better than anyone that a few years of a handful groups spreading awareness of spending data to the general public has not been sufficient for enacting earth-shattering change in the budgetary policies and processes in governments around the world. While it's true there's more spending data available than ever before, these efforts have proven to be superficial in some cases and the budget processes themselves have not become much more transparent or participatory.

Conversely, the armchair auditors that were expected to emerge from the citizenry never really materialised. The notion of citizen auditors and engaging with citizens on an individual and collective basis still struggles to make headway. Clearly, we need to take solutions to this problem to the next level. More groups need to be more involved than ever before.

What makes this work so tricky?

  • The data people need is not available to the public (and to CSOs).
  • Alternatively, the data is not available until after all the important decisions within government have been made.
  • It's difficult to simplify data as complex as budgets and spending and make it accessible to a variety of audiences.
  • The discourse on budgets and governance in the country is usually replete with jargon and technicalities.
  • Even when compelling research findings are presented, there's no sense of urgency on the part of key policy actors. Advocacy with a range of stakeholders becomes important.
  • There is duplication of efforts. One CSO may invest two weeks of its resources into painstakingly cleaning up and extracting data from a policy document published as a PDF while another will be doing exactly the same thing.
  • Organizations doing this work often lack any kind of peer review process among similar groups.
  • There may be skills gaps at many CSOs. Skill and knowledge sharing can help all of them achieve common goals.

How the book was created

The book was started at a four day book sprint bringing together organisations from around the world from both a technical and a CSO background. Representatives from the Open Knowledge Foundation (UK), Fundar (Mexico), the Centre for Budget and Governance Accountability (India), the Public Interest Advocacy Centre (Bosnia and Herzegovina), and the Sunlight Foundation (US) contributed to the original document. The Book Sprint was facilitated by Adam Hyde, founder of the Book Sprint method and www.booksprints.net.

Contribute to the book

This book is released under a Creative Commons attribution licence, meaning that anyone is free to use and reuse the material provided that it is attributed to the Spending Data Handbook. You can help by doing one of the following:

  • Translate it and customise it for your region. The examples which we include here are the ones which we know best, however, you may feel that in your area, there are topics or examples which would be more relevant. Take the book, remix it and add your own examples.
  • Correct it and update it - treat it like a Wikipedia article, a living document. The only way that this book will stay relevant and factually correct is with the help of you and other people who know your stuff.
  • Be inspired - we are filling the book with lots of examples of visualisation and data so inspire you and people you work with.

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